10 data science and business analytics courses that should be on every executive’s radar – Fortune

BY Sydney LakeMarch 07, 2022, 3:02 PM

Commuters on a Metro-North train that departed from Stamford, Connecticut, U.S., as seen in November 2021. (Photographer: Jeenah Moon—Bloomberg/Getty Images)

What happens as technology starts to take over some of the responsibilities and decisions historically made by business leaders? That’s a question managers and executives have as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) start to take greater prominence in fields outside of those that are strictly tech-focused.

“The interesting thing about AI is that it makes decisions. That’s what managers do. They make decisions,” Prasanna Tambe, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, tells Fortune. “So when you start to think about the question of whether an AI tool is effective or not—that’s really something that a manager has to be able to do.”

As data becomes more and more imperative to business decisions and solutions, there are a growing number of business leaders who are being asked to think about AI or manage AI for their organization for the first time, Tambe adds. As a result, more managers and executives are turning to courses focused on data science and data analytics topics. 

“That’s going to be the next wave, in a sense, of the formation of business leaders who can think about these downstream problems when you drop algorithms into company contexts,” Tambe says. “What does it mean for the people involved, for the shareholders, for the employees, customers? Not just the obvious things—but the things that present challenges.”

Many schools that offer top-ranked MBA, business analytics, and data science programs host certificate options for executives and other managerial-level leaders who don’t have time to pursue a full degree. Fortune has rounded up some of the courses and programs you should look into if you’re looking to advance your knowledge in data science and business analytics.

University of California–Berkeley (Haas)

“Data science is more important than ever in business,” Richard Freishtat, vice president of curriculum at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, tells Fortune. During Haas’ Data Science for Leaders, a three-day bootcamp, senior business executives attend in-person classes focused on the foundations of data science, A/B tests and other random experiments, machine learning, analytics-based strategy setting, among other topics.

“There is no question that it is becoming easier to measure everything, and to crunch enormous datasets. But in most organizations, the real limiting factor is leadership,” Freishtat adds. “Every leader must possess the ability to use, analyze, and make sense of it all.” Participants leave the program with a certificate of completion. 

University of Virginia (Darden)

In this four-day, in-person program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, leaders learn how to use data analytics to inform key business decision making. The program is focused on forecasting, data visualization, and learning how to use data to enhance a company’s competitive advantage.

The program helps participants “take a step back and understand what information, or lack of information, is driving our reasoning,” Cecilia Newman, chief estimator for Clark Construction and a past program participant, told Darden. Participants who complete the program can use it as one credit toward a certificate in management at Darden. 

University of Chicago

New data, devices, social interactions, and other tech advances—along with new artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are now becoming integral to business in almost every industry today rather than incremental or a nice-to-have solution,” Greg Green, one of the course developers and instructors at the University of Chicago’s Artificial Intelligence and Data Science for Leaders, tells Fortune.

During this eight-week online program geared toward managerial-level professionals, participants learn the basics of data science, data-driven decision making, the future of AI, as well as data ethics. Managers can use this program to advance their careers in AI and data science. According to Glassdoor, chief technology officers earn, on average, a $170,000 base pay rate in the U.S. 

Columbia University

Are you a busy executive looking for a self-paced program focused on data science? Columbia University’s School of Engineering, through edX, offers a Data Science for Executives Professional Certificate program aimed at teaching executives the history of the field and how data science and analytics are now used in business decision making.

While the program doesn’t get “into the weeds of programming,” business leaders, managers, and health care professionals can walk away with fundamental skills in statistics, machine learning, and algorithms. The program includes three courses and typically takes about five weeks to complete online. Participants receive a certificate from ColumbiaX through edX upon completion.

Harvard University

Through a collaboration between its schools of business, engineering and applied sciences, and arts and sciences, Harvard University offers an online business analytics certificate program for professionals with an average of 20 years of work experience. The Harvard Business Analytics Program includes a mix of live virtual classes and seminars, self-directed coursework, and on-campus visits. Through the case study method, lectures, and group projects, participants learn how to use data analytics tools and an understanding of data mining, predictive analysis, data aggregation, blockchain analytics, and artificial intelligence.

The program can be completed in nine months if done full-time, or 18 months if completed part-time. After completing the program, you’ll still have access to HBAP short courses, speaker webinars, and “Tech Talks.”

University of Minnesota

“Advanced analytics, machine learning, and AI are arguably the most powerful general-purpose technologies invented since the advent of modern computing,” Ravi Bapna, associate dean for Executive Education and the Curtis L. Carlson chair professor in business analytics and information systems, tells Fortune. “Extracting value from these is imperative, but often challenging, for most businesses.”

For that reason, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management offers a three-day Business Analytics for Leaders course aimed at helping executives and senior business leaders understand how to implement data analysis to achieve their goals. Participants of this in-person program also learn about machine learning methods and how to better work with analytics and IT teams at their companies.

University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania offers a three-month online certification program aimed at teaching managers and other business leaders how analytics can help inform business decisions. Business Analytics: From Data to Insights is designed for leaders from a variety of industries including financial services, health care, IT services, and consulting. The program helps participants identify insights from data, improve your ability to make predictions using data, and make better decisions informed by data.

“I don’t think it’s essential that managers know the internals of how the data gets transformed into a decision,” Tambe says, “But the important thing to understand is [whether it’s] doing a good job of making a decision.” 

Wake Forest University

Through Wake Forest University’s Analytics for Leaders, participants focus on understanding analytics strategy, data visualization, influencing, and problem framing—which teaches students how to properly ask questions to define an organizational problem. “Knowing the right questions to ask in addressing analytics challenges, and then being able to visualize actionable solutions, is critical to properly aligning talent and resources to maximize return on investment,” says Kerry Shronts, executive director of Wake Forest Executive Education.

This program—which is designed for executives, leaders, managers, and directors—can be completed virtually during five half-day sessions.

Duke University

Executives need to “become experts in fostering data-driven teams and cultures that can produce the insights that outperform their competitors and delight their customers,” Jason Burke, a professor for Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business course Creating a Data-Driven Culture, tells Fortune. In this one-day intensive course, participants learn about the basics of analytics and how leaders can align analytics to business strategy.

Duke’s program is specifically intended for senior managers of firms that are “in the process of developing their analytics capabilities.” Students also learn about tech planning, interpreting analytics insights, and implementing analytics into existing business processes. “Data-driven cultures do not emerge without leaders cultivating new organizational competencies,” Burke adds.

Stanford University 

Technical or statistical expertise isn’t required for Big Data, Strategic Decisions: Analysis to Action, which is hosted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Rather, this weeklong program is intended for senior-level executives who want to learn how to use data for competitive advantage.

Half of the program is spent learning about data tools and frameworks, while the remaining is spent on a group project with a data analyst. Participants will also focus on the future of big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. A certificate of completion is awarded at the end of the in-person program.

See how the schools you’re considering fared in Fortune’s rankings of the best business analytics programsdata science programs, and part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.

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