The Institute of Advanced Analytics (IAA) reports that online master’s in data analytics degree programs have expanded significantly in a relatively short period of time. Demand for these programs has followed suit. However, some prospective students may not realize how large and varied the field of analytics really is. Colleges may, for instance, offer separate programs in areas like data analytics, data science, and business intelligence. Distinguishing among them can be difficult, but important: which type of programs students choose can influence both what they learn in school, and the careers that follow.
Data analytics represents the foundational elements of analytics. All other specializations in the field are built upon the core data analytics curriculum, which integrates advanced mathematics, statistical modeling, and big data IT systems. Data analysts use proficiencies in these areas to identify and quantify patterns, trends, and other causal relationships between two or more factors. This leads to insights that can solve complex problems, predict potential outcomes, and better inform decision-making. Much of what data analytics encompasses is bound up in data mining, a process by which relevant data is extracted, processed, and subjected to rigorous interpretation using tools like spreadsheets, databases, algorithmic programming, statistical probability, and data visualization technologies. Organizations rely on the results of this process to optimize efficiency, minimize risk, and monitor a range of key performance indicators (KPIs).
Master’s degrees in data analytics provide training in the tools and technologies that that drive the field, They are highly interdisciplinary, combining elements of applied mathematics, statistics, computer science, and business. Degree names run from general terms like Analytics, to more tailored designations like Predictive or Quantitative Analytics. The following are among some of the degrees in the field of data analytics identified by the IAA:
Online master’s in data analytics degrees are often available through schools of continuing education or professional studies, the Institute notes, although engineering, computer science, and business departments have been known to offer them as well. These programs may allow students to attend on a part- or full-time basis, and often require no campus visits.
The lack of uniformity among data analytics degree names can be confusing, especially when you factor in programs in the related specialization of business intelligence and data science. This can be a challenge for prospective students seeking programs that best align with their needs and goals. OnlineEducation.com carefully reviews all online analytics degree programs appearing on the site and categorizes them based on its own established criteria, which are derived from common workforce requirements and broader program trends. All online data analytics programs on OnlineEducation.com must include at least four highly-targeted analytics courses.
As of February 2017, we have identified 50 universities offering 54 online Master’s in Data Analytics programs that meet our criteria for inclusion in our directory. On OnlineEducation.com, we only include programs offered by non-profit universities in our listings.
In addition to data analytics, data science, and business intelligence programs, some schools offer business analytics programs. These programs are often offered through schools of business, and typically narrow the focus of data analytics to targeted applications in organizational management, executive decision making, financial risk analysis, strategic marketing, and other business-related concerns. OnlineEducation.com groups business analytics programs that are grounded in a core data analytics curriculum of applied mathematics, statistics, and computer science with data analytics programs (included below). However, a business analytics program with a focus on enterprise IT systems, database architecture, and dashboarding technologies would be listed under business intelligence programs.
Note: OnlineEducation.com does not currently include online MBA programs with data analytics specializations among its online master’s in data analytics listings, but may do so in the future.
Master’s degrees in data analytics are relatively new. According to the IAA, the first formal M.S. in Analytics emerged in 2007. Many more followed as colleges responded to the growing demand for data talent. These programs may provide somewhat different levels of training in three areas: applied mathematics and statistics; computer science and IT systems; and business/organizational management. For this reason, prospective students should carefully research each program’s curriculum to ensure it fits their needs.
Common areas of instruction in data analytics include:
Most online data analytics programs outline their curricula and course requirements on their official websites.
Not all data analytics degrees follow a common curriculum. Course requirements vary. The following are examples of some of the most common data analytics classes offered today, but the IAA encourages students to research individual institutions’ requirements and coursework.
|Foundations of Data||This introductory course offers students a ground-up understanding of data analytics and how it is used. Data integrity is emphasized: students will learn about data validation, ethics, and best practices that govern the field. They also study how to source data sets and the regulatory organizations and policies that apply to their use. Students typically take this required course during their first term.|
|Predictive Analytics||This course reinforces not only students’ data skills but their decision-making abilities as well. Working with big data sets, students learn how to use statistical tools, models, and strategies to gather actionable predictive insights that support evidence-based decisions, and then communicate them clearly to business professionals. They may also study methods for identifying and verifying quality data and assessing its relevance.|
|Time Series Analyses and Forecasting||This course reinforces and builds upon students’ knowledge of predictive analytics. Students will study time series analyses that help one make informed predictions within an organization. Specific concepts may include time series models and theories; data analysis; statistical tools that support analyses; data communication; and practical applications of new data knowledge.|
|Risk Assessment||Students taking this course learn how to gather and interpret information gleaned from data sets critical for risk assessment. They study methods for gathering and optimizing datasets that may point to business risks, and then assess their impact on an organization’s operations, profits, or productivity. They also learn how to communicate this information to business colleagues. These quantitative assessments are especially useful for professionals at insurance, financial, and health care organizations.|
|Research and Design in Analytics||Analytics professionals often find and review current data research before framing business problems and devising data strategies to address them. This course guides students through the entire research process. They will learn how to turn business needs into researchable questions, identify potential sources, analyze and interpret research information, apply their findings to their own work, and translate insights to non-analytics professionals.|
|Data Mining||This technical course teaches students foundational statistics and machine learning concepts that can drive data mining. They study memory-based reasoning; the classification and regression of decision trees; logic; scorecard and neural network models; and pattern identification. Students may be required to design and complete data mining research projects using real-world datasets.|
|Capstone Projects and Practicums||Some online master’s in data analytics programs require students to demonstrate their knowledge through hands-on practicums using real data; open-source and commercial tools; and case studies. Schools may ask students to design their own data analyses and/or research projects. Practicums can often be completed from home, whether alone or with a local business.|
Just as with other graduate programs, colleges and universities offering online data analytics degree programs typically have admissions criteria. Often these requirements help schools assess how prepared applicants are to complete and succeed in a graduate-level analytics degree program. For example, data analytics programs may require—or strongly recommend—that prospective students hold bachelor’s degrees from accredited institutions in a field relevant to data analytics, such as applied statistics, computer science, or engineering. Some schools may allow applicants to submit evidence of completing an analytics-related industry certification should their undergraduate work be unrelated to the field. These professional certifications are conferred by specific vendors, like IBM, SAS, and Microsoft. Online data analytics degree programs may also require that applicants have prior coursework in subject areas related to the field, like statistics or computer programming. Some online programs offer preparatory coursework in these areas for students who may require it.
Most online master’s in data analytics programs assess students’ academic achievement as well. It is common for graduate schools to require applicants to show that they met a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) in their undergraduate studies, for instance. GPA criteria vary by program, but often range from 3.0 to 3.5, depending on the competitiveness of the school or program. Some programs also require applicants to earn a minimum score on a standardized graduate exam—or a portion of an exam—like the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT). Other programs may only require students to take these exams if their GPA does not meet a minimum threshold.
Additional requirements can include the submissions of a statement of purpose, in which applicants explain how admittance would help them meet their academic or career goals. Online analytics programs may also ask prospective students to submit letters of recommendation, current résumés, and/or curriculum vitae along with their applications. While not all colleges require relevant professional or academic experience, having it may give candidates an edge in tight admissions decisions.
Online degree programs have earned a reputation for convenience and flexibility, but that does not necessarily mean all online data analytics programs meet one’s needs and preferences. Some students, for instance, look for accelerated, full-time programs so that they can complete their degrees as soon as possible. This may not be a realistic option for working professionals, parents, military servicemembers, and other individuals who require more flexibility. The following list highlights some of the factors one might consider when researching online analytics degrees.
Course Load and Average Length of Study: Some online data analytics students have the option of studying full- or part-time while others are more limited. Likewise, not all colleges offer accelerated degree options. How many courses students are required to take each term determines how long it takes to earn their degrees—a factor often called time-to-completion. The following table provides examples of enrollment options and their associated course loads and time-to-completion estimates from real online data analytics master’s programs.
Avg. Courses Per Term
Avg. Time to Completion*
|University A (36 credits)||Accelerated||1 course per 5-week term||16 months|
|University B (36 credits)||Student-Determined||~2 courses to be completed in a set sequence.||16 to 24 months|
|University C (30 credits)||Accelerated||1 course per term; 2 terms per semester||15 months|
|* Schools’ estimated time-to-completion for students who maintain suggested course load throughout their programs.|
Practicums, Immersions, or Campus Visits: Some colleges and universities offering online master’s in data analytics degrees require students to complete a capstone practicum or internship, a geo-specific immersion term, or on-campus visits. While options vary by university and program, practicums and internships can often be completed within each student’s home community. Online analytics degrees with immersion programs, however, require students to report to a specific location that may or may not be on the university’s campus. For example, one online data analytics degree program requires students to complete two immersion terms, one in Washington DC and the other in New York City. Such travel requirements could have an impact on whether one can complete the program: full-time employees and military servicemembers, for instance, may not be able to commit to these requirements. The factors can also impact how the total cost of a program, as travel and living expenses are not generally included in tuition costs and fees.
Note: All online master’s in data analytics programs listed on OnlineEducation.com require no more than two travel commitments each year. Degree programs that require more than two visits are considered hybrid programs and are therefore not included.
Synchronous or Asynchronous Instruction: Online master’s in analytics programs offer varying degrees of flexibility, which is often determined by the rigidity of their course schedules. Note that while some colleges adhere to one format, others offer a mix of asynchronous and synchronous options.
To learn more about instructional methods in online degree programs, see our guide to Instructional Methods for Online Learning.
|School||Fully Online Instruction*||Program Options||Program|
|American University||No||FT & PT||Analytics@American Online Master of Science in Analytics (MSAn) program|
|Arizona State University||No||FT||Online Master of Science in Business Analytics program|
|Austin Peay State University||Yes||PT||Online Computer Science and Quantitative Methods Professional Science Masters (PSM) with a Concentration in Data Management and Analysis|
|Austin Peay State University||Yes||PT||Online Computer Science and Quantitative Methods Professional Science Masters (PSM) with a Concentration in Predictive Analytics|
|Bay Path University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Applied Data Science program|
|Bellevue University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Business Analytics program|
|Boston University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Computer Information Systems Online with a concentration in Data Analytics|
|Brandeis University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Strategic Analytics program|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Yes||PT||Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) Distance Track - Business Intelligence and Data Analytics|
|Central Connecticut State University||No||PT||Online Master of Science in Data Mining program|
|Clarkson University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Data Analytics|
|Creighton University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics (MSBIA) program|
|CUNY School of Professional Studies||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Data Analytics program|
|Dakota State University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Analytics program|
|Davenport University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Data Analytics program|
|DePaul University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science Predictive Analytics - Computational Methods Concentration|
|Harrisburg University of Science and Technology||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Analytics program|
|Illinois Institute of Technology||Yes||PT||Online Master of Computer Science with a Specialization in Data Analytics|
|Indiana University||No||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Business Analytics program|
|Iowa State University||No||PT||Online Master of Business Analytics program|
|Johns Hopkins University Advanced Academic Programs||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Government Analytics|
|Lewis University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Business Analytics|
|National University||Yes||FT||Online Master of Science in Business Analytics program|
|National University||Yes||FT||Online Master of Science in Health & Life Science Analytics program|
|New Jersey Institute of Technology||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Computer Science with a Specialization in Databases and Data Mining|
|Northeastern University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Professional Studies in Analytics|
|Northeastern University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Business Analytics|
|Northwestern University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Predictive Analytics (MSPA) program|
|Notre Dame of Maryland University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Analytics program|
|Oklahoma State University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Business Analytics program (MSBA)|
|The Pennsylvania State University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Professional Studies in Data Analytics - Business Analytics option|
|Purdue University - Purdue Polytechnic Institute||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Information Technology with a Concentration in Business Analysis (ITBA)|
|Quinnipiac University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Business Analytics program|
|Robert Morris University||Yes||PT||Online Master Of Science In Data Analytics program|
|Rutgers University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Information with a Concentration in Data Science (Analytics)|
|Saint Joseph's University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics program (MSBIA)|
|Saint Louis University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Applied Analytics program|
|Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Data Analytics program (MSDA)|
|Southern New Hampshire University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Data Analytics program|
|Stevens Institute of Technology||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Business Intelligence & Analytics program|
|Syracuse University||Yes||PT||BusinessAnalytics@Syracuse Online Master of Science in Business Analytics program|
|Texas A&M University||No||PT||Online Master of Science in Analytics program|
|The University of Alabama||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Marketing with a Specialization in Marketing Analytics|
|The University of Alabama||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Operations Management (MSOM) Decision Analytics Track|
|The University of Alabama in Huntsville||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Management Science - Business Analytics (MSMS-BA) program|
|The University of Kansas Edwards Campus||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Applied Statistics and Analytics program (Data Analytics emphasis)|
|University of Maryland University College||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Data Analytics program|
|University of Michigan - Dearborn||Yes||FT & PT||Online Masters in Computer and Information Science with a Concentration in Data Management and Analytics|
|University of Missouri||No||PT||Online Master of Science in Data Science and Analytics program|
|The University of Texas at Dallas||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science in Information Technology and Management (MS ITM) with a Concentration in Business Intelligence and Analytics|
|University of Wisconsin - Madison||Yes||PT||Online Master of Engineering: Applied Computing and Engineering Data Analytics program|
|Villanova University||Yes||PT||Online Master of Science in Analytics program|
|West Virginia University||No||FT||Online MS in Business Data Analytics program|
|Western Governors University||Yes||FT & PT||Online Master of Science Data Analytics|
|*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.|
"Degree Programs in Analytics and Data Science," Institute for Advanced Analytics, North Carolina State University
"The Burtch Works Study: Predictive Analytics," Burtch Works