Big data, big news: NIU data analytics program offered 100% online

Newly approved and fully online Master of Science in Data Analytics

NIU’s newly-created Master of Science in Data Analytics (MSDA), approved in early August 2018 by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, rolls out in 2019.  In January, the program will launch 100% online, making the MSDA the second fully online graduate degree from the AACSB-accredited NIU College of Business.  MSDA coursework can be completed in as little as 12 months.

“With a focus on offering engaged learning experiences on a digital platform, the new offering, MSDA, exemplifies our efforts to offer a cutting edge program in a high demand area.  The program is a great addition to our portfolio of online programs,” says Balaji Rajagopalan, dean of the NIU College of Business.  “Our Department of Operations Management and Information Systems enjoys a long tradition of creating exceptional programs that cross the boundaries of technology, systems and people – making for a holistic focus in the way we approach the field of data analytics.”

Chris Millington, former CTO of McDonald’s and a member of the OM&IS Advisory Board, agrees.  “The future of data analytics is now and NIU is at the forefront of this movement – as is often the case.”

SAS and industry partnerships

Precisely because of its cutting edge curriculum, NIU’s OM&IS department has enjoyed ongoing membership in the SAS Global Academic partnership.  SAS is widely considered to be the dominant industry leader in the analytics space.

“We’re very excited to offer such an important and high quality program – especially in an online format,” says Chang Liu, chair of the Department of Operations Management & Information Systems.  “Our diverse student body is always looking to stay at the cutting edge. Our MSDA degree helps them do so because the program focuses on competencies for the future.”

When OM&IS faculty designed the degree, they ensured it went beyond the traditional ideas of data collection.  They made real-world perspectives and industry practices serve as the foundation for the academic material and incorporated feedback from executives on the OM&IS Advisory Board.

Liu adds, “The experiences that accomplished professionals share and the knowledge created by our scholarly active outstanding faculty will result in an exceptional experience for our students.”

Big Data:  Knowledge you can use

NIU’s MSDA coursework emphasizes hands-on learning so students develop data analytics and problem solving skills that can be utilized in a range of contexts, organizations, and industries.  Expertise and guidance from award-winning OM&IS faculty and executives-in-residence ensures that what the students learn aligns with the current and anticipated trends, technologies, and best practices in the field.  When they graduate, MSDA students will also earn the NIU-SAS joint certification credential.

This AACSB accredited program provides students with the flexibility to balance work and family commitments and to enroll on either a full- or part-time basis.  NIU’s MSDA appeals to working professionals who seek upward mobility in one of the fastest growing fields.  Data analysis careers have been heralded as the “sexiest job of the 21st century” (Harvard Business Review); the #2 fastest growing job (CNN Money); the #5 overall best job in America in 2017 (Glassdoor), and; the second most difficult set of skills to find (ComputerWorld 2016).

Academic quality and individual attention

“I’m proud of what the OM&IS faculty and our partnering executives continue to achieve for the benefit of our students,” says Liu.  “They bring their award-winning talents to every part of this online program.”

Along with the academic and professional benefits, the program also combines high tech with personalized attention.  MSDA students receive one-on-one admission and advising guidance as well as technology support, when needed.  They can access course materials, participate in discussions with professors and fellow students, and complete and submit assignments anywhere and at any time.

NIU’s MSDA is offered out of the nationally recognized Department of Operations Management and Information Systems, housed in the NIU College of Business.  The college has held full AACSB International accreditation since 1969, just eight years after its founding.  AACSB accreditation is the most respected and highest credential of excellence worldwide for business and accounting schools. Programs in both NIU OM&IS and the NIU College of Business have been ranked nationally over the years, with the college enjoying a national ranking for more than 30 consecutive years.  The Department of OM&IS and the College of Business both have a distinguished tradition of crossing the boundaries of knowledge generation and learning by creating innovative programs that prepare graduates for long-term success in their careers and their communities.

“Big data is about making better decisions in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world,” says Liu.  “Ultimately, it’s about adding value to organizations, communities, and individuals.  Those intersections lay at the very core of our expertise in the Department of OM&IS.  Our faculty are experts in their areas and our curriculum is cutting edge because we continually cross the boundaries of a variety of disciplines to understand the larger value-add that can be provided to individuals, business and society.  This is what gives our students outstanding futures over the long haul.”

NIU’s College of Business proudly counts more than 60,000 of its graduates as alumni.  Many hold C-suite executive positions in companies of all sizes, located in the Chicago metropolitan area and around the world.


For more information on NIU’s MSDA, please contact Russ Devereaux, associate director, at or 815-753-6372.


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