The field of business intelligence (BI) stands at the crossroads of information technology (IT) and data analytics. Its professionals specialize in the systems that deliver data analytics solutions to key members of an organization. These solutions can be used to optimize efficiency, manage costs, mitigate risk, design marketing strategies, and provide answers to a wide range of other pressing business questions. As big data continues to transform the way organizations make important business decisions, demand for professionals with enterprise data expertise is following suit. This has led colleges and universities to update or add new online master’s in business intelligence degree programs.
BI professionals employ various data analytics tools and applications that are designed to help businesses improve productivity, reduce costs, identify new opportunities, and refine organizational decision-making processes. A company might rely on BI expertise to fine-tune any number of business practices, from boosting overall efficiency, to designing and marketing new products and services. CIO.com notes that BI is more than basic enterprise reporting: these professionals store, mine, optimize, process, and query data, then convey their findings in a way that makes them accessible and actionable for colleagues without analytics training. These findings are typically shared using executive dashboards, performance scorecards, and other BI technologies that monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics over time.
Business computing and BI solutions are not new concerns. However, the rapid evolution of IT systems and their data processing capacities has impacted the way data-driven businesses use these technologies. Online BI degree programs have responded by adding more technical training to their BI curricula. Some schools have adopted new names for BI degrees to reflect this shifting focus. The following examples are just some of the BI master’s degrees one might earn:
Online master’s in business intelligence programs prepare students to collect and consolidate data in data warehousing systems and to use other sophisticated business technologies. Students also learn how to deploy analytics tools to query this data and identify patterns that may furnish companies with actionable intelligence. According to IBM, these tasks require strong business acumen and decision-making skills. A sound knowledge of database architecture, business analytics platforms, and information analysis techniques is equally important.
BI master’s degrees are related to, but generally distinct from master’s programs in data analytics and data science. While all three of these analytics specializations are concerned with collecting, organizing, and interpreting data, BI is more IT-centric. BI programs generally put less stress on the advanced mathematics, statistical modeling, and computer science proficiencies that are central to data analytics and data science degree programs. Instead, BI prioritizes the knowledge and skills needed to work with big data business technologies, like data warehousing systems and executive dashboarding platforms. The differences that separate BI programs from other analytics programs may be more clearly reflected in the curriculum than in the name of a particular program. This may make it difficult for some prospective students to identify which programs are best suited to their career objectives.
Although BI programs are perhaps more clearly delineated than data analytics and data science programs, there is no standardized BI curriculum or naming convention. The fact that some BI programs incorporate more computer science in their curriculum can make it more difficult for students to identify and evaluate programs. OnlineEducation.com looks at each program’s curriculum in order to identify online BI degree programs. These programs must, for instance, incorporate data-oriented IT courses like data warehousing and dashboarding, and include several targeted business analytics courses.
As of February 2017, we have identified 9 universities offering online Master’s in Business Intelligence programs that meet our criteria for inclusion in our directory. On OnlineEducation.com, we only include programs offered by non-profit universities.
Business analytics programs that emphasize IT business systems and data warehousing technologies are classified as BI programs on OnlineEducation.com. Business analytics programs with a more pronounced focus on applied mathematics, statistical modeling, and computer science are grouped with data analytics programs. Most master’s in business analytics degree programs are classified as data analytics programs based on their curriculum. Readers can review and learn more about other online analytics degree programs by visiting our data analytics and data science program pages.
Note: OnlineEducation.com does not presently include MBAs with BI and analytics specialties in its program listings, but may do so in the future.
Online master’s in business intelligence programs introduce students to the descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive modeling techniques used throughout analytics, and to the process of data mining, which is central to data analytics. In additions, students receive in-depth instruction in business analytics technologies, data systems architecture, and the computer programming skills needed to query databases. Some online BI programs include computer science coursework, but they are less likely than other analytics degree programs to require higher level programming courses.
The following table highlights real online master’s in business intelligence courses from universities nationwide.
|Foundations for Business Intelligence||This course introduces students to operational, tactical, and strategic
business intelligence practices. Specific topics include customer service management, business process design and analysis, management information systems, value chain, and more.
|Data Warehousing||Students study data warehousing techniques and the issues associated with them. The course presents a variety of tools that one can use to design, implement, and use data warehouses, and how business managers can successfully gather and analyze the information stored in them. By the end of the course, students should be able to create and query a database warehouse.|
|Enterprise Data||Students explore value chain and strategic data across the enteprise, and the issues that impact it. Among them: enterprise resource planning (ERP), custumer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), data marts, and the data warehouses.|
|Decision Support and Dashboarding||An introduction to performance dashboards and concepts that support data-driven decision making. Students will study the metrics, architecture, and design components of performance dashboards before designing and creating their own. The course also addresses advanced analytics and the data models used in BI.|
|Data Analytics||Students examine how to mine data and use algorithms and other analytical methods to process it. They will also learn how to identify key business processes or market trends that can inform managerial and enterprise decision-making.|
|Business Intelligence and Analytics System Tools||This course introduces students to a wide range of analytical, data modeling, and data integration tools. Students will learn the purpose of each tool, the best practices surrounding their use, and how to apply them effectively in the business setting.|
|Management Information Systems||This foundational course offers an overview of management information systems and how managers can use information technologies to implement better business strategies and policy decisions, improve productivity, and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.|
|Customer Relationship Management||Students explore and discuss the automation of customer support processes, including communication and issue management. They will also learn how to analyze customer data for a wide range of purposes, along with other advantages of using customer relationship management systems.|
BI graduate programs generally require applicants to meet certain criteria for admissions. For online BI programs, prerequisites might include a relevant undergraduate degree, professional experience, or a combination of the two. Some schools also require BI master’s applicants to earn minimum scores on the GMAT or GRE, although at least one institution waves this requirement for students with certain bachelor’s degrees, professional experience, or industry certifications. Complete transcripts confirming applicants maintained a certain grade point average over previous college studies is another common criterion.
Online master’s in business intelligence programs may also require candidates to submit additional materials along with their applications. These might include a statement of purpose and professional or academic letters of recommendation. Graduate BI programs sometimes ask applicants to send resumes or curriculum vitae with their applications. Not all programs require students to have professional business or analytics experience, but it can work to applicants’ benefit in tight admissions decisions.
Not all online BI degrees are structured the same way. Some schools allow students to log into courses whenever and wherever they please, while others emphasize the spontaneity and interactivity of live lectures and discussion. Course load and, in turn, average time-to-graduation is yet another important consideration, especially for military servicemembers, students who hope to complete programs quickly, and those who must balance school with family and career obligations. The following options often support—or hinder—one’s learning goals.
Course Load and Time to Graduation: Online BI students may have the option of enrolling full- or part-time. While there is no universal rule governing how long it will take to earn a degree, many students graduate within 16 to 24 months. Students enrolled in accelerated programs can shave months off this timeframe, just as those who stick to minimum course loads are likely to extend their studies. This table displays the actual enrollment options and credit requirements for three different online master’s in business intelligence programs. Note that time-to-completion figures are in accordance with schools’ published estimates.
Avg. Courses Per Term
Avg. Time to Completion*
|University A (27 credits)||Part-time|
Up to 3 courses
|No more than 32 months
As little as 12 months
|University B (30 credits)||Student-Determined||3 units/term; 3 to 6 terms/year||20 to 36 months, on average|
|University C (23 credits)||Part-time only||2 courses||24 months|
|* Schools’ estimated time-to-completion for students who maintain suggested course load throughout their programs.|
Synchronous or Asynchronous Instruction: Circumstances and learning preferences can determine online BI students’ scheduling needs, or, more specifically, when and how instruction is delivered. Asynchronous instruction is designed for optimum flexibility: students may login whenever they are able, review pre-recorded lectures, communicate with peers and teachers through email and discussion boards, download assignments, and submit work. Students in these programs must still abide by course deadlines. Courses taught synchronously, on the other hand, are delivered live. While this method is perhaps less flexible than asynchronous options, it allows students to engage in spontaneous and interactive lectures and discussion.
Internships, Exams, and Campus Visits: Online BI degree programs occasionally require students to complete on-site work. However, this does not necessarily mean they must visit a campus. For example, some schools require online students to gain practical experience through internships, but allow learners to complete them within their local communities. Online BI programs might also require students to complete major exams at proctored testing facilities near their homes. Sometimes, however, online BI students are asked to report to campus for classes, seminars, and other learning activities. Students enrolled in such programs should keep travel requirements in mind when preparing a budget, as related costs are not typically included in programs’ tuition or fees.
All online master’s in business intelligence programs included in OnlineEducation.com’s degree listings require no more than two campus visits each year. Programs that require more than two visits are considered hybrid programs and are therefore not included on the site.
|School||Fully Online Instruction*||Program Options||Program|
|Baker College||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Information Systems - Business Intelligence (MSIS)|
|Boston University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Computer Information Systems with a concentration in Database Management & Business Intelligence|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Yes||PT||Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) Distance Track - Business Intelligence and Data Analytics|
|DePaul University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science Information Systems - Business Intelligence Concentration|
|Northwestern University||Yes||PT||Online Master's in Information Systems (MSIS) - Analytics and Business Intelligence Specialization|
|The Pennsylvania State University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Professional Studies in Data Analytics program|
|Saint Joseph's University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics program (MSBIA)|
|Stevens Institute of Technology||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Business Intelligence & Analytics program|
|University of Colorado Denver||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) with a Specialization in Business Intelligence (BI) Systems|
|*Programs with fully online instruction do not require students to visits the campus during the program. Programs marked No require students to visit the campus two or fewer times per year for on-campus orientations or intensive sessions.|