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How to Choose an MSBA Graduate School

July 24, 2020
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Businesses today create and store a lot of data. Seagate estimates by 2025 we will have produced about 175 zetabytes1 of data, and with an MSBA degree, you could help businesses effectively analyze data to make strategic decisions about the future.

While data is critical and can improve decision-making, only about 30 percent of companies2 say they currently have a “data-driven culture,” and almost 90 percent of companies still rank as “basic” or “opportunistic” when it comes to business intelligence and analytics3, according to the international research and advisory company Gartner.The biggest challenge for companies is bringing together two skill sets4:

  • Data scientists who can crunch numbers and perform advanced analysis
  • Managers who can drive strategic decisions based on data insights

As more companies have identified a gap in qualified candidates who have technical expertise in data analysis as well as leadership and strategic planning skills to fill a growing number of data-based leadership roles, Seattle University and other institutions offer Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) degree programs for data-minded strategic thinkers. As you ask yourself ‘should I go to business school?,’ here are some criteria to evaluate MSBA graduate schools to find the one that's right for you.

Selecting the Right MSBA Degree Program for You

Since these programs are relatively new, it’s important to know how to evaluate MSBA programs, and how to choose a graduate school that is right for you. Here are some key factors to consider during your search.


Checking the program’s admissions requirements is a critical place to start and one that’s often overlooked. Business analytics is a field that requires proficiency in computer science, math, and statistical analysis. Because they are business degrees, many schools will require that you achieve a minimum score on a standardized graduate school entrance exam, usually the GMAT or GRE. Even if the school does not require that you take these exams, it could help your application stand out, especially if you score well. As you explore different schools, remember that requiring a GMAT or GRE test score is a sign of the academic rigor, as well as the quality of your classmates, faculty, and coursework. Be sure to also confirm whether the school offers test waivers, which many schools like Seattle University do.5


Because the field of advanced data analytics isn’t well-defined yet, different universities structure their programs in different ways. Even the way that schools interpret what falls under the umbrella of business analytics can vary—some may be more general, while others dive deeper into business intelligence or information systems. Some programs also offer tracks to specialize in a certain area, such as marketing or finance. It’s important to find the program that fits your learning style and provides the information you need for your chosen career path. Most programs publish their curriculum online with detailed information about each course, so you can do some research to make sure it covers the topics important to you.


MSBA degrees, like many graduate degrees, offer many different program structures. Choosing the right one depends on your own personal preferences and situation, but they generally fall into three categories:

  • Full-time traditional programs are on campus with classes that are mostly during daytime hours. You are required to take a certain number of credit hours each semester and can usually finish these programs more quickly. Being on campus can also offer other benefits such as research opportunities, internships, and networking with faculty, recruiters, and classmates.
  • Part-time programs also have on-campus classes, but you take fewer credit hours. Depending on the program it may cater to working professionals by offering most or all the classes in the evenings or on weekends.
  • Online programs offer a higher level of convenience and flexibility to take courses when and where you want. This removes some of the barriers of in-person learning, like relocating or commuting to class.


Tuition and other costs are obviously an important factor in your decision, and they can vary pretty widely from one program to another. Online programs tend to have lower tuition costs than on-campus programs. If you’re planning to move to a new state for your degree, be sure to factor in things like cost-of-living differences and relocation expenses as well. You can look for scholarship opportunities and grants for graduate school students to help cover some or all of the cost of your degree. In addition to filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), applicants should contact an admissions advisor to see if the university itself can connect them to scholarship opportunities. Prospective students may also be able to receive assistance from their employer by asking about tuition reimbursement.

Choose a program that can advance your career.

The intersection of business and data analytics is still in its infancy, and it can be a little messy and challenging to find the right degree program. With an Online MSBA degree from Seattle University, you will be perfectly positioned to help companies make data-driven decisions by making sense of information with a strategic view of the future. Learn more about our curriculum and see how Seattle University can help you meet your career goals.

  1. Retrieved June 10, 2020, from https://www.seagate.com/files/www-content/our-story/trends/files/idc-seagate-dataage-whitepaper.pdf
  2. Retrieved June 10, 2020, from http://newvantage.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Big-Data-Executive-Survey-2019-Findings-Updated-010219-1.pdf
  3. Retrieved June 10, 2020, from https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2018-12-06-gartner-data-shows-87-percent-of-organizations-have-low-bi-and-analytics-maturity
  4. Retrieved June 10, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/adigaskell/2018/06/18/organizations-striving-to-close-the-data-science-skills-gap/#1232fd5a1d50
  5. For prospective students navigating their graduate application during the COVID-19 pandemic, the GMAT or GRE testing requirement is now considered optional for anyone applying to a non-law graduate program that begins in the 2020-21 academic year (summer of 2020 through spring of 2021)