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Amid the big data boom, the demand for professionals who can manage, analyze, and apply data to improve business operations is higher than ever. According to a 2017 report from IBM, analytics-related jobs are projected to grow to more than two and a half million by 2020. This includes data-driven decision-makers—people who can leverage data to inform strategic decisions. Unfortunately, the supply of data-savvy professionals lags far behind the demand.

To help meet this growing need, Chicago Booth has introduced a new concentration in business analytics, complementing the existing 13 concentrations in areas such as entrepreneurship and marketing management. At Booth, concentrations allow MBA students to cultivate more specialized knowledge and skills in a specific area—such as data analytics—which can give them a competitive edge in the job market.

“There’s lots of interest and lots of jobs in data science nowadays, but it’s hard for companies to find people who can integrate the business perspective into the whole data analytics lifecycle—from finding, managing, and analyzing data, to turning it into business insights and opportunities for executives,” said Dan Adelman, Charles I. Clough, Jr. Professor of Operations Management and John E. Jeuck Faculty Fellow. “A computer science degree doesn’t give you that. A pure stats or data science program doesn’t give you that. We are training students to be able to understand and extract the business value from the data science.”

Adelman, who’s a leading expert in business analytics, spearheaded the new concentration with several other Booth professors, including René Caldentey, professor of operations management; Jean-Pierre Dubé, Sigmund E. Edelstone Professor of Marketing; Christian B. Hansen, Wallace W. Booth Professor of Econometrics and Statistics; and Jeffrey R. Russell, Alper Family Professor of Econometrics and Statistics.

The demand for data-driven decision-makers is high across a wide range of industries, including finance, professional services, and information technology. Graduate students are increasingly pursuing data analytics programs to take advantage of this growing market. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2017 survey of prospective business school students, as many as 47 percent want to take data analytics coursework. At Booth alone, 240 students participate in Booth’s Analytics Club.

Booth’s curriculum has long exposed interested students to analytics, but the new concentration will allow them to delve even deeper into the subject matter and hone their analytical aptitude. Students will take two foundational courses—either Big Data (BUS 41201) or Machine Learning (BUS 41204), and Managerial Decision Modeling (BUS 36106)—to gain the background in statistics and decision optimization they’ll need to engage in data analysis.

Students will also study the major programming languages, R and Python, and learn how to move raw data into a form they can analyze. Through elective coursework, students will learn how to apply analytics to real-world business problems, with many course options in marketing analytics, for example. In the Healthcare Analytics Lab (BUS 40721), students work in teams to analyze datasets for real institutions in order to improve healthcare for hospital patients.

“The goal is not to train our students to be professional programmers,” Adelman said. “The idea is that they will be the managers, the entrepreneurs, the leaders, the visionaries around the data analytics teams that are driving business today.”