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What Is the Difference Between an MBA in Business Analytics vs. MSBA?

07/26/2021

It’s no secret that jobs in data science and analytics are on the rise. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics named data scientist and mathematical science positions among the 20 fastest-growing occupations through 2029.

If you want to work with data and believe a master’s degree could help you meet your career goals, you’re likely considering two degrees: either a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in business analytics, or a Master of Science in Business Analytics.

What’s the difference between the two? Who is a better fit for an MBA in business analytics, and who might do better with an MSBA? We sat down with Tonya Balan, Associate Teaching Professor in the School of Business at Wake Forest University, to learn more.

MBA in Business Analytics vs. MSBA

Data science is multidisciplinary. It overlaps with business and management occupations, and it overlaps with mathematical and computer science fields. A simplified way to answer the question about the difference between an MBA in business analytics and an MSBA is:

  • An MBA with a concentration in analytics is best suited to those who want to be strong business leaders with a working understanding of analytics.
  • An MSBA is for those who wish to build deep analytics and data-science expertise, so they can advise business leaders on the best data-driven decision-making.

Who Is Better-Suited for an MBA in Business Analytics?

Balan said the biggest difference between an MBA and an MSBA is the focus of the program. An MBA program, at its core, is about management and organizational issues. An MBA best prepares students to focus on business, including business ethics, solving complex challenges, driving growth, and making an impact in a global economy.

Someone who wants to earn an MBA with a concentration in business analytics may need a deep understanding of analytics to be a leader, but they may be less likely to execute detail-oriented and mathematical data science tasks. Such an MBA program helps students understand how analytics can affect a business and how they can be used to guide business decisions.

Someone who is well-suited for an MBA in business analytics would have an interest in using data and analytics to guide big-picture business decisions.

Sample courses for students earning an MBA with a concentration in business analytics:

  • Managerial Accounting
  • Business Law
  • Managerial Economics
  • Global Strategic Management
  • Marketing Management
  • Operations Management

The above courses are all part of the MBA core program. Those who enroll in the business analytics concentration will also take:

  • Data Management
  • Analytics Software Technology
  • Visual Analytics and Influencing

Sample job titles for those with an MBA in business analytics:

  • Consultant
  • Business intelligence analyst
  • Marketing analyst
  • Marketing manager
  • Operations manager
  • Management analyst

Who Is Better-Suited for an MSBA?

Unlike an MBA student who may want to use data analytics to inform decision-making, an MSBA is designed for those who want to execute data science tasks.

“The core of an MSBA, in terms of the curriculum, is that we are trying to develop a really solid technical background and skills for these students,” Balan said.

The focus of an MSBA is on analytical methodology (i.e., asking the right questions), analytical tools, forecasting, machine learning, optimization, and most importantly, how to communicate the results of these analyses to influence better decision-making.

An MSBA graduate is likely to be in a role where they are building machine-learning models and collaborating with business leaders, versus an MBA graduate whose first focus is being an effective business leader.

Sample courses for students earning an MSBA:

  • Data Management
  • Visual Analytics and Influencing
  • Business Modeling
  • Data Mining and Machine Learning
  • Simulation and Risk Analysis
  • Multivariate Analyses and Experimental Design
  • Forecasting
  • Prescriptive Analytics
  • Leading the Analytics Organization

Sample job titles for those with an MSBA:

  • Consultant
  • Business analyst
  • Marketing analyst
  • Data analyst
  • Data scientist
  • Advanced analytics consultant
  • Risk modeling associate
  • Machine learning professional
  • Operations research analyst

Where the Two Overlap

While they are distinct programs, there is some overlap between MBAs and MSBAs. MSBA students will get some leadership training, and MBA students—if they choose the analytics concentration—will gain analytics skills and training.

“MBA in business analytics and MSBA graduates will work together, combining their strengths in technical skills and leadership and business training, respectively. There is a need for both of these skillsets,” Balan said.

“Every problem generates data, and so every business has data they need to deal with, and every individual employee needs to be able to deal with data as well,” Balan said. “Data is not going away, so if you don't figure out a way to capture it, use it, and extract value from it, you're going to fall behind, as an individual or as a company.”

Take Your Education Further With Wake Forest

Data is increasingly becoming the backbone of business decisions. More and more companies are realizing the importance of incorporating data analytics into their organizational operations.

If you’re interested in pursuing either one of these degrees, learn about Wake Forest University’s online degree programs:

To learn more about either of these programs, request more information today.