Quite a few of the working professionals and bright final year students who take INSOFE courses are interested in pursuing higher education (a Masters or a Ph.D.) in a top reputed university. They have found that they either get into better universities and/or get funding AFTER going through INSOFE’s rigorous certificate courses than they would BEFORE. In fact, they have got admission offers from such top universities as Cornell, Northwestern, UT Austin, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign in the US, National University of Singapore, ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), etc., all of which are ranked among the top 25 universities in the world1,2. There are many questions that go through students’ and working professionals’ minds and I wanted to address them all at one place for a larger reader base.
Why should I do Masters at all?
In India, most universities have designed their Masters programs as a pre-requisite to Ph.D. for eventually getting into academia or R&D labs, but not to prepare students for the industry. In fact, most companies state explicitly to the colleges they visit for campus interviews that they only consider undergraduate (Bachelors) students and not graduate (Masters) students. While I was working on Agni Missile system in DRDO, the policy was to recruit both Masters and Bachelors students at exactly the same grade. Hence, most engineers interested in industry jobs do not pursue Masters degrees.
On the other hand, in the U.S., companies recruit graduates at a higher salary compared to undergraduates because they expect them to solve more challenging problems and lead. Schools also design their programs accordingly.
So, Masters in a good international university is truly a professional enhancement and imparts skills that allow you to see the Bigger Picture. It can be said that while the Indian universities focus on the DEPTH in a particular subject/topic, the top global universities focus in addition on the BREADTH and give equal importance to non-technical aspects to build a holistic mindset.
Why should I choose Masters in Analytics, in particular?
The traditional M.B.A. exposes the student to all functions of an industry and builds intuition and quant skills required to take business decisions. Analytics exposes the student to all kinds of data generated across the organization and the industry and builds the skills required to gain actionable insights and take informed decisions based on that data. As Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris argue in their book, Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning, organizations that do not use analytics to gain insights from their data will fall behind their competitors and eventually lose out. Analytics is simply a way to make better decisions using data.
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Thus far, people chose M.S. if they liked technology or M.B.A. if they liked management. But, what do you do if you like both? Moreover, in the increasingly data-driven competitive world, there is a strong need for techno-managers. Fortunately, you do have an excellent option in M.S. in Business Analytics. It marries the “applied-ness” of M.B.A. with the quantitative rigor of M.S. That is why in many schools, analytics is offered by business schools in association with engineering schools.
What should I do to get in?
A good GRE score is mandatory. Very few schools ask for a GMAT score for M.S. in Business Analytics and most of them will consider a GRE score instead if you request. A decent score in TOEFL/IELTS is required. While not mandatory, however, what would set you apart from others is being able to showcase a good project that highlights both your interest and aptitude in the subject.
How difficult is it to get into good schools?
It is really not that difficult. If you want an admission in a top US school, shoot for 320+ in GRE. A student of ours with an excellent project and 320+ in GRE got admissions from Northwestern, UT Austin, Cornell and three more schools with assistantship in most.
However, students with scores of only around 300 in GRE but with good projects also made into Arizona State U, Drexel U and Georgia State U (some very good schools). I believe 60% or so in academics (aim higher, though) and a score of 300+ in GRE is good enough (again, aim higher) to aspire for a “very good” school, provided you have a good project to showcase. When I say “very good”, I mean those that are consistently ranked above IITs and IIMs in the international arena1,2. Do keep in mind that nothing comes easy and for you to be able to do good projects and make up for weaknesses in other areas, you must work hard and learn the concepts well.
Another thing I note is that M.S. in Analytics is a lot more easier (at least now; obviously competition is sure to heat up for the top schools as the demand is surging) to get into than M.B.A. and it is mostly less expensive.
In fact, the sinking rupee is the only thing you should dread!
How should you plan and what are the timelines?
A typical INSOFE student taking our certificate program in Analytics spends 50+50 hours on two projects (apart from nearly 300 classroom hours spread across 4-5 months). I advise those interested in higher education to spend 50+100 hours and do a bit more thorough project. A good project can take you a long way. These 5 months or so are a time well-spent.
GRE preparation takes 3 months-6 months. The other parts (essays, recommendations, etc.) take one month.
You need to put aside approximately Rs. 50,000 for applications to universities and Rs. 20,000 for tests (GRE, TOEFL, etc.). Typical Masters last 12-18 months and the fee is between $25-50K. Living expenses are around $500-$800 per month. You will perhaps earn the living and partial fee waiver after 6 months, even if you did not get any funding up front. So, you are looking at an expense of $35-65K.
However, as soon as you complete the degree (12-18 months), you can expect $80K+ annual salary.
Having gone through the very best schools in both India and the US (NIT, Tiruchirapalli and Carnegie Mellon University), I can confidently say that if you can afford the cost and put in the effort, Masters education in a good U.S. (or some other international universities) is really one of the most exciting things you could explore in life…ever. But there are no shortcuts to success; you have got to earn your admission through hard work.