Data is one of a business’s most valuable assets and available at a staggering volume. According to research by Forbes, 95 percent of businesses report having to make sense of unstructured data. Moreover, the amount of available data is predicted to increase in the coming years: By 2025, more than 150 trillion gigabytes of unstructured data will need to be organized, cleaned, and analyzed.

One way to capitalize on your organization’s data, prepare for what’s to come, and strengthen your skills is to take a business analytics course.

Business analytics is the process of using quantitative data to glean information that drives business decisions. By analyzing data, you can answer questions about relationships between two or more variables, identify trends, predict future events and behaviors, and take action based on your findings.

Selecting a business analytics course can be challenging given the number of factors you need to consider and your available options. Taking a course that doesn’t align with your needs may cost you time, effort, money, and patience. Here’s a breakdown of how to find the best fit for you.

Related: Business Analytics: What It Is & Why It’s Important

Selecting a Business Analytics Course

With so many business analytics course options, it’s important to take the time to find the best fit. Here are several factors to consider and questions to ask during your selection process.

Logistical Needs

The first step in choosing a course is to determine your logistical needs. These include the when, where, and how of your course commitment.

Ask yourself:

When is the course taught, and when do I have time to take it?

Everyone’s schedule and situation are unique. If you’re currently a student or work in shifts, you may be able to take a course while fulfilling your daily personal and professional responsibilities.

If you have a full-time job during the day, are the primary caregiver for children or other family members, or have other standing daytime commitments, your only option may be to take a course at night, in the early mornings, or on a sporadic schedule.

Consider the blocks of time you can dedicate to learning, the amount of course material you’re able to take on weekly, and how much flexibility you need.

An asynchronous option can be practical if other commitments require your attention most of the day, allowing you to learn whenever is best for you.

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Where is the course taught, and can I get there?

If the course is taught in person, make sure it’s accessible to you. How far away is the building? Can you reliably arrive to class on time? Will you drive, walk, or take public transportation?

If transportation is a roadblock to your learning, consider an online course, which can allow you to get quality education from anywhere with internet access.

How much does the course cost, and how do I plan to pay for it?

Just as schedules are unique to each person, so are budgets. Assess how much you’re able and willing to spend on your business analytics course, keeping in mind that financial aid may be an option. There are also free courses if your budget is tight.

If you’re currently employed, ask your manager if your company can sponsor your education. Explain that the course is a professional development opportunity and can generate a return on investment (ROI). Business analytics is a crucial skill when making data-driven decisions, so your employer may decide to pay for the course knowing you’ll add value to the organization.

Related: 9 Tips for Taking Online Courses While Working Full-Time

Learning Style and Preferences

Although not as pressing as logistical needs, your learning style and preferences factor into your course experience. This encompasses the who of your course commitment; in other words, what personal characteristics and preferences matter in your selection?

Ask yourself:

Do I learn best in a classroom setting?

You know which environment you learn best in. Maybe you feel most engaged when physically in a classroom with your professor and fellow learners, or maybe you retain more when you’re able to log in from the comfort of your home.

Do I learn best in a collaborative environment?

Are you an independent learner, or do you benefit from engaging with others? Some courses are designed with social interaction in mind. For instance, they might offer groups like the Harvard Business School Online Community, which enables you to create lasting connections through collaborative projects, discussion boards, and networking opportunities.

Hearing others’ perspectives, opinions, and questions may help you as you take your course. If this is important to you, prioritize it in your search.

Do I have any accessibility needs that require accommodation?

If you require specific accommodations for accessibility needs, make sure the course you select can meet them. If the course is taught in person, connect with the professor beforehand to ensure they can provide the high-quality learning experience you deserve.

If the course is online, there may be accessibility features built into the platform, such as closed captioning on videos, screen reader compatibility, and font size adjustments. If the course is taught asynchronously, you can learn the material at your own pace. As with an in-person course, reach out to the course provider to ensure they can meet your needs.

Who would I like to be taught by?

With so many options for business analytics courses, you have the chance to be taught by some of the field's brightest minds. When researching courses, look up the professors to learn about their backgrounds and specialties. Perhaps they’ve researched the area you’re looking to grow in. This information can help you decide who you’d like to learn from and what questions you may have for them.

Related: What Is Data Science? 5 Applications in Business

Current Skills and Organizational Needs

Finally, consider your current skills and organization’s needs to determine what you’re hoping to learn from your analytics course.

Ask yourself:

What does my current skill set look like?

Assessing your current knowledge of business analytics can enable you to identify areas for growth. Maybe you’re a true beginner and looking for a code-free introduction to data. Maybe you’re a bit more advanced and would like to learn about machine learning, data governance, and complex forms of business analysis. Maybe you’re ready for hands-on instruction that will have you elbows-deep in an Excel spreadsheet.

By reflecting on your abilities, you can select a course that helps strengthen your weaker areas.

What specific skills am I looking to learn, and what skills would benefit my organization most?

In your reflection, also consider what skills you’d like to see in the course curriculum and would most benefit your organization.

For example, Anna Ngarachu took the online course Business Analytics as part of the HBS Online Credential of Readiness (CORe) program to prepare for a new position, knowing she’d need to analyze data in Excel.

“The Excel skills I learned from Business Analytics have become useful as I started working as a data analyst for an economic research firm,” Ngarachu says. “The techniques I learned make it easier to comprehend the more complex functions. In addition, the integrated learning I took from the course’s case studies allows me to apply ‘total analysis’ in my everyday work and assessments, which is, in fact, the core business of my company.”

Why do I want to take a business analytics course?

It’s important to understand and acknowledge why you’re planning to take a business analytics course so you can select one that fulfills that motivation.

Perhaps it’s to improve professionally and bolster your resume. Maybe it’s because a specific need for data analytics has come up at your organization and you’re determined to fill it. Maybe you want to back your decisions with insights from data you analyzed yourself. Whatever your why is, remember it as you select your business analytics course.

Building Your Analytical Skill Set

Once you’ve considered each of these factors, determine which course fits all—or most of—your needs. Choosing a course that aligns with your schedule, budget, learning style, preferences, skill level, and aspirations can enable you to commit to and gain the most from your coursework.

You should feel confident in your business analytics course selection—it’s not only an investment in yourself and your career, but your organization.

Do you want to harness the power of data at your organization? Explore our online analytics courses and find the best fit for you.

Catherine Cote

About the Author

Catherine Cote is a marketing coordinator at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to joining HBS Online, she worked at an early-stage SaaS startup where she found her passion for writing content, and at a digital consulting agency, where she specialized in SEO. Catherine holds a B.A. from Holy Cross, where she studied psychology, education, and Mandarin Chinese. When not at work, you can find her hiking, performing or watching theatre, or hunting for the best burger in Boston.