Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business master of science programs in business analytics and marketing research both placed in the top 10 in the 2016 TFE Times rankings of such programs.

TFE Times (formerly The Financial Engineer) focuses its ranking methodology on placement and salary statistics for graduates, GMAT scores and undergraduate GPAs, and program acceptance rates. It is one of only a handful of rankings specifically for specialized master’s programs in business.

“We are very pleased to see this recognition so early in these programs’ history,” said Glenn Omura, associate dean for MBA and professional master’s programs. “We’ve worked to quickly, innovatively, and effectively meet the needs of this emerging market, and it is highly rewarding to see these specialized programs succeed in this space.”

MSU Colleges Collaborate to Fill Analytics Need

The master’s in business analytics (MSBA) is offered by the Broad College in collaboration with MSU’s Colleges of Engineering and Natural Science. In 2011, staff from these colleges began planning the new degree program to meet the growing need for professionals who can analyze large data sets to guide business decisions—a vast, emerging market with little in the way of existing programs.

“The exponential growth of data and the rise of analytics span many fields,” said Vallabh Sambamurthy, chair of the Department of Accounting and Information Systems, Eli Broad Professor, and the first faculty director of the master’s in business analytics. “Our college partnerships in this program prepare students for career opportunities in the growing analytics industry through a multidisciplinary, practical approach.”

The first class launched January 2013. Three semesters later in December, they graduated—and all were placed in jobs.

“I am impressed with the preparedness of the students coming out of this program. They were able to immediately have a meaningful conversation with me about the technical details of predictive modeling, while at the same time knowing what questions to ask to better appreciate the business environment in which their models will live,” said Eric Traux of the Predictive Analytics Department of Auto-Owners Insurance.

This preparation comes in part from doing real projects for corporate partners every semester.

Amanda Perkins of the Michigan Lottery’s Research Department was impressed by her experience with MSBA students on such a project. “The students’ expertise in business analytics could be seen throughout the project, especially with their final presentation and recommendations. The MSU Business Analytics program provides tremendous value to organizations that are searching for answers to complex data issues,” she said.

In 2014, the program was officially designated as a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degree program. This certification allows international students in the program to work in the U.S. for an additional 17 months under an Optional Practical Training visa—developing their skills even further.

Marketing Research Pinpoints What People Want

Marketing research pulls product development and promotion into the world of big data, using survey results, social media discussions, consumer trends, and much more to target customers and meet their needs.

Very few universities offer graduate-level education in marketing research; however, MSU offers several options.

In 2011, the Broad College launched the master’s in marketing research (MSMR) as a full-time program helping students to develop expertise over one intensive calendar year of studies that emphasize real-world practice. In fact, two of the three semesters of the program are spent working in paid internships with marketing research companies while taking courses online. Only one semester, plus one week, is spent taking courses on campus. This means that by the time students graduate, they have experience working in the field—and often a job offer from the companies employing them as interns.

In 2014, a part-time, more fully online option was added, stretching the experience over 19 months to benefit professionals in related fields who wish to continue in their full-time jobs. These students take classes on MSU’s campus during two one-week “intensives,” but otherwise study online.

Both options concentrate on practical experience in the field.

In fact, alumnus Jeff Pocklington (MS Marketing Research ’11) noted that “the program has an active advisory board, and after only two weeks we had the opportunity to visit with board members at a nearby firm. I am learning the job possibilities are endless.”

Students have abundant opportunities to research, create innovative product or promotion ideas, and present their work. For example, some have presented to the program’s board their research on topics that include consumer interest in fries with toppings being available at Wendy’s and a health pet food featuring an ingredient not yet tapped commercially.

To develop this rich experience with marketing and research techniques, the program’s instructors include professors with doctorate degrees as well as marketing professionals with 20–30 years of experience in the field—folks like Lynnette Cooke, CEO of Kantar Health, and Michael Alioto and Sarah Phillips, both vice presidents at Gongos Research.

When he was CEO of Maritz Research, Michael Brereton said, “The marketing research profession continues to evolve, and the ideal skill set today includes a combination of statistical acumen and achievement, a sharp understanding of general business and marketing strategy, and story-telling skills. We believe that Michigan State University, with its Broad College of Business, is uniquely positioned to provide the education breadth and depth researchers, both today’s and tomorrow’s, will require.” Since retiring from Maritz, Michael is now a full-time professor of practice in the program.

Effective Together

These programs share a common focus on using data and statistics to make the best business decisions possible, and so they often partner in career fairs or working with company recruiters—since the companies that seek professionals to gather and interpret marketing data are likely to have other corporate data to make sense of as well, and vice versa.

The most recent Business Analytics and Marketing Research Career Exploration Fair welcomed more than 300 students and 50 companies to hear from employer panels about these fields and to discuss job and internship opportunities.