Thinking MBA for Career Growth? Hang on...


If you're a business analyst, the thought of getting your MBA has probably crossed your mind a time or two -- heck, maybe you've already done so or are in the process of doing so. Seeking a degree that'll broaden your corporate scope is a logical progression, after all.

Screech! You need to put the brakes on that line of thinking -- and fast, before you waste a whole lot of money on a degree that might not get you the return you expect. In today's business analytics job market, the MBA no longer carries the weight it once did.

Jacque Paige,
Smith Hanley Associates
Jacque Paige,
Smith Hanley Associates

If not an MBA, then what? A much wiser pursuit would be an advanced degree in statistics -- advice shared by Jacque Paige, a longtime business analytics recruiter with Smith Hanley Associates, during last week's A2 Radio show, How to Get Your Analytics Resumé Noticed. (Click on the link to listen on demand.) "A general MBA where you've had a statistics year isn't quite enough statistics analytics for the marketplace that we're operating in," she said.

At Smith Hanley, which has been in the analytics recruitment business since 1980, Paige manages 17 recruiters, nine of whom are focused in statistics and analytics. Her recruiters have noticed a "retrenchment to being very statistical," she said. "Yes, you have to understand the strategic implications of the projects you do, but the MBA isn't valued as part of that process. What's more valued is what projects you've worked on and what results you brought to the bottom line."

Paige pointed to the recession we dipped into in 2009 and are still slowly climbing out of now as the source of marketplace shift. "October 2008 changed everything in our business," she said. "Before that, we'd been seeing a lot of growth and a lot of hiring in our business. But when the recession of 2009 came, it really put the brakes on everything."

Companies didn't necessarily start shrinking their business analytics teams, but many found themselves with small technical teams led by one "people person" who couldn't really do any heavy-lifting. When the growth in analytics teams stopped, this perhaps left many companies feeling a bit "burned," Paige said. "The tightness of the groups and the need for everybody to contribute" has driven change in hiring practices.

This is apparent even at the upper analytics ranks. "On an individual level, a change we're seeing more recently is that even up to the VP level, everyone wants hands-on skills. No longer are there positions for people who are just managing… Companies don't want that," she told listeners. Rather, when hiring, they're looking at the candidates who can "still build a model and do coding -- even though chances are they won't do very much of it."

On top of that, Paige said, IT demands are growing, too. "The expectation used to be that you have strong SAS, and that was really all you needed. But now because of all the data and all the social media information coming out, expertise in social media software; or any skill you have with SQL or Hadoop; or dealing with merging data, cleaning data, or legacy files is really a big plus."

This hands-on orientation means companies are looking for advanced technical degrees, like that masters in statistics I mentioned earlier. That, in turn, means the resumés of job candidates holding such degrees land at the top of a recruiter's pile. Again, Paige reiterated, "On-the-job training and MBAs aren't standing up to demand like they used. Companies are really looking for formal training." The MS in statistics is most in demand. But the nature of the business will determine which advanced technical degree is best for the company looking to hire business analytics teams. "Everybody has a bias," Paige said. "Maybe people who do a little more time series might prefer an MS or PhD in econ, and then someone who is more biased on the market research side, using data and survey instruments, might like people with a PhD in the social sciences."

But don't forget those people skills entirely. The ability to communicate is always important, especially in getting your resumé into the keep pile. "The other thing that everybody looks for, just looking at the resumé and not getting to the interview process yet, is how well can people communicate their technical skills. Are they able to make it very clear to a non-technical audience?"

Has pursuit of an MBA been your go-to plan for career growth? Are you thinking otherwise about that strategy now? Share your thoughts on what's hot in the analytics job market below.

Related posts:

Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor.  Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players.  Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. In particular, she focused on advanced IT technology and its impact on business users and in so doing became a thought leader on the revolutionary changes remaking the corporate datacenter and enterprise IT architecture. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors, Folio.net, and others.

Midmarket Companies: Bring on the Big Data

The "big" in big data is no reflection of the size of the organization embracing its potential.

Push Yourself to New Analytical Discoveries

Take inspiration from Christopher Columbus as you pursue your analytical journeys.


Re: MBA
  • 9/22/2013 2:12:32 AM
NO RATINGS

@vincentg64    Some great points.  And I agree. You no longer need to get a degree to learn advanced statistics and I really think most recruiters are over rated. 

Some really great advice !  Thanks for passing on the wisdom.  

Re: impressive
  • 9/22/2013 2:09:10 AM
NO RATINGS

That's really exciting news Noreen, we here at A2 know there are many opportunities out there for those with newly minted Analytics based Master's but I guess there are still doubters out there ?

Re: MBA
  • 9/22/2013 2:06:17 AM
NO RATINGS

I really have to agree with the premise that the MBA has lost it's luster, and I would not waste time on it now.  There was a time I had strongly considered it, but that time is long gone.

I would not advise those coming out of school today to waste time on it either.

Re: impressive
  • 9/16/2013 9:34:53 AM
NO RATINGS

NC State, which has one of the oldest advanced analytics degree programs in the country (entering its 7th year), has impressive employment statistics to share, as well. In 2013, 96% of the 81 students graduating had job offers in hand, with 93% placed at jobs by graduation day. Students had an average of 15 initial interviews each, with 136 employers involved in the process. Average base salary offer was $95,700 or, for those with experience, $104,500. Students reported 232 job offers and, here's a stat I really like, 100% were in the US. 

 

 

impressive
  • 9/14/2013 11:08:09 AM
NO RATINGS

The first official graduating class of LSU's Master of Science in Analytics (MSA) program is seeing some impressive job placement. Nearly all of the 16 students who graduated this spring received job offers before graduation and averaged two job offers per student. LSU offered a pilot program of 10 students in 2011-2012 and all of the students who were seeking jobs obtained employment in the analytics field within a few weeks of graduation.

Re: MBA
  • 9/13/2013 12:18:34 PM
NO RATINGS

No doubt, these are all true at times.

Re: MBA
  • 9/13/2013 9:48:00 AM
NO RATINGS

With rare exceptions (surgeons) you don't need a degree to learn anything. But, unfortunately, you often need a degree to prove you know something -- because HR/recruiters are too lazy/busy to ask you to verify your proficiency in other ways.

Re: MBA
  • 9/13/2013 2:06:57 AM
NO RATINGS

You don't need to get a degree to learn advanced statistics or business management. indeed, university professors will teach you outdated material. Also, recruiters might not be the best way to find a job. Finally, applying for open positions might not be the best way to have a rewarding career and find happiness.

Re: MBA
  • 9/12/2013 10:33:24 AM
NO RATINGS

@urbie4 -- I like that you were able to sign up for an MBA program for your own edification rather than with career pursuits in mind. I doubt many people have such luxury, especially given the cost of higher ed today. That's a pity. We could all benefit from expanding our thinking "just because" rather than always having to cost-justify the pursuit of knowledge!

Re: MBA
  • 9/12/2013 10:29:01 AM
NO RATINGS

@Beth: Fair enough -- this trend is certainly not unique to the analytics biz, and it's one of my standard pet peeves... I did listen to most of your interview with Jacque, and her view is pretty much in line with what's happening in other industries, e.g., software (I stack my resume with every buzzword that's even vaguely related to technical writing, because that seems to be the only way to get through the filters these days!).  As for the MBA, I didn't sign up with the idea that it would do much for my career -- oddly enough, I just like to know more about how organizations work, pick up some more economics, operations management, marketing, and stuff like that.  These days, you get hired based on specific skills, not big-picture stuff... no argument there!

Page 1 / 3   >   >>
INFORMATION RESOURCES
ANALYTICS IN ACTION
CARTERTOONS
VIEW ALL +
QUICK POLL
VIEW ALL +