What You Need to Know About Starting a Master of Science in Business Analytics Without Work Experience

Jobseekers continue to hear about how business analytics is a lucrative career path and why such professionals are in demand. Glassdoor continues to name related careers in data science, data analytics, and data engineering among its “50 Best Jobs in America” list. McKinsey & Company’s Closing the Future-Skills Gap report also indicates that in spite of shifting technologies, few professionals have data analytics skills to take advantage of these opportunities.

In today’s marketplace, professionals find themselves in a business analytics role through one of two paths. They started in an entry-level role in business, finance, statistics, or information technology and have the knowledge to understand emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. They then build upon this skill set with a certificate or a degree.

In another group, after hearing about how these professionals are in demand, individuals earn a degree in the field, ideally a Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA), and build their portfolio and gain relevant experience through their program and internship opportunities. Those in this last category tend to have little to no work experience, or they spent their brief time in the workforce in an unrelated field.

MS in Business Analytics programs cater to both groups of students in terms of structure, admission requirements, and goals. Wherever you are in your educational or professional journey, here’s what you should know before returning to school.

Why Data Analytics Skills are In Demand

It’s not that professionals weren’t analyzing and drawing insights from data before this point. Rather, the information was limited and selective, and the techniques used to make sense of it all reflected this scope.

Widespread usage of the internet accelerated data’s availability over two decades ago. Throughout the 2010s, greater digitization and automation greatly increased this flow, to the point that the analysis techniques used up to a decade ago are not just obsolete but inefficient and error prone. Especially as these two trends show no signs of stopping, organizations looking to harness this information will need business analytics professionals and data scientists to stay afloat and make better decisions.

At its core, business analytics utilizes statistics, quantitative methods, and predictive modeling to transform data into actionable insights that go onto streamline or overhaul internal processes, meet customer expectations, and influence or support company decisions. Businesses have long turned to industry trends, competitors’ moves, and past performance, and Big Data essentially opens up even more channels.

Investigating and sifting through these aspects requires a specific set of skills, including a well-rounded understanding of business, data mining, machine learning, programming languages, predictive modeling, statistics, mathematics, and quantitative reasoning. However, numbers themselves are meaningless unless they tell a coherent story, and in turn, business analytics professionals also need to know how to visualize their data and communicate their findings to management and other non-technical professionals.

Professionals working in finance or information technology may have acquired some relevant skills while in the workforce that help them transition into a data collection or business analytics role. For those with no work experience, this career path and the MS in Business Analytics tend to be more manageable if you completed an undergraduate degree in mathematics, statistics, business, engineering, or computer science or if you’ve already learned multiple programming languages.

Starting with your existing knowledge, MS in Business Analytics programs that don’t require work experience frequently cover statistics, business intelligence, programming languages like Python, SQL, and R, data mining, machine learning, and decision modeling. Yet, because these degrees prepare students to apply data analytics methods within a business setting, coursework further covers marketing, finance, and other fundamental areas.

How to Start a Career in Business Analytics

As one point for aspiring business analytics professionals, all types of industries need individuals with business savvy and data analytics skills. Unfortunately, many recent graduates find themselves in a familiar loop: you can’t secure a position in your field, despite your degree, because you don’t have sufficient experience. Even professionals who’ve worked in business for a number of years hear they “don’t have the right skills.”

Following your degree, the ideal candidate with a leg up in the job market has:

  • a couple of years of relevant business analytics or technical experience;
  • a solid foundation in mathematics and statistics;
  • strong quantitative skills;
  • some client-facing experience;
  • confidence in their soft skills, like communication, creativity, and collaboration; and
  • an entrepreneurial, can-do attitude to find new ways to examine or utilize data to benefit a company and its product offerings.

Because of these roadblocks, MS in Business Analytics programs for individuals with little to no work experience don’t just stick to the curriculum and technical skills. Programs like Wake Forest University’s onsite MS in Business Analytics also incorporate experiential learning, allowing students to participate in corporate partners’ projects to build their portfolio with relevant, real-world examples.

Due to this last component and marketplace demand, a 2018 survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that over half of responding global employers, including Fortune 500 companies, seek out MS in Business Analytics and MS in Data Analytics candidates—up from 35 percent the year before. The greatest amount of demand came from technology, health care, manufacturing, and consulting sectors.

Along with earning a degree, MS in Business Analytics students who have no prior work experience are encouraged to:

Start Networking

If your school presents opportunities to meet or connect with successful business or data analytics professionals, don’t pass up the opportunity. Whether speaking after an event, interacting with corporate partners during projects, or inquiring about an informational interview, ask them about what they do on a day-to-day basis, from the tools they use to the challenges they manage. From here, you can get a sense of what a company might look for in an entry-level business analytics candidate.

Aside from events and opportunities through your school, consider participating in data analytics communities and connecting with industry professionals over LinkedIn.

Build Your Experience

Even if you’re attending a business analytics master’s program full time, you should still find opportunities to utilize your skills in a professional setting. You may want to look for volunteer, freelance, or contractual positions where you’ll do data collection or participate in a larger project, or if you have the time, apply for a business or data analytics internship at a company where you might like to work following graduation. Ultimately, the more experience you have, the stronger you will appear to prospective employers.

Whether you’re applying for an internship while in school or searching for a full-time job following graduation:

  • make sure you have a portfolio of relevant work examples and visualizations that clearly display your knowledge and indicate the role you played in the project and
  • be sure to highlight your business knowledge and soft skills, including problem solving and communication.

Start Your Career with an MS in Business Analytics from Wake Forest

Wake Forest’s full-time MS in Business Analytics program can be completed in just 10 months. In the process, the curriculum thoroughly covers both technical and business skills and presents multiple opportunities for getting real-world experience before you graduate. To take the next step, request more information today.