Work your way up the analytics ladder

Remember your first use of data? You probably used it to explain something that had already happened. Things get interesting—and more complex—when you get into predicting future events or determining the optimal set of decisions for a specific business outcome. Our courses are designed to help you work your way up this data ladder—going from descriptive analytics (explaining what happened) to diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analytics (influencing what will happen).

“The MSBA program has a balanced mixture of everything from programming to quantitative analysis to qualitative analysis. It was a very easy transition even for people like me who don’t have a background in business analytics.”

Required core courses

You can be the greatest analyst in the world, but if you can't convey the significance of your findings to others, your effort may be wasted. Our teaching philosophy builds upon the traditions of the International Writer's Workshop with our Frank Communications Center to create storytellers with data.

  • What's the sales value of a home in Des Moines? Create a price prediction model using market data.
  • What are the costs and benefits of bringing a pharmaceutical drug to market? Analyze the situation using structured decision analysis.
  • How many flu shots should be ordered for a clinic during an epidemic? Maintain high-quality service even in the face of substantial uncertainty.

  • Which zip codes had the highest increase in sales within a product category? Convert data needs into SQL queries and integrate SQL in an interactive visualization.
  • How can a nonprofit track donor engagement to provide more personalized and targeted promotional materials? Answer a business problem using data stored in a database management system.
  • Can I create an online dashboard for team KPIs? Transform live data into metrics using SQL queries and choose appropriate visualizations for query outputs.


  • How do I automatically integrate sales data from separate data sources? Design a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem and then code it using the open source Python environment.
  • How can I download real estate data or financial data from multiple companies? Use advanced Python features that extract data from websites.
  • Do customers who buy Product X also tend to buy Product Y? Write simple data-mining procedures that find associations and execute them repeatedly.

Prerequisite: Data and Decisions

  • Will this stock price go up or down tomorrow? What about in the next 5 seconds? Identify opportunities for profitable trades.
  • Which of these people is most likely to respond to a direct marketing contact? Segment your customers for better targeting, and identify the most promising new leads.
  • What kind of approach might move a donor to a higher giving level? Conduct a design of experiments to gather the most information from your trial marketing campaign.

Prerequisite: Data and Decisions 

  • How did the 2001 terrorist attacks impact travel patterns and behavior in the United States? Determine hypothetical trends if the attacks had not happened using time series analysis.
  • How can I create an index fund to track a particular financial sector? Solve an optimization model to choose a representative sample of companies in which to invest.
  • How do companies use analytics? Present a case study of a large company using analytics successfully.


You'll choose four elective analytics courses for your plan of study. The list below is a sampling; new analytics courses are being developed regularly.

Up to two of the four required electives may be taken from a select set of MBA courses. Business electives may have a substantial amount of group work. See the University Catalog for a full list.


  • How do I automatically combine data from separate sources? Design a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem and then code it using the open source R environment.
  • How can I download real estate data? Use R features that extract data from websites.
  • How can I use R to do some basic artificial intelligence and machine learning?

Prerequisite:  Data Programming in Python

  • How can I collect, manage, and analyze social interactions among actors? Actors are individuals, organizations, or other collectives.
  • What are the popular sources for social data, including social media, websites, annual reports, press releases, articles, and other traditional media?

Prerequisite: Data Programming in Python and Corequisite: Data Science

  • How can I convert unstructured emails, tweets, blogs, customer reviews, etc. into insights?
  • What's the process to identify relevant sources, harvest the data, and manage large databases?
  • What are the techniques to change words into quantifiable metrics?

Prerequisites: Data Management and Visual Analytics or Data Programming in Python

  • What if my data set is too large to be handled by a single computer? Explore new concepts and technologies instead of traditional relational databases.

  • How do I make my data digestible for others in my organization by presenting it visually?
  • Which type of data graphic should I use in a given situation, and what makes each graphic type unique?
  • How does human perception affect how my data should be presented? Which statistical methods can help me visualize information?

  • How do I manage a team of analytics and IT professionals?
  • What are the best practices for a CIO (chief information officer) or other data manager?

  • How can I gain a competitive advantage using data relating to human behavior and performance characteristics? How can I interpret the data and use it to make decisions?
  • What are data-driven strategies and methods for job assignment, skill acquisition, staffing, and cross-training?

  • How do I foster a cybersecurity mindset in my industry?
  • What are the different perspectives on cybersecurity, from employees and CEOs to casual users and hackers?
  • What are some actionable items to make daily digital interactions more secure?  

Required experiential project

Prerequisites: All core courses plus at least one Master's elective

The knowledge you've gained in the program, particularly in the core courses, will culminate in a group project and/or competition that solves a real-world business problem. Groups may partner with an area business.

Need to plan ahead?

Check out our schedule of upcoming courses for a glimpse into your future (no Python required).

See upcoming courses

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