Why Study Business Analytics?

So, you’re looking for a career that combines math, technology and business? Maybe you have even heard the words “big data” and want to learn more about how best to use data. Look no further; a degree in business analytics may be the perfect match for you. 

Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management offers an M.S. in business analytics, as well as a specialization program for MBA students. Both degrees are offered as full-time campus programs and online through our partner, 2U, Inc.

Figuring out if you want to earn a degree in business analytics is a big decision. This article aims to help answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the field with the help of Don Harter, associate professor of MIS and director of the M.S. in business analytics program. Prior to teaching, Harter worked for a research think tank that focused on analytics.

What is business analytics?

It sounds like it should be simple, but business analytics is actually a multifaceted field. Business analysts examine data and look at trends to advise organizations on best practices.

Harter describes business analytics as, “a combination of information technology, statistical analysis, and quantitative methods to analyze data and create business opportunities.”

Information technology that business analytics professionals may use include

  • Spreadsheets (Excel) 
  • Databases (Access, MySQL, Oracle)
  • Languages (Python)
  • Web analytics (Google Analytics)
  • Dashboards (Tableau, MS Power BI)
  • Advanced analysis and machine learning tools (R, Keras, TensorFlow)

Harter details, “Business Analysts examine data, identify patterns, build models to predict the effect of changes, and make recommendations to improve a business. These roles combine an understanding of the technology and techniques, with a focus on business decisions. Analytics jobs which are more technology focused will involve the creation of databases, programming techniques to find patterns in the data, and supporting business analysts. Analytics jobs, which are more business focused, will leverage the analysis to make better business decisions.”

Business analysts also use statistical analysis techniques such as correlation analysis, linear and non-linear regression, factor analysis, and cluster analysis. All of these techniques allow analysts to advise organizations on how to become more efficient and cost effective as well as better serve clients.

What careers do business analysts have?

Business analysts work in many sectors including retail, marketing, finance and other specialties. 

“In accounting, analytics is used to detect fraud in accounts payables, accounts receivables, expense reporting, and revenue reporting,” says Harter.

He adds, “Analytics have become essential in financial services and financial trading, where much stock market trading is performed by analytical algorithms.” Analysts may help determine loan approvals and credit risk assessment.

Business analysts play key roles in marketing and supply chain as well. Harter explains, “They are essential in market analysis, pricing, analysis of the effectiveness of advertisement, and market segmentation analysis. In supply chain management, analytics is used to optimize inventory levels, identify the best location for a new warehouse, minimize shipping costs, and minimize time of delivery to customers.”

Beyond the traditional business framework, analysts are needed. Harter gives an example of athletes needing analysts to advise them on how they could improve their performance. 

He also adds, “Casinos use analytics to enhance the customer experience by identifying the best patrons of the casino and rewarding them with complimentary meals and rooms.”

“Health care and pharmaceuticals are heavy users of analytics to measure the effectiveness of health care treatments and new drugs. Each of these industries have significant employment opportunities for students who study business analytics,” says Harter.

What type of student is a good fit for a degree in business analytics?

A degree in business analytics is not for someone who shies away from numbers. Harter says the characteristics he looks for in program candidates include, “quantitative skills, and a comfort level with dealing with technology.” 

He adds, “I only admit students who appear to have some quantitative background. Courses I look at are mathematics, statistics, economics, computer science and engineering. Course work in those five areas is usually indicative they have a quantitative background to succeed.”

“I enjoy seeing students learn analytics techniques that will allow them to be placed in outstanding job opportunities,” says Harter.

Students who study business analytics at the Whitman School have seen placements with Amazon.com, Inc. and other top organizations. They also may be seeing a reward for their educational investment. The average annual salary for a business analyst, according to Glassdoor, is $68,346 and wages increase with more experience and education.

What makes Whitman the best place to earn a degree in business analytics?

The Whitman School takes a practical approach to designing the courses needed to fulfill a business analytics degree. 

Harter explains, “The Whitman School’s business analytics program was designed to respond to the needs of industry executives. In designing the business analytics program, we interviewed executives from McKinsey Consulting, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Accenture, and other companies involved in applying analytics. We asked executives at those companies what they would need a Whitman student to know in order to hire them.”

“The training that you will receive at Whitman will enhance your ability to effectively analyze data and make your future organization more competitive,” he adds.

Many business schools are offering a curriculum in business analytics. However, the Whitman School has differentiated itself by creating new and innovative coursework as well as staying informed on the latest analytics techniques. As the industry changes, so does the Whitman School’s content.

“In a benchmarking exercise of all analytics programs in the United States, 40% of programs in the U.S. recycled old statistics programs and called them analytics; another 40% recycled old information technology programs and renamed them analytics. Whitman collaborated with the Syracuse University School of Information Studies and the College of Engineering and Computer Science to develop new coursework tailored to the needs of executives in industry,” says Harter.

Learn more about a degree in business analytics at the Whitman School.

Maya Bingaman
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