The growing use of data across industries today has led to a higher-than-average demand for advanced business analysts in the field. Unlike early-career analysts who focus on obtaining technical skills, these mid- to senior-level roles require a unique combination of practical abilities and strategic thinking that entry-level analysts simply do not have.
Kwong Chan—an Academic Specialist in Marketing at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and Executive Director of Northeastern’s DATA Initiative—explains that this talent gap continues to widen as analysts hoping to advance their careers misdirect their efforts in up-skilling.
For example, while practical skills like coding and data analysis are still important in higher-level roles, analysts at this level also need to have a strong background in strategy and leadership.
“When my master’s students ask about coding, I tell them they need to code well enough to hire great coders who can also be great team members. The business analytics master’s student should learn to code so they don’t have to,” he explains. “As long as they know the difference between a good and bad coder in terms of how that person will integrate into their team, that’s enough.”
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Alongside running a team, professionals in these advanced roles must be able to consistently live in both the world of data and of business strategy. This includes becoming incredibly versed in:
- Identifying the true business problem that needs solving in a given situation
- Effectively communicating complex information to leaders of all backgrounds
- Reducing risk in data-driven decision-making practices
Though it may be difficult for individuals in lower-level business analyst roles to obtain the training and hands-on experience needed to hone these key abilities, Chan notes that a master’s degree in business analytics is a great option for those looking to move up in their organizations.
“To get the most out of the experience, a degree should provide opportunities to apply new skills in a real-world context, and the master’s of business analytics at Northeastern is built from the ground-up to do just that.”
Below we offer five key steps that professionals trying to advance in business analytics should take to move up in the field, and explore how a master’s in business analytics from a top university like Northeastern is designed to help you master them all.
1. Obtain cutting-edge training from industry leaders.
Northeastern’s Master of Science in Business Analytics program is designed to provide students with the necessary combination of technical skills and strategic training needed to thrive as a senior-level analyst. Through classes taught by industry-leading faculty, students have the chance to really explore these competencies individually, and then learn how to integrate them properly.
Unlike most programs that attempt to build a foundation of technical skills prior to ever embarking on an exploration of strategy and leadership, Northeastern’s program sets itself apart by uniquely blending the study of these two competencies from the start.
“We really tie in strategic analysis and impact with technical skills from day one,” Chan says. “We’ve designed the courses to be complementary in order to continuously integrate business strategy and technical analysis throughout the whole degree.”
As a result, he explains that students may find they can begin to apply lessons from their very first courses and offer suggestions to their organization on how to solve business problems using data.
“I’ve had students come back and say that after the first week, they were able to go into their senior team and [not only] give an insight that was completely because of the coursework…but also offer strategic analysis to their managers along with it,” he says.
2. Tailor your coursework to help you thrive in your industry.
Students can also customize their educational path within a master’s program by layering in industry-specific courses in addition to their general business analytics ones, whether through the declaration of a formal concentration or simply through the pursuit of complementary electives. By taking the time to master both the practical application of business analytics and the way it impacts specific fields, these students can obtain the context they need to strategically solve industry-specific problems using data.
For Example: Northeastern offers a full marketing concentration for students within the master’s in business analytics program, as well as many other electives in topics ranging from supply chain management to human resources.
3. Explore hands-on learning opportunities.
Another significant aspect of Northeastern’s curriculum is the inclusion of an experiential capstone course, which provides students the chance to apply their skills outside of the classroom.
“The capstone project matches students with real companies and real projects, [and allows them] to analyze and solve a real problem,” Chan says. “These projects can range from ones that are code-heavy to ones that are more consulting in nature with less focus on data science.”
Professors work with students to determine what type of work best aligns both with their desired area of focus and the needs of the organizations at hand. They also often coordinate with the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program and “match those MBA students with computer science students on projects,” Chan says. These pairings allow students with very different skill sets to work together and learn from each other, all while gaining exposure to the real-world challenges facing industries today.
4. Grow your professional network.
The capstone project at Northeastern also provides a unique opportunity for students to network with industry leaders within top organizations. This is a significant aspect of Northeastern’s program, as the relationships students build at this stage in their careers have the potential to make a profound impact on their future job opportunities.
In fact, research shows that 85 percent of roles today are filled through networking. For that reason, business analysts trying to advance their careers should take advantage of the rare opportunities Northeastern provides to showcase their skill sets and build relationships with organizations prior to graduation.
Learn More: 7 Networking Tips for Graduate Students
5. Gain real-world exposure.
Yet another way Northeastern integrates real-world experience into master’s students’ coursework is through opportunities like the Data Initiative, one of many programs on campus designed to provide students with the chance to network with and deploy real-world projects alongside classmates in other data or business disciplines.
This program specifically “is designed to provide opportunities outside of the analytics or data science degree…to get exposure to employers or media coverage,” Chan says. Last year’s competition, he explains, allowed students to work with the data science team at the City of Boston to help identify safer ways to bike in the city.
“Using data sets—such as the high-accident areas around Boston, where the low-accident areas were, and so on—students pitched final solutions to 200 people right on campus, including [professionals] from PWC, Reebok, Hubspot, IBM etc.,” he continues. This kind of face time with industry leaders is an unparalleled advantage of pursuing a master’s at a well-respected university like Northeastern.
Being able to “showcase your skills pretty much from day one using our on-campus, initiative-driven opportunities is a huge differentiator of our program,” Chan says. “If you want to work with high-impact data science and analytics inside [an] organization, but you don’t feel like you have the skills, then the master’s in business analytics is the way to do it.”
Are you ready to take the next step in your business analytics career? Explore our master’s in business analytics program and learn about the curriculum, experiential learning opportunities, and world-class faculty that define Northeastern’s program.