With the increasing demand for MS Business Analytics graduates, more and more international students are applying for graduate programs in Analytics. But, there is also a flip side of this. Many candidates apply to MS Analytics programs despite not having the right background and objective. Majority of applicants also struggle to find the right program. Finally, a significant crowd is also skeptical about the jobs after MS in the US.
In this article, we will have tête-à-tête with Prof. Murugan Anandarajan from Drexel University, who will talk about admissions, academics, job prospects, and also a few tips on university short-listing and applications. Drexel University is one of the top universities for MS Business Analytics in USA. It has been featured in several rankings like QS (World Ranking 18), TFE Times, PAT Research, etc.
MS Business Analytics in USA
Q&A with Prof. Murugan Anandarajan
Head of the Department of Decision Sciences & MIS, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University
1. What is your outlook on job prospects for MS Business Analytics graduates in the U.S. in the coming years, especially for international students?
Job prospects for MS Business Analytics graduates will be strong in the years to come as more and more companies will need candidates with robust technical skills. Analytics are valued across all industries, so there is no shortage of career possibilities. Technical skills, data analysis, and the ability to communicate insights from data are sought-after competencies across organizations.
Additionally, business analytics is a STEM-designated program, which means that international students have two years of optional practical training (OPT) during which they can work without an H-1B visa. This timeframe provides students with additional time to gain professional experience that will help them in pursuing companies that can sponsor them for an H-1B visa.
2. Who are the ideal students for the MS Business Analytics program at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business? Could you share information about an average class profile of students?
Ideal candidates are individuals who have passion. They should have a genuine interest in analytics and the interpretation of numbers. Candidates should have some prior strong statistical knowledge. An ideal student would also have very strong communication skills and the ability to think clearly through understanding and solving a problem.
On average, the program’s student composition is 52% male and 48% female, ranging from 26-30 years old, and 80% are international students. Approximately 51% have academic or professional backgrounds in engineering or computer science, and 84% have more than two years of work experience.
3. What are some other facts about the LeBow College of Business that you’d like to share with applicants?
A noteworthy component of the LeBow College of Business is that it has its own Center for Business Analytics – a dedicated hub for collaboration between academia and industry. For LeBow’s business analytics programs, this means ongoing opportunities exist for students to collaborate with and learn from organizations while gaining practical experience and sought-after competencies. The center offers students opportunities to work on data-driven consulting projects with organizations, using analytics to solve business challenges for major companies such as PECO/Exelon, Comcast, and The Dow Chemical Company.
The center’s Business Analytics Speaker Series welcomes industry thought leaders throughout the year from organizations such as Google, Spotify, and PepsiCo to share how they leverage data for decision making and key industry trends and practices.
Annual analytics competitions, or datathons, offer students opportunities to explore data-driven business problem-solving in an accelerated timeframe with organizations such as Caesars Entertainment and SEI. Additional engagements, including company visits and various research initiatives, also provide opportunities for students to learn and demonstrate new skills.
4. In addition to the LeBow website, how can international students learn more about the MS Business Analytics program and interact with the admissions team, faculty, staff, alumni and current students on a more personal basis?
We welcome questions and conversations from prospective students with an interest in learning more about the program. Individuals can contact the Department Head for Decision Sciences and MIS and/or the Graduate Student Services office via email or phone and arrange a time to speak with faculty and staff. We also host regular webinars to connect with prospective students and share information about our programs.
5. How are applications evaluated? Could you explain the review process?
At LeBow, we take a holistic approach to reviewing applications. We evaluate the quality and duration of candidates’ professional experiences, as well as their prior academic performance and overall ability to exhibit interpersonal skills. If appropriate, we also conduct a video interview to further assess applicants’ suitability for the program.
6. What is the typical acceptance rate for the MS Business Analytics program? How are GPA/GRE scores, work experience, academic performance, extracurricular activities, and other experiences prioritized in the college’s decision?
For the 2019 incoming class, the program’s acceptance rate was approximately 48%. As the program continues to expand and reach top levels of faculty engagement, industry involvement, and both academic and professional quality, we anticipate selectivity increasing further, ensuring that we welcome the most qualified, well-rounded students who best represent and uphold the values and expertise of the program and college.
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7. How can applicants determine if they’re a good fit for the program? How should that alignment be communicated on the application?
Applicants need to have professional work experience – preferably experience relevant to the program. They should have already completed statistics courses in their undergraduate program or post-undergraduate studies and have had some experience in programming, using tools such as R or Python.
For all programs, we look for a minimum TOEFL of 90 overall with at least 23 on speaking and listening. The IELTS equivalent is 6.5 overall, with a 6.5 on speaking and listening. We look for a minimum GMAT of 570 and the equivalent GRE is 314-316 overall, with at least a 155 on each section.
Individuals best fit for this program possess an eagerness to learn, embrace opportunities to become involved, are interested in maximizing their program experience through both curricular and co-curricular pursuits, and are proactive and motivated.
Leadership skills are ideal, along with maturity, professionalism, the ability to communicate well, and of course, an overall sense of positivity. Communicate these types of characteristics in your application essay, sharing examples or experiences that illustrate how you exemplify these traits.
8. Do applicants need to identify and contact potential supervisors before applying to the program?
No, this component isn’t necessary for the application process.
9. Are there any common errors among the applications you receive from prospective students applying from India or other international locations?
Many international candidates embellish their resumes and applications with technical skills/tools/software that they haven’t actually worked with. Typically, this is vetted during the admissions interview, but in cases where it’s not, the student comes into the program ill-prepared and falls behind other students.
Another trend we’re seeing on applications is including a quote from a famous person in the essay, but upon being asked about it, not being able to provide insight into why the quote was chosen or not knowing who the person quoted is. This diminishes a candidate’s credibility.
10. In the last few years, several applicants have been opting for MOOCs in order to improve their admission chances? What are your thoughts on this?
I consider MOOCs as a way students can enhance their existing knowledge. It also exhibits their interest in the field.
11. What information can you share about post-program employment for your MS Business Analytics graduates?
Per MBA CSEA/AACSB standards, we are required to show landing rates within 6 months of graduation, so it’s too soon to report employment rates for the most recent class (March 2019 graduates).
In March 2018, there were 33 full-time MS Business Analytics graduates. Of this group, 30 were seeking employment and 30 landed full-time positions (100% landing rate). The majority of these graduates were employed within 3 months after graduation. The remaining 3 graduates chose to pursue other opportunities such an enrolling in PhD programs.
12. Does the college provide assistance to students seeking employment (workshops, career fairs etc.)?
LeBow’s Graduate Career Services office provides a wide range of programming, services, and events specifically designed for the college’s graduate student population. Throughout the academic year, we offer numerous workshops on resume building, cover letter writing, job search strategies (internship and full-time jobs), interviewing skills, LinkedIn profile best practices, and other career and professional development topics.
We organize, host, and facilitate networking events in which we connect students with industry and employer partners, as well as recruitment events where employers seek interns and full-time job candidates. We even host an interview practice day for our MS students where they practice their interviewing skills by way of mock interviews with employers. We organize employer information sessions, panel discussions, and corporate site visits throughout the academic year.
Our students are provided with many resources and are encouraged to meet with their career advisor early in their program and to continue meeting with them throughout the duration of their program. Career advisors work individually with students for document review, mock interviews, job search strategy discussions, and offer/salary negotiation.
Graduate Career Services also offers a 10-week career course (Foundations of Career & Professional Development), which provides instruction in U.S. business practices and career development to better equip students with the tools and knowledge to begin their internship/job search.
13. Are scholarships available for international students? If so, could you explain the eligibility criteria and application process?
All students are considered for merit-based scholarships when they apply to LeBow. No separate application is required. Scholarship consideration is based on your admissions application, with a focus on academic achievement, professional experience, GMAT or GRE exam scores, and unique personal attributes.
14. In recent years, applicants in India have had concerns regarding U.S. immigration policies. What are your perceptions of the new H-1B rules and how would you address the applicants’ concerns?
Although the H-1B process is competitive and immigration is challenging right now, the new H-1B rules for candidates are promising. Students will have several advantages during the visa application process. Graduates of STEM-designated degree program such as business analytics may be more highly considered for a visa.
15. What is your advice to individuals considering an MS Business Analytics program in the U.S.? How should they choose universities and programs to pursue?
Ask yourself why you’re pursuing an MS degree in business analytics. Figure out the “why” and be able to explain and communicate your interests and goals to university admissions professionals.
You don’t need to have plans for your entire career trajectory, but you should have ideas about what you want to do with the degree. Interested students should have solid statistical and programming/coding knowledge as well as interpersonal skills.
Students should consider universities that provide them with cutting-edge curricula and exposure to real-world experience through experiential learning opportunities and industry collaboration.
16. What is your advice to students currently studying in the U.S. and looking for employment? How can they improve their employability?
Current students should take advantage of their university’s career services office and meet with their career coach on a regular basis to ensure their job search materials effectively market their employability and meet industry standards. They should attend networking events whenever possible to gain exposure to hiring managers and recruiters, as well as career fairs. Simply applying for a position online isn’t enough. Students should also practice their 30-second, or elevator, pitch in order to tell a meaningful story.
Analytics is a growing field with tremendous career opportunity, but job competition is growing as well. Employers want to see that you can connect the dots and tell a story about what the data means and how leaders can use this information to inform decision making.
Technical skills aren’t enough; solid written and verbal communication are key, as are emotional intelligence, the ability to work within a team, and the ability to demonstrate leadership.