A master’s in data analytics requires a significant commitment of time and money, and that can leave you wondering: Is a master’s in data analytics worth it?
The short answer is yes. There are many advantages to earning a master’s in data analytics. A master’s can open the door to career advancement, technical skill mastery and a higher starting salary. In fact, in 2022, the average starting base salary for master’s in data analytics professionals was $80,000, according to BurtchWorks.
However, keep in mind that a data analytics master’s degree is only one step toward working in analytics.
You’ll also need experience (which is just as important as holding an advanced degree), proficiency in coding languages, and a solid understanding of statistics and business operations for career success. Therefore, it can be difficult to know if a master’s program is right for you.
We took a closer look at the pros, cons, and salary data to help you determine if a master’s in data analytics is worth the investment. You can compare earnings by job titles like data analyst salaries and data science salaries.
A recent study of data analytics salaries found that the biggest payoff in earnings is for mid-level data analytics professionals. By mid-career, the wage gap grows to $14,000 between master’s and bachelor’s degree holders.
Early career professionals, Individual Contributor I (IC-1), earned $75,000 (bachelor’s) to $80,000 (master’s). Yet, for IC-2 positions, median salaries for data analytics professionals were $91,000 vs $105,000.
For IC-3 data analysts, the wage gap shrinks back to $130,000 to $135,000.
What’s the reason for the wage gap?
Part of the reason for such a difference at the IC-2 level is that many choose to go back to school after working in an entry-level position. A master’s degree, therefore, can help them re-enter the workforce with new skills AND experience, and ultimately, they’re able to earn a higher starting salary.
Data analytics is one of the hottest fields on the planet right now. Companies across a wide range of business sectors are looking for data professionals who can help them organize and make sense of massive sets of information.
Yet, although a master’s in data analytics can give you the skills you need to succeed in the workforce, there are trade-offs. Here are some things you need to know before deciding if a master’s in data analytics is right for you:
1. Job Outlook
The field of data analytics is growing rapidly, and with it is the demand for those who can analyze and interpret large amounts of data. Analysts are needed in almost every industry, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs to grow by 19 percent from 2014 to 2024 — a far above-average growth rate.
2. Higher Salaries
There’s no doubt about it: Data analytics professionals who earn master’s degrees earn an average of $14,000 more at the IC-2 level compared to those holding just a bachelor’s degree.
3. Specialized Skills
A master’s degree in analytics will teach you hard skills that are useful no matter what kind of work you do. You’ll learn how to use tools like Excel, SQL, Python and R, and you’ll also get training on how to build complex reports and systems using these tools. These skills are broadly applicable — if your job in analytics doesn’t work out, they’ll still come in handy if you decide to move on to something else.
The two biggest disadvantages of a master’s program are time and cost.
1. Opportunity Costs
A master’s in data analytics costs, on average, $35,000 for on-campus programs, or around $15,000 for online programs. Typically, you have between 1-3 years to complete these programs. Therefore, a master’s degree can delay your earning potential.
2. Delays Real-World Learning
Similarly, a master’s program isn’t a ticket to work. More and more, companies want to hire experienced professionals. Although a master’s program can help you build an analytics portfolio, you’ll still need to gain experience through internships or an entry-level position to advance your career.
A master’s degree isn’t a ticket to a high-paying job in data analytics. Experience and technical skills matter the most. For example, if you have Excel mastery, can use SQL to pull your own data, have strong business sense and understand basic statistics, you can succeed in data analytics. Many of those skills can be self-taught or learned as an undergraduate.
A master’s in data analytics is especially beneficial when:
You want to switch careers - A professional master’s degree will help you learn new technical skills and build foundational knowledge. This is especially helpful if you’re making a dramatic career change - say from education to data analytics.
You want to master skills - A master’s degree in data analytics will expose you to new techniques, will help you develop domain expertise, and will train you on new tools. For example, if you wanted to dive deep into statistics and Python, you could gain those skills in the right master’s program.
Specialized skills training - Many master’s programs offer unique specializations in subjects like machine learning, predictive analytics or data visualization. Those programs can help you build a specialization, which can ultimately lead to career advancement.
You excel with structured learning - Finally, master’s programs are intense. They require dedication. If you aren’t committed or prefer self-paced learning, you might consider a bootcamp or online course to learn new skills and concepts.
Ultimately, you don’t need a master’s to land a data analyst job. But the industry is getting very competitive and the talent pool continues to grow. Many large tech companies do prefer analytics professionals to hold an advanced degree or have a minimum of 5 years of experience. Therefore, it isn’t a requirement, but it can help you stand out.
Master’s in data analytics are a relatively new subject area for study, but they do provide specialized analytics knowledge.
For example, Georgia Tech’s MS program offers three tracks, each preparing students for specialized roles in data analytics. (Full disclosure: Interview Query has a partnership with Georgia Tech.) For example, the program’s Business Analytics track, focuses on generating insights from data to make companies more efficient, while the Analytics Tools track provides training on descriptive, prescriptive and predictive analytics.
In other words, master’s in data analytics programs provide training very specific to analytics careers. Yet, there are many applicable master’s fields for data analytics careers. According to BurtchWorks data, analytics professionals with master’s degrees study these subjects most frequently:
Ultimately, the best master’s concentration depends on your career goals.
There’s no doubt an analytics master’s degree can open the door to career opportunities and a higher salary. But still, to land a data analytics job, you need more than an advanced degree. Specifically, you need: