Program Name: Master of Science in Business Analytics
School: UCLA Anderson School of Management
Length of Program: 13 months
Cost: Estimated to be $62,579, not including living expenses, transportation costs, parking, books, medical insurance, campus fees, or a laptop computer
Business analytics master’s degrees are popping up all over the place. So how could one of the premier business schools in the United States, located in the region best known for innovation across a variety of industries, not also feature an MSBA?
Ask no longer. The UCLA Anderson School of Management will launch its MSBA this fall, says Paul Brandano, executive director of the program. The deadline to apply is the end of May, and the first cohort will begin classes in November.
“I am thrilled to bring the MSBA program into operational reality this year,” Brandano tells Poets&Quants. “My career has given me the unique opportunity to work at the intersection of higher education and the world of technology startups at UCLA Anderson, and previously as client executive and business analytics software specialist at IBM, and to have the chance to combine that experience and skill set to create an exceptional new Master of Science in Business Analytics is a once-in-a-career opportunity.”
Brandano singled out for special praise a couple of “true unsung heroes of the new MSBA”: Laurie Summers, assistant dean of strategic initiatives, who brought veteran program development expertise and “tireless focus on quality,” and Professor Felipe Caro, “not only a distinguished operations faculty member, but also our founding faculty director, who applied his vision and dedication to bring the MSBA to life.” Their effort, Brandano says, creativity, and dedication “will pay dividends well into the future … and I know our students will share that pride when they cross the stage as the first MSBA graduating class at UCLA Anderson.”
A GOOD FIT FOR STEM STUDENTS
The MSBA is finally getting off the ground after more than a year of planning. “However,” Brandano says, “my best work is still ahead of me.”
The program will combine online, classroom, and real-world experience in 13 months of study. The first fall quarter is online and focuses on quantitative fundamentals and programming. The following winter and spring quarters explore business fundamentals for analytics, data management, prescriptive models, and customer and operations analytics, as well as industry seminars. Following a summer internship, the final fall quarter centers on a real-world capstone project and elective courses in students’ industries of choice.
“The UCLA Anderson MSBA,” Brandano says, will be is one of the few master’s programs of its kind within a business school. In order to build the curriculum, faculty met with representatives from Google, Amazon, and Uber, among others, for support in developing a program that will meet business needs. These meetings led to a curriculum that includes an intensive set of technical and business courses as well as a real-world internship and practicum project designed to meet the rapidly evolving needs of the marketplace.
“The MSBA program … does not require applicants to have previous work experience, making it a good fit for undergraduates with math, engineering, or statistics backgrounds and interests. As an additional advantage, the program will have a dedicated career services representative to support students in the transition to their first post-graduate job.”
Why is UCLA launching the program? “Harvard Business Review has called business analytics ‘the sexiest job of the 21st century,'” Brandano says. “Modern management is being shaped by a growing demand for more and better data and, more important, by the insights that can be derived from that data. Currently, the supply of qualified graduates to enter this field is not keeping up with the demand, which presents a fantastic opportunity for graduates with the right knowledge and skills.
“The UCLA Anderson School of Management has adjusted to this evolving marketplace by bringing business analytics, big data and data science topics to our MBA program courses, centers, conferences and events; but we also saw the need for a specialized Master of Science in Business Analytics at UCLA. You can’t imagine the optimized office of the near future without also imagining a data scientist and team that deliver new and unique insights to all levels of management and executive leadership. It is with that future in mind that we have created our MSBA.”
How is it different from what else is on the market? The program is different because of its “focus on emerging technologies,” according to the program website. “Learning these technologies will promote rapid career growth and advancement of the field, as graduates become leaders.” The program also boasts a “career-driven internship” that provides “real-world experience,” facilitated by Anderson and advised by its faculty; as well as an “experience-based student project” that is inspired by the summer internship and that “completes the student experience.” The program also has what it calls “industry-based electives,” adding that “Internet, entertainment, and healthcare analytics command the most sought-after skillsets and are integral to the program.”
Who is the ideal applicant and student? “A true data scientist must possess the quantitative analysis skills and technical knowledge necessary to corral large quantities of disparate data,” Brandano says, “to manage that data efficiently using a spectrum of emerging technologies, and to creatively analyze that newly organized data for new insights. Equally important are the professional communications skills and business knowledge required to effectively deliver these new insights to senior executive management, and to gain a level of trust and mutual respect at the highest level.
“Because of this combination of desired abilities, the ideal applicant would be a quant and to some degree a poet. We have built our MSBA program to create the data scientist of today and of the future, and we encourage both quant-oriented poets and poetically inclined quants to apply for fall admission!”
What’s the application process? Are GMATs or GREs required? An essay? Bachelor’s degree or equivalent; GPA of 3.0+ (on 4.0 scale); GMAT of 710 expected overall (above 90%), or GRE with Quantitative Score of 167 (above 92%). Those with a strong quantitative background, English language proficiency, and experience or coursework in computer programming are desired.
Applicants also must submit two letters of recommendation and a $200 application fee. Interviews will be held with invitees.
Online webinars are scheduled through May; click here to see a schedule and sign up.
What is the application deadline? May 31, 2017.
What can a student do to best prepare for the program in advance of its start? Books to read? Podcasts to listen to? TED talks to watch? “There seems to be an endless amount of content available on the subject of business analytics and data science,” Brandano says. “I have learned a lot from the posts I have seen and read at http://datasciencecentral.com, and that is a worthwhile place to begin. My personal favorite TED talks on the subject are Kenneth Cukier’s Big Data Is Better Data, which provides a great set of foundational examples of how big data can generate value; Philip Evans’ How Data Will Transform Business, which explores the intersection of business strategy and data science; and Jennifer Golbeck’s The Curly Fry Conundrum, which looks at the specific ways data scientists change how consumers experience the modern marketplace.
“As a Boston native and Red Sox fan, I will forever be indebted to Michael Lewis for bringing everyday awareness to the importance of sabermetrics and data science to the sport and business of Major League Baseball in Moneyball. I would actually recommend almost anything written by Michael Lewis for his ability to present a macro and historical view of complex business situations, and illustrate how business analytics are deployed for impact.
“I also recommend that candidates bring a healthy curiosity to their MSBA experience and that they stay connected with the vast ecosystem of blogs, message boards and the developer community, to make sure they are staying close to the pulse of the dynamic and ever-evolving world of business analytics.”
What will students learn in the program? What’s the program format? “The UCLA Anderson MSBA curriculum is solidly based on the business school paradigm of merging theory and principle with up-to-the-minute business practice,” according to the program website. “While MSBA programs are available at many universities, UCLA Anderson is one of the few top-tier business schools worldwide to offer the MSBA degree. Our dynamic curriculum, taught by world-renowned faculty, merges technical and theory-based pedagogy with practical immersion through a summer internship and a corporate sponsored Capstone Analytics Project.”
The Foundation section, from November to December, is entirely online and features such courses as Math and Stats for Analytics, R Programming Essentials, and SQL and Basic Data Management. Winter, from January to March, includes Business Fundamentals for Analytics and Prescriptive Models; Spring, from March to June, features Customer Analytics, Competitive Analytics, and Operations Analytics; and Summer, from June to September, is dedicated to a 4-unit internship supervised by an Anderson faculty member that will ultimately lead to students’ required projects on which they will continue to work in the fall.
Fall, from September to December, includes such electives as Internet Customer Analytics and Entertainment Analytics, as well as final project presentations and graduation.
Is there a capstone or special project? If so, please describe it. Four-student teams work for seven months to prepare a research report on a high-growth company. “The Capstone Analytics Project (CAP) gives MSBA candidates the opportunity to apply knowledge acquired through MSBA coursework to solve a practical, real-world business analytics problems,” the program website reads. “By partnering with a corporate client, students develop and showcase their knowledge of business analytics, hone their communication skills and delve more deeply into an area of interest beyond the classroom.
“CAP projects concentrate on such areas as programming and data management methods, model development and construction, business analytics and industry applications, and are sponsored by top organizations. Students interact directly with clients, gaining valuable exposure to potential employers and broadening their professional networks.”
What do you expect student outcomes to be? “The opportunities for graduates of UCLA Anderson’s M.S. in Business Analytics program will, by all evidence we have seen, be plentiful,” the program website reads. “A McKinsey Global Institute report on the state of the data science and analytics market estimates that by 2018, ‘the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the knowhow to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.’ The report goes on to say that, ‘By 2018, in the United States, we estimate that 4 million positions will require these types of skills in a big data world. However, if we add together the number of people with these skills and new graduates who will enter the market (on current trends), we reach a total of only 2.5 million people in the United States in 2018. So there is a potential shortfall of 1.5 million data-savvy managers and analysts. This is not a gap likely to be filled simply by changing graduate requirements.’
“In our own independent study based on LinkedIn data, we estimated that there were about 150,000 unique ads posted in 2016 that had the keyword ‘business analytics’ in the job title (e.g., Business Analytics Associate or Business Analytics Consultant). Moreover, 19.4% of these jobs were located in California, which was the largest fraction among all states.”
Adds Brandano: “Our goal in launching the MSBA is to respond to the tremendous demand on both sides of our value chain. We are building a program that will refine the strong quantitative skills of mathematics, computer science, and physics majors with a balance of data science and business courses to prepare graduates for careers as well-rounded data scientists.
“Our students will be well-positioned to respond to the ever-increasing demand for business analytics and data science positions with the world’s top companies and the emerging greenfield of opportunities with mid-market companies, as well as the fast-paced world of technology startups.”