MBA News: What Do Business Schools Make of Big Data?

Although so-called “big data” may mean big opportunities for tech-savvy graduates, an article posted today by U.S. News & World Report claims that business schools have been divided on how best to interpret the buzz about the incredible volumes of digital information being generated by social media and information technology. A 2011 report by McKinsey & Company suggests not only that demand is growing for executives who know how to manage big data, but also that the skills needed to analyze large data sets will become a decisive competitive factor across the board.

The varied disciplinary terminology leaves open a lot of questions for prospective MBAs who are wondering how big data may fit into their career options. The idea of working with big data has often been framed as a new addition to the managerial decision-making toolbox, relying on what U.S. News calls “the traditional vision of management as art, where executives follow instincts.”

But some programs—such as the new master’s of science in business administration degree from the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business Administration—are taking a more rigorously modeled approach to offering students data expertise by emphasizing business analytics.

Other schools to follow suit include New York University’s Stern School of Business, Arizona State University’s Carey School of Business and Michigan State University’s Broad Graduate School of Management, all of which will offer master’s of science degrees in business analytics in 2013. A specialization in analytics already exists with the master’s of science degree at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as the MBA program at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Bloomington. As recruiters seek analytically skilled managers, we may likely see similar additions to more and more top programs.

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