Recognizing the importance of preparing graduates who are able to analyze and use the increasing volume and variety of data to help their employers improve business processes and make better decisions, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is launching a Master’s in Business Analytics degree and adding analytics options within its Master’s in Information Technology.
The programs, introduced in WPI’s Foisie Business School, are intended to meet the need across industries for employees with expertise in handling large volumes of data and generating impactful business insights from that data. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for these programs is even higher as industries are forced to shift toward technology-centric solutions, like data modeling, epidemiology analysis, and Zoom user experience issues. Both degrees can help employees looking to transition to new career paths and those companies that are serving their constituents more and more in the online space.
“Businesses have taken an analytical turn because of data,” said Diane Strong, department head and professor of information technology and data science. “In the past, businesses conducted analyses on what was working and what to change, and were able to remain competitive in a relatively stable business environment. In today’s continually changing global business environment, there’s a demand for analytically savvy students who can navigate the analytics and respond quickly to the changing environment of business operations, marketing, supply chains, and finances.”
The 33-credit master’s in business analytics program offered by the Foisie Business School will launch in August 2020, and aims to educate students about the analytics needs of real-world businesses (such as the data analysis team of the New York Giants), giving them the skills to use technologies and business acumen to help their organizations create and deliver greater value to their customers. It will provide a foundation in business analytics through three introductory core courses, after which students may choose two out of four specialties to pursue: Advanced Business Analytics Methods, Marketing Analytics, Operations Analytics, and Financial Analytics.
“It will broaden the range of our students’ skills,” said Sharon Johnson, professor of business. “The program will expose students to different ways to use data, such as creating dashboards, computing key metrics for running a business, and developing models to optimize business and supply chain operations.”
Revamped Master’s in Information Technology
Also focused on employer needs for data analytics professionals, WPI updated its Master’s in Information Technology degree program in December 2019. The Master’s in Information Technology will still include 33 credits and prepare students to become leaders in real-world technological and business innovations, but will now have a tighter focus on information technology as it applies to business analytics.
“We see the changes in the IT industry, such as this emerging focus on analytics, and recognize that with updates to our master’s in Information Technology program, we could better serve both our students and the industries and organizations they want to work in,” Strong said. “Companies are already hiring our Information Technology students for business analytics positions. With the updated curriculum, they will be even better prepared to hit the ground running.”
In addition to building upon WPI’s renowned project-based learning, a key distinction for both the Business Analytics and IT degree programs is a two-course capstone experience centered on a project conducted for a company. It will include “Teaming and Organizing for Innovation,” a course to prepare students to work together as a team to complete a real-world project. The capstone experience is particularly distinctive because it helps students learn to work with and rely on each other to get a project done—a critical skill in the workplace.
“The real world is complex and creates many challenges for people who are trying to make sense of data,” Johnson said. “The capstone experience gives students practice in analyzing data together and taking action with it. Project-based learning is a great way for students to learn.”
Students, especially those who are already working, are able to go through either program on a part-time basis; the programs are expected to be offered online soon.
Strong said that students who complete either program will emerge as business analytics professionals who can interpret results for business leaders. “They will be able to design data systems, help businesses make better decisions, and improve their returns on investment," she said. "This will help businesses with their overall success, too.”
About Foisie Business School
As the business school of a premier technological university, the Robert A. Foisie Business School at Worcester Polytechnic Institute integrates science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) into the undergraduate and graduate programs. Consistent with WPI’s mission of theory and practice, a project-based approach to learning and doing pervades the WPI Foisie Business School’s curriculum. Graduates of the WPI Foisie Business School are prepared to lead at the intersection of technology and business, applying entrepreneurial thinking and harnessing the power of technology and teamwork to solve complex human problems.