Operations Research Analysts

Summary

operations research analysts image
Operations research analysts use statistical analysis and simulations to analyze and solve business problems.
Quick Facts: Operations Research Analysts
2012 Median Pay $72,100 per year
$34.66 per hour
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 73,200
Job Outlook, 2012-22 27% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 19,500

What Operations Research Analysts Do

Operations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical methods to help organizations investigate complex issues, identify and solve problems, and make better decisions.

Work Environment

Operations research analysts spend most of their time in offices. Almost all operations research analysts work full time.

How to Become an Operations Research Analyst

Although some employers prefer to hire applicants with a master’s degree or PhDs, many entry-level positions are available for those with a bachelor’s degree. Since few schools offer bachelor’s or advanced degree programs in operations research, analysts typically have degrees in other quantitative fields, such as computer science, industrial engineering, or mathematics.

Pay

The median annual wage for operations research analysts was $72,100 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of operations research analysts is projected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022, 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.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of operations research analysts with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about operations research analysts by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Operations Research Analysts Do About this section

Operations research analysts
Operations research analysts advise managers and other decision makers on the appropriate course of action to solve a problem.

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 define business problems, such as those in production, logistics, or sales
  • Collect and organize information from a variety of sources, such as computer databases
  • Gather input from workers involved in all aspects of the 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 the problem and what methods should be used to analyze it
  • Use statistical analysis or simulations to analyze information and develop practical solutions to business problems
  • Advise managers and other decision makers on the impacts of various courses of action to take in order to address a problem
  • Write memos, reports, and other documents, outlining 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. 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 programs, and modeling packages, to analyze and solve problems. 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.

Work Environment About this section

Operations research analysts
Operations research analysts typically work in an office setting.

Operations research analysts held about 73,200 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most operations research analysts in 2012 were as follows: 

Finance and insurance25%
Computer systems design and related services10
Manufacturing8
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals8
Management of companies and enterprises8

Most 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. Many also spend some time in the field, gathering information and analyzing processes through direct observation. Analysts may travel 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. Once a manager reaches a final decision, these teams may work with others in the organization to ensure that the plan is successful. Because they work on projects that are of immediate interest to top managers, operations research analysts often are under pressure to meet deadlines.

Work Schedules

Almost all operations research analysts work full time. About 1 in 5 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.

How to Become an Operations Research Analyst About this section

Operations research analysts
Operations research analysts identify and define business problems, such as those in production, logistics, or sales.

Applicants need a master’s degree for most operations research positions, but a bachelor’s degree is enough for many entry-level positions. Since few schools offer bachelor’s and advanced degree programs in operations research, analysts typically have degrees in other related fields.

Education

Although some employers prefer to hire applicants with a master’s degree, many entry-level positions are available for those with a bachelor’s degree. Although some schools offer bachelor’s and advanced degree programs in operations research, many analysts typically have degrees in other technical or quantitative fields, such as engineering, computer science, mathematics, or physics.

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

Many operations research analysts who work with the military are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.                                   

Important 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 About this section

Operations Research Analysts

Median annual wages, May 2012

Computer and mathematical occupations

$76,270

Operations research analysts

$72,100

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for operations research analysts was $72,100 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half of the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,550, and the top 10 percent earned more than $129,490.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for operations research analysts in the top five industries in which these analysts worked were as follows:

Manufacturing$79,630
Computer systems design and related services74,490
Management of companies and enterprises72,630
Finance and insurance67,480
State and local government, excluding education
and hospitals
56,670

Almost all operations research analysts work full time. About 1 in 5 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.

Job Outlook About this section

Operations Research Analysts

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Operations research analysts

27%

Computer and mathematical occupations

18%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of operations research analysts is projected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022, 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.

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

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 use 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. For example, operations research analysts will be needed to help businesses improve their manufacturing operations and logistics.

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.

Employment projections data for operations research analysts, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Operations research analysts

15-2031 73,200 92,700 27 19,500 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of operations research analysts.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Economists

Economists

Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.

Master’s degree $91,860
Industrial engineers

Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient ways to use workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

Bachelor’s degree $78,860
Logisticians

Logisticians

Logisticians analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain—the system that moves a product from supplier to consumer. They manage the entire life cycle of a product, which includes how a product is acquired, distributed, allocated, and delivered.

Bachelor’s degree $72,780
Management analysts

Management Analysts

Management analysts, often called management consultants, propose ways to improve an organization's efficiency. They advise managers on how to make organizations more profitable through reduced costs and increased revenues.

Bachelor’s degree $78,600
Market research analysts

Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts study market conditions to examine potential sales of a product or service. They help companies understand what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price.

Bachelor’s degree $60,300
Mathematicians

Mathematicians

Mathematicians use advanced mathematics to develop and understand mathematical principles, analyze data, and solve real-world problems.

Master’s degree $101,360
Software developers

Software Developers

Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or other device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or control networks.

Bachelor’s degree $93,350
Statisticians

Statisticians

Statisticians use statistical methods to collect and analyze data and help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, the sciences, or other fields.

Master’s degree $75,560
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Operations Research Analysts,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/operations-research-analysts.htm (visited April 23, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014