Broadly speaking, business intelligence (BI) is the extraction of insights from raw data to aid in business decision making. BI has traditionally involved cataloging and examining data from past actions, and developing a consistent set of metrics to both measure past performance and guide business planning.
Today BI leverages a variety of technologies, processes, and software to identify, extract, combine, and analyze the abundance of data that is produced by—and can inform—day-to-day business. Functions of BI technologies include development of dashboards, online analytical processing, data mining, querying, complex event processing, business performance management, benchmarking, predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics, and reporting.
A degree in business intelligence will arm you with the technological and decision-science knowhow to improve business decision making in this Big Data age.
Business Intelligence versus Business Analytics
The distinction between business intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA) is neither clearcut nor agreed upon. (So much so that some in the field dismiss the issue: “What’s the difference between Business Analytics and Business Intelligence?” asks Timo Elliot. “The correct answer is: everybody has an opinion, but nobody knows, and you shouldn’t care.”) The fields of study are related enough that many programs combine the two, offering degrees or concentrations in “Business Intelligence and Analytics.”
Still, it’s helpful to have some idea of the difference. BI looks to the past, basing business strategies on insights gleaned from historical data. BI answers questions such as “what happened,” “how many,” and “how often.”
BA, in contrast, uses modeling techniques to predict future events, tackling questions such as “why is this happening,” “what if these trends continue,” “what will happen next,” and “what is the best that can happen.”
Lisa DellaPorta sums it up this way: “If BI is the way to catalog the past, then BA could be called the way to deal with the present and predict the future.”
BI (and BI/BA) programs typically require students to complete a handful of core courses and then fill out their schedule with electives. Common courses include:
- Data Mining
- Data Warehouse Design and Implementation
- Decision Support Systems
- Database Tools
- Balanced Scorecards and Performance Dashboards
- Predictive Analytics
- Data Pre-Processing and Exploration
Many BI programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in science, mathematics, computer science, engineering, or a related field.
At the 2015 Gartner Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit, self-service business intelligence/analytics emerged as a trend to watch. As Mike Lamble of CIO.com put it, “Self-service analytics is white hot and growing while demand for traditional dashboard BI is in remission.”
Self-service BI enables business users to design and deploy their own reports and analyses within an approved and supported architecture and tools portfolio (says Gartner’s IT Glossary). An organization’s IT department sets up the underlying data warehouse and gets the self-service query and reporting tools up and running, but doesn’t need to be involved in every analysis.
The increasing demand for self-service data visualization and business discovery tools reflects the influx of data-savvy knowledge workers equipped to dig into the data themselves rather than enlisting an IT intermediary. Bypassing the IT department may save time, but it also means that analysis becomes less centralized. As the popularity of self-service BI tools grows, industry leaders are asking: Does the analytics empowerment and reduced time-to-answer afforded by these tools come at the expense of cost control and data quality management? Is the trade-off worth it?
For more on Business Intelligence trends, see Tableau Software’s list.
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We found 47 universities in our directory offering Business Intelligence programs.
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Capella University has an online Graduate Certificate in Business Intelligence that students can complete in as few as eight months. The program includes five courses, all from the MBA program, and students may transfer those credits to the MBA program should they decide to pursue that degree. Capella offers the program in two formats, a traditional structured format and the FlexPath program which allows students to work at their own pace. Applicants to the traditional program must have a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 2.3. FlexPath applicants must have a bachelor's degree in business or a similar field with a GPA of 2.5. Alternately, FlexPath applicants with a degree in another field can show five years of relevant professional business experience.
Capella University offers an online MBA in Business Intelligence that allows students to take traditional classes or to use the university's FlexPath option, which allows students to move through the material at their own, faster, pace. MBA classes are 12 weeks long with a one-week break between quarters. Students in the Business Intelligence program must earn 48 credits to graduate, including 33 credits in MBA core courses and 12 credits in specialization courses, which cover topics such as statistical methods, management decision methods, and data mining. Students must also complete a capstone project that requires them to apply their knowledge to a project related to their career. Applicants to the traditional program must have maintained a 2.3 GPA or higher while earning their bachelor's degree. FlexPath applicants must have a degree in business or a related field (such as accounting) or else have at least five years of relevant business experience.
Full Sail University
Full Sail University offers a completely online Master of Science in Business Intelligence that students can complete in one year by taking one course each month. The courses are laid out in an order that results in students receiving their capstone business case in Month 3. In the courses that follow, students will gain the knowledge necessary to develop a project plan, data warehouse, final report and presentation they will deliver in the capstone class at the end of their year of studies. Courses cover topics such as data management, business intelligence technology and analytics, data mining, process modeling, and data visualization. Applicants to the program must have maintained at least a 2.5 GPA while earning an undergraduate degree in a field related to business intelligence. Students in the online-only degree program must also complete an orientation module and online readiness evaluation before beginning the course of study.
Saint Joseph's University
St. Joseph's University offers an entirely online program leading to a Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics (MSBIA). Graduates of the program also receive a Business Intelligence Certificate from SAS Inc. The 30-credit program includes classes in database management, enterprise data, business process modeling and analysis, data mining, and predictive analytics. In the capstone course, students write a thesis document that demonstrates and enhances their ability to communicate their analysis and recommendations to decision-makers. Courses for the online MSBIA program are delivered in six eight-week sessions during the year, and students may enter the program in January, May, or September. Applicants to the program must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited college where they maintained a GPA of at least 2.5. St. Joseph's MSBIA is home to the International Journal of Business Intelligence Research, a peer-reviewed publication that focuses on the latest findings in the field.
Master's in Business Intelligence Online
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American Sentinel University
American Sentinel University's Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics (MSBIA) is offered in an entirely online format. Online classes run for eight weeks and incorporate weekly online discussion forums. Classes start monthly, allowing students to enter the program at any time. The MSBIA is a 36-credit program, and students are allowed to earn up to 18 of those credits through prior life experience credit and transfer of credit from another university. Required courses cover topics such as data analytics, business performance management, customer relationship management, data storage, and strategic management of technology and innovation. Students must complete a capstone research project to earn the degree. Applicants to the program must have earned a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 2.0 from an accredited college or university. American Sentinel has a career resource center that helps students and alumni prepare resumes, sharpen interview skills and search for jobs.
Aspen University offers a totally online Master of Science in Technology and Innovation - Business Intelligence and Data Management with no requirements for students to spend time on campus. Applicants should have a bachelor degree in a technical area such as computing, engineering or math. Students are required to take two proctored exams during the program, one at the mid-point, or after completing six courses, and the second after the student has completed 12 courses. Students may use a proctor or proctoring center near their home location. After the second exam, students must complete a capstone project where they apply the skills and knowledge they have gained to a project related to their work environment. There is a 10-week time limit for completing the capstone.
Baker College has an MBA in Business Intelligence that is offered through Baker Online. There is no on-campus requirement, and students can choose from four start dates each quarter. The program is designed for managers of departments other than information systems who want to learn about emerging information technologies and subjects such as data mining, analytical processing, and how information can be used to improve decision-making. The MBA program requires candidates to complete at least 53 quarter credit hours, with 33 credits in core business classes and 20 credits in the business intelligence major. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 2.5 or higher and a minimum of three years of full-time professional work experience. Submitting GRE or GMAT scores is optional.
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University offers the Business Intelligence and Data Analytics (BIDA) track of its Master of Science in Information Technology program in a part-time, online format. Students can complete the degree completely online, viewing campus lectures with on-demand streaming at a time of their choice. The program may include some live components, such as a web conference with a guest speaker. To earn the degree, students must complete 144 units of coursework, which is equivalent to 12 semester-long classes. Requirements include 60 units of core classes and 84 units in electives. Students may do independent study for up to 12 units of electives, and they may transfer credits worth 24 units from other graduate programs. Applicants to the BIDA program must have a bachelor's degree, a minimum of three years of full-time professional experience in a related field, an undergraduate-level object-oriented programming class, and the ability to synthesize complex concepts.
Colorado State University-Global Campus
Colorado State University's Global Campus offers an online Graduate Certificate in Business Intelligence with no requirements to attend any face-to-face sessions. To earn the certificate, students must complete four graduate-level courses totaling 12 credits. In the program, students learn how to collect and analyze statistical information, spot trends, make projections, and use data to drive strategic plans. Students have the option of earning a stand-alone graduate certificate to increase their skill sets and earning potential, or of using the specialization to customize a master's degree. The business intelligence specialization is available with nine Global Campus master's programs, including those leading to a master's in management, criminal justice, finance, information technology management, and health care administration.
De Montfort University
Grantham University offers a completely online Master of Science in Business Intelligence with multiple start times throughout the year. The program requires students to complete 37 credits, including 12 required courses and a one-credit Graduate Student Success class. Required courses cover topics such as balanced scorecards and performance dashboards, decision support and intelligent systems, management of information systems, and data warehousing. To earn the degree, students must complete a capstone project in business intelligence where they apply their knowledge to a real-world issue. Students are encouraged to select a work-related project that will benefit their company and help them to grow professionally. Applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited college with a minimum GPA of 2.5. Grantham accepts transfer credits and may grant credit for other experiences, such as military experience and employer courses. The college offers an online jobs portal and online employer information sessions for students and alumni.
Institute of Technology Blanchardstown
Northwestern University offers an online program leading to an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Analytics and Business Intelligence for IT Professionals. Applicants must have a graduate degree, although it does not have to be in IT. The program prefers that students have at least three to five years of professional experience in a related field. Additionally, applicants should have taken classes in calculus and linear algebra and have training or experience in relational databases. The curriculum includes four courses, and students who have already taken equivalent classes may be allowed to select another course in the field to replace that class. Credits earned in the certificate program cannot be transferred to the corresponding graduate degree program. Students may enter the program any quarter.
Nova Southeastern University
Nova Southeastern University's College of Engineering and Computing offers a Graduate Certificate in Business Intelligence/Analytics that students can complete online with no need to come to campus. Applicants to the program should have a bachelor's degree in an area such as management information systems, computer information systems, IT, business administration or a related field. Applicants should have an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.5 and should have experience in computer applications. The curriculum includes five courses, with the final course being a capstone project that requires students to develop a business intelligence application that results in measurable benefits to an organization. Students can enter the program I the fall, spring, or summer term and complete the certificate in about 18 months.
Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University offers an MBA in Business Intelligence that students can complete entirely online with no requirements for campus visits. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 2.75. GMAT or GRE scores are not required. Students who did not study business as an undergraduate may be required to take up to five foundation courses, including business math and statistics, economics, financial reporting and analysis, business law, and human behavior in organizations. Beyond foundation courses, the degree includes eight MBA core courses, three courses in the business intelligence area, and an integrative capstone project. Courses are delivered in 10-week sessions, and students can start the program at five entry points per year.
The University of Texas at Dallas
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona offers a Graduate Certificate in Business Intelligence & Analytics (Certificate NDP) that can be completed entirely online. The program is designed for IT professionals, business analysts, project managers, marketing analysts, researchers, and others whose job involves analyzing data for business decisions. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, although students with a lower GPA may be granted probationary admission. Standardized test scores are not required for this program. The curriculum includes three courses, for a total of nine credits, and students are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA to complete the certificate.
University of California-Irvine
The University of California, Irvine has an online Graduate Certificate in Business Intelligence & Data Warehousing offered through the Division of Continuing Education. The program is designed for data systems modelers, IT managers, business analysts, database administrators, data architects, and chief information officers whose job requires taking data from multiple databases or sources and combining them to generate reports and other information. Professionals who request this kind of data are also welcome in the program. The curriculum includes three classes, which must be taken in order. Members of the advisory committee for this program represent organizations such as Northrop Grumman, Pacific Life, Capital Group, Experian, and Numen Consulting.
University of Colorado Denver
Students earning the online Master of Science in Information Systems through the University of Colorado Denver's School of Business can choose a concentration in Business Intelligence that is delivered entirely online. The curriculum requires candidates to complete 30 credits to earn the degree. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, but admission is not limited to students with specific majors. Applicants must submit GMAT scores. While work experience is not a requirement, the admissions committee looks favorably upon relevant experience and a record of increasing responsibilities in a job. Students can enter the program in the fall, spring or summer semester. Students in the program may apply for the MS in Information Systems Scholarship.
University of Illinois at Springfield
The University of Illinois at Springfield has an online Graduate Certificate in Business Intelligence that students may earn as a stand-alone credential or as part of their work toward a Master of Science in Management Information Systems or another master's program. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5. Applicants to the MIS program must have two semesters of accounting classes, a semester of statistics, and the ability to program in a high-level language such as C++ or Java. To earn the certificate, students are required to complete three graduate level courses, which may have prerequisites of their own.
Master's in Business Intelligence On-Campus
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Ben-Gurion University of The Negev
M.Sc. in Information Systems Engineering with Specialization in Data Mining and Business Intelligence
The Master of Science in Information Systems Engineering degree offered at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is comprised of 36 credits and has a focus on data mining and business intelligence. There are eight courses (24 credits) that all students are required to take. The remaining 12 credits to complete the degree will come from electives and the final Master thesis. All interested students with a bachelor's degree from an accredited university are considered for admission. However, those without adequate preparation in the field of computer science, industrial engineering, information systems engineering, or software engineering may be required to take supplementary courses. Students have access to the Big Data Lab, which aids in undertaking large-scale tasks such as anomaly detection and high-dimensional clustering.
Brunel University - London
California State University-San Bernardino
Students accepted to the Master of Science in Information Systems program offered at De Paul University are required to complete 52 graduate credit hours for the degree. A standard concentration option is available, which provides students with a grasp of general IS skills and competencies. This option also allows students to create an individualized plan of study. There are four other areas of concentration available: business intelligence, business and systems analysis, database administration, and IT enterprise management. Each concentration has specific introductory, foundation, and elective course requirements. Introductory courses may be waived for students with adequate coursework or relevant professional experience. Those who pass a Graduate Assessment Examination in the field covered by the introductory course may also be granted a waiver.
Eastern Michigan University
George Mason University
Keller Graduate School of Management
Master's degree in International Business with a specialisation in Information Management and Business Intelligence
Middle Tennessee State University
Middle Tennessee State University offers a Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) degree with four concentration areas: business intelligence and analytics, information security and assurance, IS general, and IT project management. Applicants with relevant academic and/or professional history can enroll in just 10 courses to complete the program. Applicants without this background may be required to take additional courses. Most courses follow a hybrid delivery system that is comprised equally of classroom instruction and online study. The submission of GRE or GMAT (preferred) scores is a requirement for admission. However, applicants with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 from an AACSB-accredited school of business are exempt from this requirement. A limited number of graduate assistantships are available to qualified MSIS students.
Stevens Institute of Technology
University of Denver
University of Florida
Master of Science in Information Systems and Operations Management (Business Intelligence & Analytics specialization)
The Warrington College of Business Administration at the University of Florida offers a Master of Science in Information Systems and Operations Management (MSISOM) program with three tracks: information technology, supply chain management, and business intelligence and analytics. Students with a business background are required to complete a minimum of 36 credits, while those with a non-business background have to complete at least 40 credits. All MSISOM students are encouraged to seek out internship opportunities in order to acquire career-related experiences that may not be available in a classroom setting. Internships are evaluated on a pass/fail basis only, except for students with a business background who may register their internship as an elective course for a maximum of two credits.