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Data Courses Becoming Commonplace at Business Schools

Last year, the Wharton School strengthened its offerings in data and analytics while Duke’s Fuqua School of Business unveiled a new Master of Quantitative Management. But Wharton and Fuqua are far from the only business schools taking an interest in big data, it turns out.

In fact, according to a new survey from Kaplan Test Prep, more schools now offer data courses than not.

Specifically, out of 209 schools surveyed by Kaplan, 72 percent currently offer courses in big data or data science. A further 13 percent are thinking about adding data courses in the future while only 15 don’t offer data courses and don’t plan to.


Announcing the results, Kaplan pointed out that business schools’ newfound interest in big data is driven in part by a demand for data skills on the job market.

In a 2016 GMAC survey, 72 percent of companies said they have open data analytics positions that they intend to fill with recent B-school grads. In the same survey, the only jobs with higher demand were marketing and sales (75 percent) and finance (73 percent).

Given the demand for data specialists, then, it’s no surprise that most schools are keen on incorporating data science into their curriculums.

However, the Kaplan survey also found that schools have limits on how far they’re interested in going to beef up their high-tech course offerings. In particular, it turns out that coding courses have not caught on the same way data science courses have.

In fact, only 28 percent of the schools surveyed currently have courses in coding or software development. A further 9 percent are considering adding such courses, but the majority of schools – 63 percent – don’t offer coding courses and don’t plan to.

So while there seems to be an emerging consensus that data science has an important place in the business school curriculum, there is less agreement when it comes to coding.

In a Harvard Business Review article called Should MBAs Learn to Code?, Thomas Eisenmann surveyed Harvard Business School students who’d taken Harvard College’s introductory computer science course.

The students reported that the computer science course ended up being significantly more time consuming than other MBA electives they could have taken.

As for whether the time investment was worth it, it ultimately came down to the careers students pursued after graduation. Most of those who went on to work for startups and big tech companies found the course worthwhile, but few of those who didn’t end up working in tech did.

Overall, what the Kaplan survey tells us is that data science has firmly established its relevance in business school. And coding? The jury’s still out on that one.