For the past two years we’ve asked the country’s best undergraduate business programs to disclose data on average SAT scores for incoming classes, acceptance rates, average salaries of their most recent graduates, how much debt alumni leave with, and more. We also ask the schools what they’ve done in the past three years that is most innovative and unique.
Now we’ve read through the data from all 82 participating schools and distilled their answers into four important trends business schools are seeing right now.
1. THE RISE OF BUSINESS ANALYTICS
Big data as a means to solve business problems has been rapidly infiltrating graduate business education for years now. Many graduate B-schools across the world offer courses, concentrations, and master’s degrees in business analytics. Naturally, that’s now trickling down to undergraduate programs. And some schools are making some serious curricular changes to accommodate.
Among the most interesting changes are those happening at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, which launched a new major in business analytics this past fall. It’s the first time since the college was founded that it has launched a new major, which will be a collaboration with Notre Dame’s School of IT, Analytics, and Operations.
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business also launched a business analytics major within the past three years. According to Vijay Khatri, associate professor and co-director of the Kelley Institute for Business Analytics, and Jeff Prince, a professor of business economics, the decision to launch the major was a combination of student interest and employer needs, with employer needs being “particularly salient.”
“Data-based decision making is becoming more pervasive with the expansion of the digital universe,” they said in a joint email to Poets&Quants. “By 2020, we are projected to create 44 trillion gigabytes of data annually. With all this data, there are many more opportunities to make important decisions analytically.”
To be sure, it’s not an “if” phenomenon — it’s “when.” According to a McKinsey Global Institute study from 2016, business analytics will likely “upend” industries. “Given rapid technological advances, the question for companies now is how to integrate new capabilities into their operations and strategies — and position themselves in a world where analytics can upend entire industries,” the report reads.
The professors from Indiana Kelley see it the same way.
“The bottom line here is that firms are finding data-based decision-making more convincing, and finding more applications of data analysis,” they tell P&Q. “They are then collecting more data to follow through on this mindset and take advantage of these opportunities, and need experts that know how to properly analyze and interpret the data.”
BIG DATA IN THE HEART OF TECH AND INNOVATION
At Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, which is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, a business analytics minor was approved just last fall and the school will begin offering classes this spring semester. “The ability to collect and make sense of a vast amount of data has transformed industries and there’s more to come,” says Helen Popper, an associate dean at the Leavey School. “Students want to be part of the transformation.”
According to Popper, she is also seeing market demands and student interests in the area. “This is a growing area — the U.S. Department of Labor expects (the industry) will require 132,000 new employees over the next eight years,” she tells P&Q. “More than half of those will be in Santa Clara University’s neighborhood, the Silicon Valley.”
Hiring employees with business analytics and big data chops is rapidly becoming not just a competitive advantage, but also a means of survival. According to the McKinsey report mentioned above, “Leading companies are using their capabilities not only to improve their core operations but also to launch entirely new business models. The network effects of digital platforms are creating a winner-take-most situation in some markets. The leading firms have remarkably deep analytical talent taking on various problems—and they are actively looking for ways to enter other industries.”
GRADUATES WITHOUT BUSINESS ANALYTICS EXPOSURE ‘AT A DISADVANTAGE’
Not having deft data analytics skills could also put graduates at a disadvantage, says a team from Babson College, which launched a business analytics concentration for undergrads five years ago.
“Graduates who have not been exposed to analytics concepts are already at a disadvantage in the marketplace,” say Babson professors and business analytics advisors Dessislava Pachamanova and Steven Gordon. “At Babson, we expose students to these concepts early on in the core. We collaborate across business disciplines and work with our liberal arts faculty to ensure that our graduates achieve competencies both in business analytics and in the communication of the insights from their analysis to diverse audiences.”
According to the two, the concentration was launched from the collaboration between faculty members and staff from the Centers for Career Development at Babson. “Data are present in so many aspects of our lives,” Pachamanova and Gordon say, also noting student enrollment numbers have remained “consistently high” since launching the concentration. “Businesses that know how to derive and take advantage of the insights in data are leaders in their industries, and employees who can help them accomplish that are very sought-after.”
In addition to the schools above, Seton Hall University has added a certificate in business analytics, Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business launched a business analytics major, and Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management created a minor in the space. At Providence College, a data analytics bootcamp is offered for all undergraduate students. All students at Wisconsin’s School of Business are required to take two business analytics courses. And at St. John’s University’s Tobin College of Business, the brand new business school building houses a business analytics lab.