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Take the guesswork out of choosing an analytics degree! Use this educational guide to find—and then evaluate—a shortlist of accredited programs. Learn how to pick an area of interest/major, research career options in analytics, and select the right educational pathway. Compare the hallmarks of fantastic vs. terrible analytics programs. And find out if an online or on-campus degree in analytics is best for your needs.
Find an Analytics Degree in Your Area of Interest
New to the field of analytics? The first step in your quest for a degree will be selecting an area of professional interest. We’ve put together two resources to help you sift through all the options:
- Data Analytics vs. Business Analytics: What’s the Difference?
- Analytics Degree Programs—Which Major is Best?
Refining your choices now will save you time & money later! For instance, if you’re an aspiring undergraduate with a deep love of stats, you may wish to specialize in data analytics or applied statistics. But folks who are fascinated by using data to solve corporate challenges should consider business analytics. And aspiring marketing data analysts or financial risk analysts may wish to consider a closely related major. Take a few minutes to learn about the differences.
Research Analytics Careers Before You Commit
Still unsure about which fields would suit you best? Do some on-the-ground research before you start applying. We always recommend the following steps to any prospective student.
- Explore Analytics Ideas: Earn an entry-level data analytics certificate or attend a bootcamp to see which areas excite you. Experiment with data visualization software, Google Analytics, and other starter tools to get a taste of what’s possible. Contact companies and non-profits in your local area & volunteer to work on data-focused projects. (Even if they don’t have opportunities, they may know of people who do.)
- Network with Helpful People: Talk to early career analytics professionals to learn more about their experiences & career paths—you’ll find them on LinkedIn. Ask the program coordinator to connect you to recent alumni or professors. Attend local conferences or virtual events hosted by industry organizations. You don’t have to be an expert to ask questions!
- Examine Job Descriptions: Let’s say you’re interested in roles around investment & financial risk analysis. Have a look at recent job postings and examine the education section. Employers will state—up-front—what degree & major they will want to see on your résumé. They’ll also list typical day-to-day responsibilities.
Select the Right Educational Pathway
Use our comprehensive listings of data analytics programs and business analytics programs to select your preferred level of study. You’ll be able to browse through state-by-state listings for every accredited program in the U.S. Follow the links to get the full scoop on tuition costs, curricula, and admissions requirements.
You may be surprised to learn about how many options you have! For example:
- Recent high school graduates on a tight budget can pursue an associate degree at a community/technical college or a bachelor’s degree in analytics with affordable in-state rates.
- Working professionals with previous college credits or industry certifications may be able to transfer their credits into a part-time program.
- Graduates with a BS or BA in another field may wish to start with a graduate certificate before considering a master’s degree in analytics.
With universities & colleges scrambling to meet demand, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Green Light vs. Red Light: Tips for Assessing Analytics Degrees
|GREEN LIGHT||RED LIGHT|
||Regional & AACSB accreditation
Departmental awards & honors
Respectable national rankings
Reputation as a “degree mill”
No rankings at all
||Strong reputation within the region
Lots of research funding for data-focused projects
Research centers or labs devoted to analytics & data science
Industry partnerships with well-known companies
Access to top-of-the-line technical resources & infrastructures
|University doesn’t have departments
Complete lack of research funding
No analytics centers or labs
Vague promises of career connections
No technical resources offered
|Curriculum||Core coursework covers analytics fundamentals + technical skills + major tools & technologies
Electives and/or concentrations allow you to specialize in a field of interest
Capstone projects & internships with well-regarded companies
Opportunities to earn additional certifications
|Lots of non-technical filler courses, generalized subjects & outdated coursework
Zero opportunities to explore specific realms of interest
No capstone projects or internships available
Option to earn “fluff” certificates that mean nothing in the real world
|Faculty||Relevant professional & consulting experience in analytics
Up-to-date industry certifications
Research interests in relevant areas (e.g. AI)
Teaching awards & strong student recommendations
|Spotty job and/or academic record
No industry certifications
No research projects or industry partnerships
Poor student reviews
|Cost||Reasonable tuition rates that reflect the quality & reputation of the university
Financing packages & scholarship opportunities
Sample budget provided by the program coordinator on request
|Super-low tuition rates with pushy advertising
Hidden fees & unexpected costs
No budget provided or only vague numbers & estimates
||Career counseling, job fairs & interview preparation
Discounts on industry certifications & certification training
Seminars & networking events with analytics experts
|Generic career services page with links to external job sites
Zero effort to prepare students for common certifications
No opportunities to learn from industry experts
Campus vs. Online: Which Analytics Degree is Right for You?
Once you’ve chosen your area of interest & level of study, you’ll discover opportunities for 100% in-person study, 100% online degrees, and even hybrid programs that blend the two formats. Consider the following decision points when making your choice:
Costs & Budget
100% online degrees in business analytics or data analytics will often be cheaper than campus programs. But it’s worth noting that some campus programs qualify for fabulous financing packages (e.g. scholarships, partner tuition discounts, employer reimbursement, etc.). And many public universities offer affordable tuition rates to in-state residents. Make a shortlist of a few online & campus options, talk to the program coordinator about your situation, and visit the tuition links in our listings to get a handle on actual costs.
Are you currently working in a full-time job? Do you have important family commitments? Distance learning will be the easier path. Online programs in data or business analytics are set-up to cater to students who have other responsibilities. However, remember that you may be able to choose a blended/hybrid degree or a campus program with evening & weekend classes at your local university.
Not everyone is suited to distance learning. Many online programs in business analytics and data analytics are primarily asynchronous, which means that you’re learning on your own time. You’ll have to be self-motivated and disciplined to finish your assignments, and you may not have a great deal of interaction with other students. If you tend to do better with other learners around, consider a hybrid degree, an on-campus program, or an online program with a lot of synchronous/real-time teaching and group collaboration.
Analytics is a technical field, so every program—online or on-campus—should contain hands-on assignments and real-world projects. Any prospective online learners should ask about virtual access to technical resources (e.g. cloud computing). Any aspiring on-campus learners should find out what’s available through centers & labs. Thanks to external funding, some research universities have outstanding facilities.
As a general rule of thumb, online programs in business analytics and data analytics are convenient and on-campus programs are connected. In-person learners at a strong university can take advantage of all kinds of job resources, including seminar series, career counseling, student analytics clubs, high-level research centers, and more. Some schools will even arrange internship fairs or site visits with industry partners. As a distance learner, you may already be gainfully employed. But it never hurts to ask about career resources for online students.