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New analytics focused masters degrees vs traditional graduate programs... worth it? Thoughts?

Hi everyone,

As you have probably noticed lately, every few months or so there seems to be a new masters in analytics program launching. As a mid career software engineer looking to make the switch, I have been considering the investment in an quantitative graduate degree. At first I considered a classic MS in Economics (mostly because I fully appreciate the quantitative modelling of social phenomena as a broadly valuable skillset). However, lately I have been considering some of these newer programs - ones that will cover modern data mining or text mining techniques, for example.

Some off the top of my head are the one at Northwestern, the NC State SAS based program, or the DePaul program. And just recently, a new one launched here in San Francisco at USF that seems to cover all the bases. All of these programs seem to anticipate that the analytics professional needs to be well grounded in technology and techniques at the expense, somewhat, of theory.  In my own limited exposure I have seen quite a few graduates of stats/math/econ who can't load up or cleanse or (complex) query their own data sets. So, what is the balance?

My hunch is that most if not all of the analytics professionals here on Analytic Bridge studied a classic quantitative program - math, stats, econ, physics, etc. I would love to get some of your opinions on some of these newer programs vs the classic graduate routes. ~$40k in tuition plus expenses is a lot of money, but if they put you in the interview chair, are they worth it?

Thanks all!


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I am also in the same boat as yours and would love to hear from the professionals on this group.




Knowledge required for a typical analytics career can be grouped into 4 areas viz. 

  • Tools (SAS, R etc.)
  • Techniques (Statistical techniques like Regression, CHAID etc.), 
  • Function (Marketing, Finance etc.) 
  • Industry (Telecom, Credit Card, Retail etc.). 

There is no education program that fully equip a student in all these areas. Traditional programs give a grounding in one or two of the above areas and others are picked up on the job.

For example a good Statistics masters today cover Tools and Techniques but may not be at the level industry require. Similarly an MBA (with quantitative orientation) will cover Tools, Techniques and Function but at a basic level. Hence, the grooming of an analytic professional currently involve big investment by industry. My hope is that the new analytic focused programs will provide better grounding as required by  the industry. It is unlikely that even such a program can do justice to all the above areas. But atleast, it will be close.

I have a degree in Quantitative Analysis. I graduated in 1985 and have been something of a geek ever since. While over the years I have toyed with going back to school for my masters, I always found a reason not to. The biggest reason I always used was that when I looked at where my career trajectory was taking me, and how different that was from what I studied in school, I questioned the value of the Masters degree versus good old experience.

I am looking into these masters programs with more interest that any program I have seen before. My main reasons are simple - economics. While the work we do may not necessarily require these degrees, and what we learn may not always be a perfect fit to our work, these degrees are the way of the future if we want to stay 'in the game'.

There is an enormous amount of interest in analytics right now, these degree programs are trying to capitalize on that interest. Those individuals who take the time to get these degrees will be ahead of the curve from a hiring standpoint moving forward.

I for one am very interested in not only enhancing my current (analytics focused) job, but also in future job prospects. 

Hi Harry, where did you go to school? I am just curious . ..

I think the answer to your question also depends on what kind of analytic employer will you be seeking a job with.  

In a retail, banking or insurance setting there are clients, there are vendors selling products to those clients and then there are management consultants.

For example, Bank of America would be a client and Fair Isaac or Moodys would be vendors and Accenture would be a management consultant.  

A client owns the business and often has in house analytic professionals who are subordinate to a designated owner of the business line.

Top tier vendors typically sell products to do analytic "heavy lifting" and have often patented their application of analytics.

Those vendors are often looking for top quantitative talent and are open to a variety of academic backgrounds including statistics, math, computer science, physics, economics etc.  

On the client side, the story is quite different.  The client often combines the analytics as a subordinate function to IT services, finance or marketing "cost centers".  People management skills is the avowed core competency of the management staff at a lot of client sites which means they can work with a wider variety of talent pools.   It also means there is a need for management consultants to provide strategic direction.

As a mid-career software engineer, you may do best in vetting your extant technical skills to potential analytics software vendors and consulting firms who may also be willing to assist you with some educational opportunities in order to acquire the supplemental statistics and algorithmic knowledge specific to data mining.  If this path doesn't work then you could consider alternative paths.  Make sense?

Over the trajectory of my career, I have: been a developer, an analyst, owned a software company (with 20 employees),  done consulting for one of the large outsourcing companies, been a application architect, been a systems architect, designed BI systems (DW and reporting) and worked with various consulting clients to define BI requirements as part of an overall approach to BI reporting.

In other words, while I have done a lot, very little of what I have done relates directly to me education. My kids, when they were in high school were doing matrix problems I did in 400 level classes in college.

The field has evolved and advanced. If we stand still we become irrelevant. I thing the Predictive Analytics curriculum is spot on for where I want to go next.

Hi all,

I am a graduate of the 2011 NC State Analytics program so I can speak about my experience in and out of the program.  Before entering the program I graduated with a masters in Applied Mathematics focusing mainly on numerical techniques and Matlab programming.  After graduating with that masters in Math I had a hard time finding a job directly related to what I studied in school (living in the RTP area of NC).  Luckily the experiences I had programming in LabVIEW I was able to get a test engineering job but was laid off during the economic downturn in 2008/2009.  After that I could not find a job and it seemed as if all the jobs related to math or statistics required a working knowledge of Java, SAS and/or SQL.  After searching for classes at NC State that incorporated SAS into the curriculm I found the Analytics program, applied for it and got in.


For me, I entered the program mainly to learn SAS and SQL and get my certifications.  I already had a backround in Math and Stats so I can read and understand the literature.  I can self teach myself in that aspect.  It also opened my eyes up to a base of the main techniques that are used in Data Mining, Time Series and Forecasting and properly doing predictive modeling.  Once I knew what areas of statistics were being used for Analytics I could openly read about other newer techniques and teach myself.  I also learned a great deal of R there and I am glad I did.  In my opinion R is much more powerful than SAS for doing Analytics.  I also want to say that I believe people usually have a knack for understanding data, cleansing data, digging deep into data and creating analytic data sets.  Some things can't be taught, you either have it or you don't.


That being said I believe these programs are good for people that are already well versed in one of the four areas Regi mentioned and are looking to get into the Analytics field.  It will be difficult for people that do not have a strong math or programming backround.  The NC State program isn't going to teach you to be a mathematician but will teach you about the techniques commonly used in industry, but you must have a strong backround in math to keep up.  Or at least put in a lot of effort to understand what is going on.  The other great thing about the NC State program is it is very focused on career placement after school.  I had many offers for employment and landed an awesome job before school was over.  The program also has students work on real world projects for real companies from different industries during the 10 months of enrollment.  After completion of the projects the students do a presentation of the results for the company.  They also focus on public speaking and working in teams.  The NC State program is a great program and I am 100% satisfied with it.  I highly recommend it and it is relatively inexpensive in my opinion.

Thank you everyone. Your comments have been very helpful!

Thanks Deron for posting this. I am glad you brought this up. 

Hello , I'm also in the same situation, but in different domain.. I had posted the following discussion and I would also like the professional's opinion on this:


My name is Harsh gajjar. I'm a BtechBioinformatician . I'm currently working as a SAS Programmer in clinical research organization.


I've been extensively involved in providing sas programming solutions in clinical trials. I have also cleared the SAS business intelligence certified exam. I have also contributed in the SAS BIrelated work in clinical trials.


I would like to excel in the fieldof business analytics. I have a basic knowledge of math’s and statistics, only because we had these subjects during my bachelor degree of bioinformatics.


However I'm confused whether this (analytics)field falls in MS or MBA?


IF MS than exactly what is it called?Considering my domain as pharma I would like to have an opinion on what is the scope of analytics in the field of pharma?


IF MBA than what is thespecialization in MBA preferred for a business analyst.


If i make a transition from pharma to market analytics, than what exactly is the mathematical knowledge required.


How much analytics is  covered up  in case of MBA?

Pace University offers a MS in Analyticswhich is suitable for individuals who have recently graduated from an undergraduate program or those who have worked a few years and desire a different career. 


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