Skip to Content

Best of Both Worlds - Business analytics programs combine business management, technical skills

By Suzi Morales

If Purdue University held a standalone graduation ceremony for its 2023 Bachelor’s in Science in Business Analytics & Information Management (BSBAIM) program, the proceedings would have been quite short. Erin Brown (BAIM ’23) is one of only four alumni of the new undergraduate program, which joins the school’s Master’s of Science in Business Analytics & Information Management (MSBAIM) program as centerpieces of the Purdue Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business analytics programs.

In the fall of 2022, the undergraduate BAIM program enrolled around 200 freshmen and students transferring majors in its inaugural class. Brown was a sophomore when she learned the new major was in the works. She jokes that she “weaseled” her way in before the first class of the semester to pursue her dual interests of business and technology.

“If you can’t actually talk to the business leaders in the language that they use, all your work is going to be worthless.”

Purdue’s goal is to dominate the intersection of business and tech in higher ed. In addition to the MS and BS programs, Purdue also offers a data analytics concentration for all Daniels undergraduate majors. The Daniels School has begun designing a possible PhD program to complement the MSBAIM and BSBAIM programs. Through the Krenicki Center for Business Analytics & Machine Learning, student teams help businesses use data to solve problems.

These new and established business analytics offerings bridge the gap between technical and business management skills, capitalize on the school’s ties to industry, and help graduates chart their own courses in a fast-growing field.

Using tech skills, speaking the language of business

Austin Bohlin (MSBAIM ’23) graduated from Purdue with a degree in Industrial Engineering in 2020. After graduation, he worked as a manufacturing engineer for a flooring company building a new plant. When the project was completed, he began looking for his next step. With its combined focus on business management and technical expertise, the MSBAIM program seemed like a good fit.

“You can do whatever you want with the degree because it opens so many doors.” — Erin Brown

Bohlin built his elective schedule around technical courses but appreciated how well-rounded the program is. “At the end of the day, you can run all the fancy numbers you want and get all the models and whatnot, but if you can’t actually talk to the business leaders in the language that they use, all your work is going to be worthless,” he remarks.

Mohit Tawarmalani, the Allison and Nancy Schleicher Chair of Management and director of the Krenicki Center, says that when the master’s program launched in 2016, “we designed our business analytics program to be fairly heavy on data science concepts, but at the same time have business value as a central piece of our discussions.”

Teaming up with industry partners

This approach to business analytics helps facilitate student engagement with industry partners. One of the highlights of the MSBAIM program is the practicum students complete each spring. Teams of students are paired with businesses to use data analysis to solve problems. For example, Bohlin’s team helped a company maximize the value of its fleet of shipping trucks.

According to Tawarmalani, around 50 to 55 companies suggest ideas for student practicum projects every year and about 20 are selected.

Because of the quality of students and productive outcomes, “we can pick and choose projects that are going to be best for students,” says Matthew Lanham, clinical assistant professor of management and MSBAIM academic director.

The Krenicki Center complements the BAIM master’s program practicum. Rather than working on finite problems over a few months like the practicum, the Krenicki Center works with businesses on evolving, long-term projects. Krenicki Center projects are open to students throughout the university.

“We're really killing it. That is the award. There is no more prestigious award for an analytics program.” — Matthew Lanham, on winning the 2023 UPS George D. Smith Prize

“We can really do pretty much anything because we can source talent from all across campus,” Lanham remarks, noting the synergies between the cross-disciplinary Krenicki Center and the practicum for MSBAIM students.

Investing in students

Lanham says the Daniels School is deliberate about investing in business analytics students’ long-term success. For example, the school funds conference attendance, memberships, certifications, and more.

Daniels School students aren’t just showing up and presenting at conferences; they’re winning awards. “We’re really killing it,” Lanham remarks, rattling off a number of high-profile awards the Daniels School and its business analytics students have won. Prime among these is the 2023 UPS George D. Smith Prize, which is awarded by INFORMS for excellence in preparing students for operations research and analytics careers. “That is the award,” says Lanham. “There is no more prestigious award for an analytics program.”

Skills for many industries

The success of Daniels School business analytics students is borne out in career placement and salaries. Lanham says MSBAIM job placement percentages are regularly in the high 90% range. Starting salaries continue to rise as well, with the average for 2022 master’s graduates around $124,000. “The numbers don’t lie,” he says.

As for the jobs available to graduates of the business analytics programs at the Daniels School, the sky is the limit. “In today's digital and AI-driven era, data plays a critical role in all businesses. It is essential to have specialists who can effectively utilize various data to understand operation performance, customer behavior, and market trends,” explains Zhiwei Zhu, director of the undergraduate BAIM program. “Our students are perfectly positioned to meet the growing demands of the market, as the skills and knowledge they acquire from our programs are highly applicable across diverse industries.”

“You can do whatever you want with the degree because it opens so many doors, because you just have such a big skill set after you graduate,” says newly-minted BAIM graduate Brown.

That means the number of business analytics students walking across the stage at graduation will continue to grow.

More Stories