Operations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical methods to help organizations solve problems and make better decisions.

Duties

Operations research analysts typically do the following:

  • Identify and solve problems in areas such as business, logistics, healthcare, or other fields
  • Collect and organize information from a variety of sources, such as computer databases, sales histories, and customer feedback
  • Gather input from workers involved in all aspects of a problem or from others who have specialized knowledge, so that they can help solve the problem
  • Examine information to figure out what is relevant to a problem and what methods might be used to analyze it
  • Use statistical analysis, simulations, predictive modeling, or other methods to analyze information and develop practical solutions to business problems
  • Advise managers and other decisionmakers on the effects of various courses of action to take in order to address a problem
  • Write memos, reports, and other documents explaining their findings and recommendations for managers, executives, and other officials

Operations research analysts are involved in all aspects of an organization. They help managers decide how to allocate resources, develop production schedules, manage the supply chain, and set prices. For example, they may help decide how to organize products in supermarkets or help companies figure out the most effective way to ship and distribute products.

Analysts must first identify and understand the problem to be solved or the processes to be improved. Analysts typically collect relevant data from the field and interview clients or managers involved in the business processes being examined. Analysts show the implications of pursuing different actions and may assist in achieving a consensus on how to proceed.

Operations research analysts use sophisticated computer software, such as databases and statistical packages, to analyze and solve problems. Analysts use statistical software to simulate current and future events and evaluate alternative courses of action. Analysts break down problems into their various parts and analyze the effect that different changes and circumstances would have on each of these parts. For example, to help an airline schedule flights and decide what to charge for tickets, analysts may take into account the cities that have to be connected, the amount of fuel required to fly those routes, the expected number of passengers, pilots’ schedules, maintenance costs, and fuel prices.

There is no one way to solve a problem, and analysts must weigh the costs and benefits of alternative solutions or approaches in their recommendations to managers.

Because problems are complex and often require expertise from many disciplines, most analysts work on teams. Once a manager reaches a final decision, these teams may work with others in the organization to ensure that the plan is successful.

Is This the Right Career for You?

Not sure how to choose the best career for you? Now, you can predict which career will satisfy you in the long term by taking a scientifically validated career test. Gain the clarity and confidence that comes from understanding your strengths, talents, and preferences, and knowing which path is truly right for you.

Take The Test

 

 

 

 

 

Work Environment

Operations research analysts held about 109,700 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of operations research analysts were as follows:

Finance and insurance 30%
Professional, scientific, and technical services                           23
Management of companies and enterprises 9
Manufacturing 6
Federal government 5

Some operations research analysts in the federal government work for the Department of Defense, which also employs a large number of analysts through private consulting firms.

Operations research analysts spend most of their time in offices. Some may spend time in the field to gather information and observe business processes directly. Analysts may also travel in order to work with clients and company executives and to attend conferences.

Because problems are complex and often require expertise from many disciplines, most analysts work on teams.

Work Schedules

Almost all operations research analysts work full time.

Education and Training

Although the typical educational requirement for entry-level positions is a bachelor’s degree, some employers may prefer to hire applicants with a master’s degree. Because few schools offer bachelor’s and advanced degree programs in operations research, analysts typically have degrees in other related fields.

Education

Many entry-level positions are available for those with a bachelor’s degree. However, some employers may prefer to hire applicants with a master’s degree.

Although some schools offer bachelor’s and advanced degree programs in operations research, some analysts have degrees in other technical or quantitative fields, such as engineering, computer science, analytics, or mathematics.

Because operations research is based on quantitative analysis, students need extensive coursework in mathematics. Courses include statistics, calculus, and linear algebra. Coursework in computer science is important because analysts rely on advanced statistical and database software to analyze and model data. Courses in other areas, such as engineering, economics, and political science, are useful because operations research is a multidisciplinary field with a wide variety of applications.

Continuing education is important for operations research analysts. Keeping up with advances in technology, software tools, and improved analytical methods is vital.

Other Experience

Some operations research analysts are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Certain positions may require applicants to undergo a background check in order to obtain a security clearance.

Personality and Interests

Operations research analysts typically have an interest in the Thinking, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as an operations research analyst, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Operations research analysts should also possess the following specific qualities:

Analytical skills. Operations research analysts use a wide range of methods, such as forecasting, data mining, and statistical analysis, to examine and interpret data.

Communication skills. Operations research analysts need to be able to gather information, which includes interviewing people and listening carefully to the answers. They also need to communicate technical information to people who do not have a technical background.

Critical-thinking skills. Operations research analysts must be able to figure out what information is relevant to their work. They also must be able to evaluate the costs and benefits of alternative solutions before making a recommendation.

Ingenuity. Solutions to operations problems are not usually obvious, and analysts need to be able to think creatively to solve problems.

Interpersonal skills. Operations research analysts typically work on teams. They also need to be able to convince managers and top executives to accept their recommendations.

Math skills. The models and methods used by operations research analysts are rooted in statistics, calculus, linear algebra, and other advanced mathematical disciplines.

Problem-solving skills. Operations research analysts need to be able to diagnose problems on the basis of information given to them by others. They then analyze relevant information to solve the problems.

Writing skills. Operations research analysts write memos, reports, and other documents outlining their findings and recommendations for managers, executives, and other officials.

Pay

The median annual wage for operations research analysts was $84,810 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $48,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $140,790.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for operations research analysts in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government $113,940
Manufacturing 92,320
Management of companies and enterprises 87,220
Professional, scientific, and technical services                                  86,170
Finance and insurance 85,320

Almost all operations research analysts work full time.

Job Outlook

Employment of operations research analysts is projected to grow 26 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. As technology advances and companies seek efficiency and cost savings, demand for operations research analysis should continue to grow. In addition, increasing demand should occur for analysts in the field of analytics in order to improve business planning and decisionmaking.

Technological advances have made it faster and easier for organizations to get data. In addition, improvements in analytical software have made operations research more affordable and more applicable to a wider range of areas. More companies are expected to employ operations research analysts to help them turn data into valuable information that managers can use in order to make better decisions in all aspects of their business. Operations research analysts manage and analyze these data to improve business operations, supply chains, pricing models, and marketing. For example, operations research analysts will be needed to help hospitals and physicians improve the delivery of healthcare.

Operations research analysts will continue to be needed in order to provide support for the Armed Forces and assist in the development and implementation of policies and programs in other areas of government.

Job Prospects

Opportunities should be better for those who have a master’s or Ph.D. degree in operations research, management science, or a related field. Applicants with business experience in addition to strong analytical skills will also likely have the best job prospects.

For More Information

For more information about operations research analysts, visit

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences

Military Operations Research Society

 

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

I would like to cite this page for a report. Who is the author?

There is no published author for this page. Please use citation guidelines for webpages without an author available. 

I think I have found an error or inaccurate information on this page. Who should I contact?

This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at help@truity.com.

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

Find Jobs Near You