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).

“I had a great experience overall,” she says. “I went back to school to learn skills that would help me find a new job after years out of the workforce. I accomplished that and more. I enjoyed all the activities and experiences outside the classroom and met so many wonderful people.”

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. For students admitted to the MSBA in Fall 2024 or later, Visual Analytics will be a required core course and will replace an elective course.

  • 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.

  • Companies have troves of data – from customer spending habits to financial forecasts to investment trends. How is this information stored in databases and what tools are used to create data sets?
  • Vast amounts of data can be complex to store and manage. Is there a way to use Structured Query Language (SQL) to manage and access data in relational databases?
  • What are the best ways to present data retrieved from databases?

  • 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.

Required for those admitted Fall 2024 and beyond.

  • We’re surrounded by data. How do we effectively interpret and communicate that information?
  • When presenting data findings to a diverse group, how do I use the theoretical foundations of visual perception to communicate in a way that anyone can understand?
  • What are the best tools to effectively show data findings in charts, graphs, or other visual ways? We’ll explore Tableau, Power BI, and others.


You’ll choose four elective analytics courses for your plan of study. This list below reflects what we have recently offered. For students admitted to the MSBA in Fall 2024 or later, Visual Analytics will be a required core course and will replace an elective course, so you’ll have three electives.

Up to two of the electives may be taken from the MBA Program. For example, you could study strategic management of technology and innovation, how to maximize team performance, or participate in a Global Learning Opportunity where you spend a week overseas in an international immersion. See the University Catalog for a full list of business electives. Please note many business electives have a substantial amount of group work.


  • 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 

  • 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?

  • 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 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?  

  • I want to make my mark in marketing. What quantitative tools should I master to support my ambition?
  • Marketing can sometimes seem awash with buzzwords. How do I separate forecasting, elasticity analysis, conjoint analysis, and customer lifetime value from the rest?
  • If I’m trying to discover a brand’s competitors, can syndicated data analysis help?

  • Flexible, adaptable, and responsive to change…are there additional traits necessary to succeed in an agile work environment?
  • I know ‘Lean’ focuses on eliminating waste, managing processes, and delivering value. But what about Scrum, Kanban, and XP?
  • I want to help teams organize and prioritize work, collaborate effectively, and deliver value. What are the agile setting’s tools and techniques I need to master?
  • I need to see the bigger picture. Can story mapping, advanced planning, and scaling help?

  • How can artificial intelligence be used to create value? Get a comprehensive understanding and harness AI to your advantage.
  • Each industry has its own reasons for implementing AI. What are some competitive strategies using this technology for commerce, business, and trades?
  • AI offers tremendous opportunities…and poses serious threats to security. What are the ethical considerations?

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.

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