What Is a STEM MBA and What Can You Do With It?

13 September, 2021

STEM MBAA quick scan through news headlines shows just a glimpse of technology’s impact on the world. The ways that big data, machine learning, and other such innovations can and have boosted operations and outcomes among organizations of all types — including independently owned businesses, large corporations, nonprofits, and beyond — is often on the front page of The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, and other such publications. Yet the media’s focus on technology itself can make it hard to forget that computers alone can’t bring change. Arguably more important are the managers and engineers who, being well-versed in both business and technology, can identify or improve the ways technological innovations support organizations in their various goals.

Our future demands such a talented workforce, but professionals with both STEM and leadership expertise are hard to find in the U.S. You can fill this talent gap by elevating your existing education and work experience with a STEM MBA.

What Is a STEM MBA, and What Makes It Different From a Traditional MBA?

The U.S. has struggled with a shortage of STEM professionals for decades. As recently as 2020, the National Science Board found that, as other countries have increased their investments in science and engineering education and research, the nation’s position as a global leader in science and technology is vulnerable. To address the talent shortage and boost the American workforce, many colleges and universities have added STEM materials to a select number of their programs, including graduate-level business degrees. These STEM-focused programs help professionals supplement their talents with the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills that are in ever-increasing demand.

Thus, a STEM MBA program is a way to acquire business and leadership skills alongside technological aptitude. In comparison to a traditional MBA, a STEM MBA helps you develop the fluidity required to translate business needs into technological processes.

MBA programs with a STEM focus vary in their specifics and requirements. Some are designed for professionals who want to leverage their existing STEM backgrounds as they add business skills to expand their job prospects. Others, such as Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s online MBA, are open to individuals both with and without prior STEM experience who want to become leaders, managers, and influential decision-makers within data-led, tech-integrated organizations.

STEM MBA Curriculum and Opportunities

STEM MBA programs are built upon core business concepts to ensure you have the foundational knowledge to support the rest of your education and career. Course subjects include:

  • Financial management
  • Business intelligence
  • Operations management
  • Strategic management
  • Marketing
  • Leadership

While these subjects are found in traditional business programs, a tech-focused MBA teaches you how to use these concepts within tech-driven organizations. For example, you may learn how to use data visualization software to aggregate and analyze years of expenses, providing valuable information for accounting and finance departments and helping the C-suite make smarter, more effective spending decisions.

Supplementing these core classes are a variety of concentrations and electives to deepen your understanding of the intersection between business and technology. Such concentrations can include:

  • Information systems design
  • User experience design
  • Data-based organization and management
  • Analytics (including but not limited to data analytics, business analytics, applied analytics, and operation analytics)

Within these concentrations, you’ll study concepts such as:

  • How business can use technology to improve strategies and innovate operations.
  • How data analytics and machine learning can be applied in business settings.
  • How technology is used to support entrepreneurship.
  • How to design, improve, and implement IT and data analytics policies and strategies.

The best tech MBA programs combine theory and practical application, giving you hands-on experience with the tools you’ll use as a professional. Many have a capstone project allowing you to integrate all that you’ve learned in a collaborative team environment. As a student in WPI’s online MBA program, you’ll gain experience with software and programming languages that are in high-demand, such as:

  • SPSS, a statistical analysis software. Demand for this skill is high and projected to grow 4.8 percent over the next 10 years.
  • Python, a general-purpose, high-level programming language. Demand for this skill is high and projected to grow 19.8 percent over the next 10 years.
  • Tableau, a data visualization software. Demand for this skill is high and expected to grow an incredible 46.1 percent over the next 10 years.

Source: Burning Glass.

Career Opportunities for STEM MBA Graduates

A STEM MBA prepares you for a variety of higher-level job titles, many of which require a master’s degree. Possible careers include:

Job Title Description Education Benefit of a STEM or tech-focused MBA
Senior Business Analyst Reviews current operations, then researches and devises ways to simplify processes.
Designs rollouts of these new procedures and follows up with staff to ensure a smooth implementation.
Graduate degree often required. Gives you a comprehensive understanding of available technologies as well as the strategic, leadership, and management skills needed to ensure an effective rollout.
Senior Market Research Analyst Researches market conditions, including competition, sales, prices, marketing, and distribution to determine the viability of a new product or service. A four-year degree and considerable related experience. Allows you to fill in any skills gaps that can’t be acquired on the job.
Provides a comprehensive understanding of various marketing strategies, methods of measuring marketing effectiveness, and related software (such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, analytic software, database and query software, graphics software, or online marketing tools).
Business Intelligence Analyst Creates and presents reports on financial, economic, and market intelligence for business stakeholders, setting pathways for business improvements. A four year-degree and related experience. Helps you become an expert in business strategies, communication, and business intelligence tools.
Operations Research Analyst Applies various optimization methods such as mathematical modeling to support business leaders with strategic decisions, staff organization, policy development, and similar functions. Graduate degree often required, with little opportunity for on-the-job training. Gives you experience with analytical software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, and object- or component-oriented development software.

Sources: O*NET, Payscale.

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Master of Business Administration

The WPI Business School is committed to helping professionals build a strategic business mindset empowered by technology. WPI’s online Master of Business Administration program equips students with the business and technological acumen required to lead today’s most innovative and successful organizations.

Our fully online, asynchronous program uses a project-based approach to provide students with practical experience tackling the challenges they’ll face as influential leaders in tech-driven environments. Students learn through real-world examples, case studies, and simulations, studying alongside like-minded STEM professionals in a virtual environment directed by expert faculty. With 20 specialization options, tech and analysis principles infused into every course, and a collaborative capstone project, the WPI online MBA program was built with modern career and business needs in mind.