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The AMBA vs. the Traditional MBA: How Do They Differ?

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Companies have access to more data than ever but are still exploring how to leverage it to drive value. Organizations in science, banking, manufacturing, healthcare, government, retail and other fields want to capitalize on advancements in Big Data analytics and are willing to invest in it. The challenge they face is finding qualified analytics professionals with the business acumen to understand how to use data effectively.

In 2020, Allied Market Research estimated the value of the global Big Data and business analytics market was $198B and projected it would grow to $684B by 2030. Additionally, the annual Worldwide Big Data and Analytics Spending Guide compiled by International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts investments in data analysis will grow by almost 13% by 2025. However, according to research conducted by Seagate and IDC, only 32% of data is put to work in enterprise settings. The vast majority goes unused.

Business professionals who recognize the value of data are responding to growth in the analytics market by taking steps to join it. A Graduate Management Admissions Council report titled The Global Demand for Graduate Management Education found that applications to business analytics master's programs increased 34% year-over-year in 2020 — by far the largest increase for any degree type tracked.

Still, you may be leaning toward more traditional MBA programs versus graduate business school programs with an analytics focus, such as the StevensOnline School of Business Analytics Master of Business Administration (AMBA). Both can help you pursue opportunities in general management, analytics and other areas of business, which means choosing the academic pathway that best supports your career goals can be challenging. To determine which degree is the best fit, you must first understand how the AMBA and MBA differ and why professionals choose one over the other.

THE TRADITIONAL MBA AND ANALYTICS MBA COMPARED

MBA PROGRAMS ATTRACT ASPIRING LEADERS

Traditional MBA coursework provides instruction in a broad range of business functions and prepares students to lead in marketing, operations and finance. The objective of these master's degree programs is to develop managers who understand all aspects of business and how they interrelate so they can effectively contribute to decision making, planning and strategy.

Most full-time and part-time traditional MBA programs cover topics related to accounting, communication, economics, operations, business intelligence, finance, information systems, marketing, supply chains, resource management and people management. Many on-campus and online MBA programs consist entirely of core courses. However, some let students take several electives in one subject area.

MBA students in concentration-based programs may pursue an official specialization or create a unique academic experience via their choice of electives. Common MBA specializations include consulting, energy, environmental management, entrepreneurship, finance, general management, healthcare administration, information technology, international management, human resources, marketing, nonprofit management and supply chain management. Many universities with concentration-based on-campus and online MBA programs also offer a business analytics specialization.

AMBA PROGRAMS ATTRACT ASPIRING LEADERS LOOKING TO HONE TECHNICAL SKILLS

Steven's Analytics MBA program combines instruction in management and analytics to develop leaders fluent in analytics technology, processes and results. It also teaches general management skills, but from a data science and analytics perspective. Graduates exit the program ready to make business decisions using business data as a primary tool.

The core AMBA curriculum covers advanced data analytics, multivariate data analytics, machine learning and applied analytics. Other more traditional areas of study include leadership development, marketing management, strategic management, project management, corporate finance, human-centered design thinking, service innovation and entrepreneurship. Students in this online degree program learn to apply innovations across the enterprise and to interpret business data to identify trends, solve business problems and make strategic decisions.

IS THE AMBA JUST AN MBA WITH AN ANALYTICS CONCENTRATION?

If you look at course names alone, these academic pathways appear similar. However, they are typically quite different. The principal differences involve the course content and the lens through which programs present it.

Concentration-based MBA in Business Analytics programs usually approach core courses in finance, marketing and operations from a generalist perspective. Most of the analytics coursework in MBA programs with a business analytics concentration is presented in just two to four elective courses. In contrast, STEM-focused AMBA programs approach the majority of core course content from a business analytics perspective.

For example, instead of completing one quantitative reasoning course, Analytics MBA students complete several quant-focused classes, all directed toward the quant skills required to excel in business analysis and business analytics management. Students also spend more hands-on time with statistical software and data visualization applications in AMBA programs than in traditional MBA programs that offer an analytics concentration, making the AMBA the more technical degree.

At some universities, the admission requirements for AMBA programs may include more mathematics and computer science prerequisite coursework than is required of the typical MBA applicant. However, Stevens requires only that Analytics Master of Business Administration applicants pass bachelor's degree courses in financial management, accounting and economics. All the technical and mathematical skills AMBA candidates need to complete this program are woven into the curriculum.

WHY THE RIGHT MBA FOR YOU MIGHT BE A STEM-ORIENTED, ONLINE MBA

If you know you want to pursue management but are not sure which function is right for you, a general MBA is probably the way to go. You might also look into other graduate-level business degree programs. However, if you are excited about developments in business analytics and the potential of data to transform how business gets done, an AMBA can help you develop the skills to lead in technology-driven organizations or implement analytics in your current organization.

Completing the Analytics MBA program will give you a broad set of advanced skills applicable across industries. You will graduate able to identify and assess opportunities for creating value using data-driven decision making; use statistical software like R and SAS to analyze multivariate data; visualize, interpret and communicate data to peers; and leverage design thinking to spur innovation and solve complex problems.

Stevens' part-time 13-course, 39-credit-hour 100% online MBA program is led by industry executives and academics who prepare students for success as analysts and entrepreneurs. It is also highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report and has a 100% graduate employment rate. Start your AMBA application online today to prepare for a data-driven future.