Michigan Ross Adds Analytics Focus

The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan is getting on the data analytics train. The school announced today (April 23) that it will offer a new MBA concentration focused on business data and analytics beginning in the fall 2018 semester. The concentration, says Brad Killaly, associate dean of full-time and global MBA programs, is designed for MBA students looking to hone their analytical skills to develop data-driven business strategies and recommendations.

“We’ve developed the Data and Business Analytics Concentration to meet the needs of today’s MBA student as well as today’s evolving business world,” Killaly said in a news release. “As students continue to seek careers in data-intensive industries, such as consulting and technology, Michigan Ross will offer the necessary business acumen that students can utilize to give themselves a competitive edge.”

The new concentration is the first to launch under Killaly’s leadership. Ross began developing the concentration in 2017, according to its announcement, after receiving feedback from students who desired a more specialized concentration focused on big data.  The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania launched majors in analytics for undergraduate students and MBAs two years ago and this year one in five undergrads now major in the subject. Within another three years, analytics is expected to become the most popular major at Wharton (see Wharton’s Big Bet On The Analytics Boom).


Michigan Ross’s Brad Killaly

The new concentration is being touted primarily as a response to new and evolving employer demands, particularly from major MBA recruiters like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Michigan Ross is styling the concentration as a set of coursework that, coupled with Ross’s Real Experiences in Action-based Learning, will prepare students to solve pressing challenges in high-pressure environments even as they must work with imperfect data sets. But it can also be construed as a response to the growing popularity of analytics specialized master’s programs, a phenomenon well chronicled by Poets&Quants over the last few years (see here and here, for a start).

B-schools’ embrace of data science has also been well documented and evidenced in recent survey data, including a 2017 Kaplan poll that found that 72% of the surveyed schools offer at least one course in “data science or big data,” while another 13% don’t currently offer courses in data science but “are considering offering it.”

Schools wouldn’t offer courses, concentrations, majors, and specialized master’s degrees in data science and business analytics if the jobs weren’t waiting. And while the money may not yet be comparable to consultant gigs — according to data from one MBA-focused career tracker, average salaries for MBA graduates going into the field are in the relatively low $100,000 range — MBAs in data science are reporting average work weeks of just 43 hours, far below the 55 hours reported last year by recent MBA grads.

Schools, moreover, can hardly afford to miss out on talent by not offering data science curricula — a conclusion Harvard Business School came to last fall when it announced its new certificate in business analytics, which launched in March 2018. “You clearly see these trends emerging and we want to be the leader of them,” says Professor Karim Lakhani, who is leading HBS’ new program.


Ross students concentrating in analytics will be required to take courses from a wide array of options, including big data management, marketing research, marketing engineering, advanced big data analysis, data mining, digital marketing, mobile innovation development, and information econometrics. The school’s FTMBA Program Office and Career Development Office are partnering “to ensure MBA students are prepared with the necessary skill set to manage one of today’s most important business issues,” according to the school’s announcement.

“We are excited to introduce the new data and business analytics concentration to the Michigan Ross FTMBA Program,” said Heather Byrne, director of the Michigan Ross Career Development Office. “Companies want individuals who can lead their organizations using data and thinking analytically. Our goal is to prepare students to explore career options in which they can apply these skills, and help companies source exceptionally qualified talent.” 

Michigan Ross also has MBA concentrations in Business and Sustainability and Healthcare Management, a certificate in Real Estate Development, a Fast Track in Finance, and the Tauber Institute program in operations. The announcement of the new concentration comes a little more than a week after the school’s Center for Value Chain Innovation completed its inaugural Datathon, a live competition for business students with strong data science skills in which teams collaborate and compete to develop statistical analyses and predictive models around a social or business problem.


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