Operations Research Analysts Overview

Employment growth for Operations and Research Analysts is expected to be much faster than average. Employers are looking for applicants who have strong computer and quantitative skills and who have passed advanced math courses. Excellent employment opportunities are expected for those with a masters or Ph.D. degree in operations research or management science, though individuals with a bachelors degree may be able to pursue entry-level positions.

Nature of the Work for Operations Research Analysts

Operations Research Analysts

Operations research analysts apply mathematical modeling methods to interpret information that assists management with policy formation and a variety of managerial functions. They use analytical techniques to help the managers solve problems and make better decisions. First developed by the military, the procedures of operations research has been effectively used in wartime to deploy radar, get supplies to where they are needed and search for enemy submarines. In private enterprises, it is used to plan business ventures and analyze options by using statistical analysis, simulation, data mining, linear programming, computer modeling and other mathematical techniques.

Operations research analysts are employed in almost every industry to help organizations and companies effectively manage materials, money, equipment, time and people. They apply analytical methods from science, mathematics and engineering to help the companies improve efficiency and make better decisions. Using sophisticated software, operations research analysts are able to present the pros and cons of a possible scenario and present solutions to managers who then used the knowledge to make decisions.

Often, operations and research analysts are top-level employees who help measure performance, design production facilities and systems, set prices, manage the supply chain, schedule, analyze large databases or coordinate transportation and distribution.

The responsibilities of an operations research analyst vary depending on the management and structure of the firms where they are employed. In some organizations, they will be assigned to one research department or division. Others work with a management consulting company that complete contract work for a variety of organizations. Analysts who work in these positions often specialize in a specific area, such as finance or transportation.

When analysts work in teams, they start by listening to the managers describe the problems, then ask questions to help them focus their research. Also to aide in their research, analysts break down the problem into several components. They gather information from several sources, which may include talking to engineers about productions levels, examining storage-cost data provided by the accounting department or discussing purchasing arrangmenets with the buyers. Past inventory levels are also helpful statistics they might need. After gathering all the information needed, operations research analysts turn the information into a variety of mathematical models including, linear and nonlinear programming, Monte Carlo simulations, dynamic programming, Markov decision process, decision analysis and the analytic hierarch process. These models help the team effectively analyze the data according to each of the components. Most of the time, computer programs are used to numerically evaluate the model.

Often, the team of analysts will run a variety of different inputs in order to determine the results of each change. They may also need to organize the data to use optimization techniques, which determine the most profit-maximizing or cost-effective solution.

Finally, the operations research analyst will present their findings and suggestions to the manager. In some cases, the manager will request that the model be modified with different inputs before they make their decision. When a manager makes a decision, the team of analysts work with the manager in order to realize these goals.

Operations research analysts usually work the standard 40-hour work week, but some may work longer hours depending on the project they are working on. Most of the work is done from the office, however they may spend time in the field during the analyzing process. They are often under pressure to meet deadlines, as their projects are of immediate importance to top-level executives.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Operations Research Analysts

Many employer prefer applicants with a masters degree in management science, operations research or other closely related field. However, a bachelors degree in combination with rigorous coursework in mathematics and other quantitative subjects usually is the minimum requirement. Employers are especially attracted to those with a dual graduate degree in operations research and computer science. There are operations research degree programs available in colleges and universities across the nation.

Continuing education is important to most employers of operations research analysts. In order to maintain their problem-solving skills, they should remain updated on software tools, technological advances and improvements in any analytical methods.

Strong computer and qualitative skills are among the most important qualities for operations research analysts. They should be able to pay close attention to detail, as analysts spend much time analyzing data. Analysts who know how to use advanced statistical packages and operations research software are most valuable to employers. Programming skills, though not required, may also be helpful on the job.

Operations research analysts must be able have strong interpersonal skills, written and oral communication skills and the ability to think logically.

Analysts who are just beginning, are assigned routine computational work under the direction of experience analysts. They gain more complex assignments as they gain more experience.

Operations research analysts may advance by becoming project team leaders or technical specialists. It is also possible to advance to higher level management or administrative positions, as through their work they gain valuable insight into industry operations. Those with a considerable amount of experience may go on to become independent consultants, while others may move onto become chief operating officers in corporate management.

Top 10 Most Popular Operations Research Schools

1. Cornell University (Ithaca, New York)
2. Columbia University in the City of New York (New York, New York)
3. CUNY York College (Jamaica, New York)
4. University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, California)
5. Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)
6. United States Coast Guard Academy (New London, Connecticut)
7. Air Force Institute of Technology - Graduate School of Engineering & Management (Dayton, Ohio)
8. Georgia Institute of Technology, Main Campus (Atlanta, Georgia)
9. Georgia State University (Atlanta, Georgia)
10. Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas)

See All Operations Research Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Operations Research Analysts

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow much faster than average (increase 20% or more).

Operations research analysts hold about $63,000 jobs. Top industries for analysts include insurance carriers, computer systems design firms, telecommunications companies, technical consulting services firms and management. Many operations research analysts who work in the Federal Government work for the Department of Defense.

Employment of operations research analysts is expected to grow much faster than average, 22 percent, over the next decade. A demand for operations research analysts continues to grow as technology advances and companies further emphasize efficiency. Information is now more readily available due to technological advances, making information more readily available. Solving problems is not cheaper and faster, which allows organizations to have the means to consult or employ with analysts.

Business are constantly having to compete in the domestic and global market and analysts are needed to help maximize efficiency. Companies increasingly rely on operations research analysts to help reduce costs and improve productivity.

Operations research analysts work in almost every industry due to the diverse nature of their work. The best opportunities for research analysts will be seen in scientific, management and technical consulting firms. There will be excellent opportunities for those with a Ph.D. or masters degree in operations research in management science. Competition is expected to be low as operations research analysts are not a particularly well-known field.

In addition to job growth, there will be some openings due to analysts retiring or leaving the occupation permanently.

Earnings and Salary for Operations Research Analysts

The median annual wage of operations research analysts is $70,070. The highest 10 percent earn more than $119,140, while the lowest 10 percent have wages of less than $40,030. The middle 50 percent earns between $51,970 and $94,290. The average annual salary for those working in the Federal Government is $107,198. The median annual wages for an operations research analyst working in scientific, technical or management consulting services is $80,292. Operations research analysts typically receive standard employee benefits such as life and medical insurance and 401(k) programs. They are usually paid on fixed annual salaries with the possibility of bonuses. Tuition reimbursement programs may exist to allow analysts to attend university class.

Annual Salary for Operations Research Analysts

On average, Operations Research Analysts earn $70,070 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $40,030/yr $51,970/yr $94,290/yr $119,140/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook