With data volumes growing at unprecedented rates and businesses in every vertical looking to take advantage of the insights they promise, it’s no secret that employees with strong data skills are in great demand. Add those skills to a business degree from the University of Iowa’s top-ranked Tippie College of Business, and graduates are going to be strong contenders in any job market.
The school’s management program historically has offered a Management Information Systems undergraduate major. But in 2011, based on feedback from employers and students’ internship experiences, an informal departmental committee began to consider how to revise the undergraduate curriculum to satisfy the increasing need for business analytics skills.
The “Iowa brand” of business analytics was launched in Fall 2013 by creating a business analytics track to accompany the existing information systems track. This new track leverages the department’s expertise in process improvement, data management and analysis, predictive modeling, simulation, optimization, and supply chain management.
This year, the undergraduate business analytics program changed a core requirement from a course in supply chain management to a course in optimization and simulation modeling.
The school’s undergraduate program collaborates with area companies to arrange team projects for the capstone course. Student teams work with a company to analyze a problem and present a business solution at the end of the semester.
But area businesses also expressed interest in a program for employees who already had some training in business analytics. So in Fall 2014, the Management Sciences program launched the graduate certificate program to serve working professionals.
“Our department and college have been working toward offering business analytics at all levels, and an evening program for working professionals was the next natural step,” said Professor Sam Burer.
“The response has been terrific – we have 29 enrolled students in our first semester. Students and their companies are very excited about how the skills we teach will be useful on the job.”
Program graduate John Welt is enthusiastic about his experience.
“There were a few major benefits to the BA degree at Iowa that I have noticed,” he said. “First, they offered classes that taught hard skills, such as SQL and VBA, that were attractive to employers and also skills that I frequently use in my current position. We also got exposure to software programs that were very attractive to employers.”
Welt had high praise for the program experience with Tableau’s data visualization software. Welt said he interviewed with several companies that were impressed with his familiarity with the program, “and I use Tableau on a daily basis in my current role.”
“Our senior project/capstone class helped us gain real-world data analysis experience that exposed us to the full spectrum of the analysis process,” he added, “from data collection and preparation to the development of predictive models.”
Welt credits the program for offering “a range of challenging classes that have prepared me for my current role as an analyst and allowed me to provide new perspectives and insights for my organization.”
Brittany Hesse, who graduated from the undergraduate program, said she found the program especially helpful with her day-to-day responsibilities as a healthcare IT consultant at Cerner Corporation in Kansas City.
“I found that the way our curriculum was approached was unique and more useful than anything else I did in college,” she said. “Professors at University of Iowa didn’t focus on making students memorize facts, figures, and formulas. Instead, they taught us to think analytically. And therefore we are able to come up with those things on our own. It has proven to be an irreplaceable skill, and something that separates me from many of my co-workers. I am very proud to have graduated with such a useful and highly marketable degree.”
- Business Analytics graduate certificate program launched in Fall 2014 with 29 students.
- Business Analytics and Information Systems undergraduate major launched in Fall 2013. the program has an estimated 100 students.
- Graduate certificate: 15 semester hours, which equals five courses in Business Analytics, Database Systems, Advanced Analytics, Modeling with VBA, and Data Science.
- Undergraduate major: 21 semester hours (seven courses). The six required courses include Business Process Analysis, Database Management, Decision Support Systems, Business Intelligence, Optimization and Simulation Modeling, and the Analytics Capstone Project. One additional elective course must be selected and typical options are Supply Chain Management, Data Management and Web Services, or Economic and Business Forecasting.
- Tuition: graduate certificate, $1,600 per course (3 semester hours). Undergraduate major tuition is set at the university level.
- No GRE/GMAT required.
Susan Madrak is a Philadelphia-based writer.
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