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The MSBI&A vs. Business Analytics Bootcamps

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Data increasingly powers the world, and the economic effects of Big Data are profound. According to the International Data Corporation, worldwide spending on Big Data and business analytics solutions reached $215.7 billion in 2021 (an increase of 10.1% over the year before), and the market could hit $275 billion in 2022. This rapid and sustained growth is prompting many business professionals to look into ways to build related skills to further their careers.

Research from Burning Glass Technologies shows that advanced business analytics skills carry a wage premium of more than $30,000 and help professionals move into leadership positions in their organizations. Additionally, these skills let professionals branch out into new industries because data science and data analytics skills are in-demand in virtually every field, from finance to healthcare.

On paper, business analytics bootcamp programs look like a fast and economical way to upskill in business intelligence and analytics to take advantage of Big Data investments. These hyper-focused training programs teach in-demand skills and grant what appears to be a resume-ready credential. Some even provide job placement guarantees. Longer business analytics bootcamps may even seem comparable to analytics master's degree programs when it comes to course content and project work. However, business analytics bootcamps cannot replicate the depth and breadth of the Master of Science in Business Intelligence & Analytics (MSBI&A) at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Stevens Institute of Technology's online Master of Science in Business Intelligence & Analytics is a graduate degree program for business leaders who want to learn the technical fundamentals of Big Data management, AI, deep learning and predictive analytics in the context of business intelligence. Unlike business analytics bootcamps that teach one or two hard skills, Stevens' MSBI&A program is interdisciplinary and teaches students how to meet real-world business needs using data. The holistic curriculum not only takes a much deeper dive but also gives students direct exposure to the kinds of challenges they will encounter in their organizations and opportunities to collaborate on hands-on, transformational work. Graduates develop deep expertise and go on to become data analysts, financial managers, operations analysts and computer and information systems managers.

This guide looks more closely at the distinctions between these two very different educational pathways and the pros and cons of each.

UNDERSTANDING ANALYTICS MASTER'S PROGRAMS

WHAT IS AN ANALYTICS MASTER'S PROGRAM?

Business intelligence and analytics professionals extract insights from data to help companies measure past performance — how did we do on this initiative? — and guide decision-making in the future — how can we do better next time? Technologically focused analytics master's programs teach students how to leverage tools such as AI, deep learning and predictive analysis to measure performance and drive decision-making.

PROS OF ENROLLING IN AN ANALYTICS MASTER'S PROGRAM

MASTER'S PROGRAMS FOSTER VALUABLE RELATIONSHIPS.

In business analytics bootcamps, students learn from one instructor. Master's candidates develop meaningful relationships with industry leaders and business intelligence experts, accomplished peers with extensive experience in business and technology, and potential employers. Stevens Institute of Technology faculty includes AI and cognitive science experts, the former VP of FICO (the business analytics company that invented the FICO score) and researchers working at the leading edge of Big Data.

ANALYTICS MASTER'S PROGRAMS HAVE COMPREHENSIVE CURRICULA.

The MSBI&A supports a wider variety of careers because it teaches a broader range of skills. Students develop well-rounded skill sets by studying machine learning algorithms, deep learning, decision trees and artificial neural networks. They learn to perform data visualization using Tableau and other common analytics tools. Most importantly, analytics master's programs are industry neutral. The coursework prepares students to work in myriad industries, including healthcare, fintech, marketing and education.

MASTER'S DEGREES ARE COMMON IN ANALYTICS.

According to Burtch Works, "89% of working data analysts with less than three years of experience have master's degrees." In data science, the number of graduate degree holders is even higher. About 91% of data scientists have master's degrees and Ph.Ds. And 39% of data science and advanced analyst positions ask that applicants have a master's or doctorate. Increasingly, technical skills and advanced credentials help applicants stand out in crowded hiring pools.

CONS OF ENROLLING IN A MASTER'S IN ANALYTICS PROGRAM

MSBI&A PROGRAMS COST MORE THAN BOOTCAMPS.

Fully accredited university programs cost more than unaccredited bootcamps, which gives some prospective students pause. The best master's programs cost between $35,000 and $82,000, while bootcamps may cost $8,000 to $10,000. However, while the upfront cost of a master's degree is higher, how much an analytics master's costs depends on various factors. Very few master's candidates pay full price for their degrees, and most analytics bootcamp programs don't offer financing options and payment plans like those offered by universities. MSBI&A candidates pay for part of their degrees using grants, scholarships and federal student loans. Bootcamp participants usually pay out of pocket.

ANALYTICS MASTER'S PROGRAMS TAKE LONGER.

Data analytics master's programs can take anywhere from one to two years to complete — or more when students need extra flexibility. Part-time analytics master's programs take longer because they accommodate the needs of full-time working professionals. Ultimately, there are no shortcuts to mastery. An analyst would have to enroll in numerous bootcamps to receive an education comparable to a part-time program at the graduate level.

MASTER'S IN ANALYTICS PROGRAMS HAVE STRICTER PREREQUISITES.

Master's programs are challenging, but universities invest heavily in student success. While bootcamps typically accept any student who can pay, university admissions committees usually only accept students with skills and achievements that suggest they will excel. Students in Stevens' analytics master's program, for example, have backgrounds in calculus and statistics and are familiar with programming languages such as Python.

UNDERSTANDING DATA ANALYTICS BOOTCAMPS

WHAT IS AN ANALYTICS BOOTCAMP?

Data analytics bootcamps vary in length, focus and scope, so there is no one-size-fits-all description. In general, bootcamps consist of data analytics courses that teach a limited range of skills related to preparing and analyzing data using visualization tools, databases, SQL and common programming languages. They can last days, weeks or months. Some touch on modern data science and analysis techniques, including data mining, Big Data utilization, machine learning and deep learning. Bootcamps are usually geared toward early-career professionals who want to fortify existing skills or learn one or two new skills.

PROS OF ENROLLING IN A DATA ANALYTICS BOOTCAMP

BOOTCAMPS ARE FOR BEGINNERS.

Many in-person and online data analytics bootcamps are explicitly geared toward data analysis and data science beginners. Participants in these programs do not need to meet professional or academic prerequisites because bootcamps teach foundational skills (e.g., how to use Tableau, Microsoft BI or QlikView) that can be a springboard for career-switchers. Bootcamp completers can step into entry-level or early-career roles in data analytics and data science, but to advance, they need to pursue further education to gain specialized skills.

BOOTCAMPS ARE SHORTER THAN DEGREE PROGRAMS.

These programs are called bootcamps because they cover a lot of ground quickly. Bootcamps can be as short as a few days, though many programs that attract part-time participants last six months or more. One study of technology-focused bootcamp programs (e.g., coding bootcamps, cybersecurity bootcamps, UI bootcamps, etc.) found that the average tech bootcamp lasts just 16.5 weeks. The workload can be intense, even when the depth and breadth of program content is nowhere near that of a master's program.

ANALYTICS BOOTCAMPS ARE SKILLS-FOCUSED.

Bootcamps are a way to dip a toe into the technology space. An operations professional who has to work closely with data analysts or a database manager might enroll in a bootcamp that offers a part-time schedule to keep up with the pace of analytics projects. They will exit the program with a stronger grasp of analytics fundamentals and ready to communicate with the data professionals on their team, but without the credentials necessary to make a lateral move.

CONS OF ENROLLING IN A DATA ANALYTICS BOOTCAMP

ANALYTICS BOOTCAMPS DO NOT CONFER FORMAL CREDENTIALS.

Some employers respect bootcamp certificates while others don't, making it a risk to choose a bootcamp over an accredited master's program. Some data science bootcamps are more respected than others, but they tend to be the most time-intensive and expensive.

DATA ANALYTICS BOOTCAMPS DO NOT PROVIDE CAREER SERVICES.

Data bootcamps seldom offer opportunities for collaboration, network-building support, mentorship or career coaching. Most do not provide resume prep or interview skill building. Meanwhile, career services at established universities connect graduates with top companies such as IBM, Lockheed Martin, BMW and Goldman Sachs — and students can take advantage of career services long after they graduate. When bootcamp programs offer career support, it usually only lasts until the program ends.

DATA ANALYTICS BOOTCAMPS DON'T PROVIDE STUDENTS WITH HYBRID SKILLS FOR THE MODERN JOB MARKET.

Bootcamps provide students little in the way of soft skills. "My most critical assessment of these types of programs is the gap between what is taught versus what you need to do to be hirable," writes data scientist David Yarrington on Medium. "Bootcamps try to teach you how to use the data science process but instead focus more on instructing you on how to conduct proper ML experiments. Data science is so much more than knowing machine learning." He compares bootcamp coursework to "drinking out of a firehose."

Similarly, Jonah Bailey, managing partner at Atomics, writes that the mission of bootcamps isn't realistic because participants cannot build the "instincts and foundational computer science knowledge" necessary to overcome real-world problems in just 12 to 15 weeks. In other words, bootcamps teach a limited set of technical skills but can't train professionals to respond to the range of problems that crop up in business environments.

THE MAJOR BENEFITS OF CHOOSING A MASTER'S IN ANALYTICS OVER A BOOTCAMP

Data drives success, according to strategic planning consultant and facilitator Anne Murphy. "We need to know what's happening internally in the organization," she writes. "How does it develop new products and services? How does it position itself in the market? Analytics are the tools to answer those questions."

That's why so many organizations across industries are investing in data analytics and business intelligence. According to MicroStrategy's Global State of Enterprise Analytics survey, 59% of organizations use advanced and predictive analytics to drive strategy. In the same survey, 94% of respondents said data and analytics were essential to their digital transformations.

Master's degree programs prepare professionals to leverage one of the biggest assets organizations have. If you have been looking at business analytics bootcamps, be aware that graduate degree programs deliver better ROI. Here's why:

A MASTER'S DEGREE CAN MAKE YOU MORE COMPETITIVE.

Businesses understand the potential of Big Data and data mining to deliver value and are looking for professionals capable of turning data into dollars. Employers expect data professionals to deliver tangible results. Professionals who can utilize Python programming and related tools like pandas and matplotlib, who can do multivariate analysis using R, have experience with Big Data and complex data sets and who understand the potential of AI and automation go much further in this evolving job market.

MASTER'S DEGREE PROGRAMS TEACH A BROADER RANGE OF PROFESSIONAL SKILLS.

The most sought-after hard skills, according to LinkedIn, include business analytics and analytical reasoning. The most sought-after soft skills are persuasion and creativity. Combine those skills and you get a business analyst — someone who is not only technically competent but also curious, imaginative and capable of making a solid argument, backed by data. Data analysts have to know how to talk to people who aren't data analysts. Students in business intelligence and analytics master's programs tackle challenges using data from actual companies and learn to comb through the facts to make strategic recommendations. This is the kind of real-world experience most bootcamps don't offer.

The 36-credit-hour, 12-course MSBI&A curriculum covers data modeling, data warehousing, business intelligence, data management, multivariate data analysis, machine learning, cognitive computing, software skills, big data technologies and AI management. It also includes courses covering data analysis applications to specific business areas: marketing analytics, supply chain analytics, social network analytics and optimization analytics.

YOU WILL EARN MORE WITH A MASTER'S DEGREE.

Whether a bootcamp certificate carries a wage premium varies from employer to employer, but master's degrees have a salary-boosting effect across the board — particularly degrees granted by top institutions. Stevens MSBI&A class of 2020 graduates earn about $94,000 annually — a 17.5% increase over the average business analyst salary.

Ultimately, data science and analytics are evolving fields. AI-enabled technologies like machine learning and deep learning are pushing the potential for automation in analytics further every year. Analysts with technical skills will likely have an edge moving forward, and analytics master's programs will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the industry. Stevens offers students leading-edge skills and the potential to step right into the job market, ready to find useful patterns in challenging data sets.

Apply to Stevens' online analytics master's program today, and join the 93% of graduates who accept job offers three months after graduation tomorrow.