For Data Analytics Roles, Employers Seek More Than Technical Skills from B-School Grads

Survey data from corporate recruiters highlights demand for stats-savvy problem solvers and communicators.

Sep 15, 2016

Employment Outlook

Data analytics professionals explain their findings to colleagues Hiring demand for business school graduates to fill data analytics roles just keeps on growing. Overall, 72 percent of employers who participated in the 2016 GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey indicated that they plan to hire recent business school graduates this year to fill data analytics positions. Survey findings show that data analytics was the third most in demand job function overall, following just marketing and sales (75% of employers) and finance (73%).  Typically, employers seek candidates from multiple business school programs types to fill these roles. This year was notable in that 26 percent of companies said they plan to hire graduates of Master in Data Analytics programs in 2016. Of these companies, 96 percent plan to hire more (67%) or same number (28%) of them than they did in 2015. 

In light of the boom in student demand for data analytics degrees and the number of employers now seeking those with data expertise, GMAC researchers asked employers for the first time this year to describe the specific skills and requirements they seek when hiring for data analytics positions. Not surprisingly, many report that they need graduates with strong analytical and programming skills, particularly in the frequently mentioned programs of Excel, SAS, R, SQL, SPSS and Tableau. Additionally, depending upon the industry, more specialized knowledge and experience may be required based on a company’s needs, such as work experience in a particular field or an advanced degree in a relevant STEM subject.

Though such skills are an obvious must-have for these positions, the survey results reveal that employers are looking for much more than technical skills. Aside from robust analytical and quantitative talents, employers require candidates who can demonstrate interpersonal, communication, and team-building skills. As recruiter from a small U.S. based consulting company put it, “We have no interest in individuals who focus solely on data analytics. We want influencers, not statisticians.”

Many employers commented that they need graduates that have both the skills to analyze data and the ability to work directly with clients. Companies look for candidates who can understand business problems; gather, synthesize, and analyze data; and communicate their analysis and insights to a wider audience. A recruiter for a mid-sized U.S. consulting company said: 

“Analytics requires a mix of skills...those with abilities to frame the problem and drive the thinking, those that can work with the tools and data…and increasingly those that can drive machine learning to accelerate the collection/interpretation process of metadata...visualization also important.  We hire all of those...we covet those that can do all of the above...they are the future leaders” 

For candidates who meet these requirements, the rewards are substantial. The median salary employers will offer Master of Data Analytics graduates this year is US$85,000—second only to median starting salaries offered to MBA graduates (US$105,000). What’s more, the majority of employers (54%) hiring Master of Data Analytics candidates in 2016 plan to offer them a starting salary greater than they offered similar candidates last year. 

For more information on employer demand for graduate business school talent, download the 2016 Corporate Recruiters Survey Report at