Operations Research Analyst
An operations research analyst is a mathematical expert who uses his or her knowledge to help businesses and organizations solve problems and make decisions. He or she identifies problems, collects and examines information, gets input from an entity's employees and then uses statistical analysis and simulations to analyze the data and develop solutions. The operations systems analyst will weigh the costs versus the benefits of various solutions before recommending one over another.
In 2012 almost 73,000 people were employed as operations research analysts in the United States. Most worked in the finance and insurance, computer systems design, and manufacturing industries or for the federal government or a state or local government. Operations research analysts who are employed by the US government often work for the Department of Defense. Others work for small consulting firms that are contractors for the Department of Defense.
People in this occupation typically work at least full-time (40 hours per week) but most work longer hours. Operations research analysts work in offices, but also spend time traveling. They work on teams with people from other disciplines. The work is stressful because they have to meet deadlines.
If you want to work in this field you should earn a degree in math, engineering, computer science or physics. While you might be able to get an entry-level job with a bachelor's degree in one of these subjects, most employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a master's degree. Your most relevant coursework will be in statistics, calculus and linear algebra, but supplementing those with political science, engineering and economics classes will be an asset given the interdisciplinary nature of this occupation.
You will also need certain soft skills, or personal qualities, in addition to your technical skills. Strong problem-solving skills will allow you to identify problems and critical thinking skills will let you evaluate the various solutions in order to decide which will work best. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are necessary since you will be expected to work as part of a team. Because you will have to write reports, you will also need good writing skills.
Employment of operations research analysts is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2022.
Operations research analysts earned a median annual salary of $76,660 in 2014.
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A Day in an Operations Research Analyst's Life
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for operations research analyst positions found on Indeed.com:
- Provide research support to project teams on specific topic areas.
- Define, research and analyze the problem to be resolved and recommend a solution detailing the design, cost and resource estimates for complex operations research projects.
- Track, report and analyze key metrics, including inbound and outbound operations, inventory lifecycle, labor management and customer service issues.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of decision support systems.
- Assist with project planning, scheduling, status reporting and project budgets.
- Proactively generate new ideas on analyses and reporting that could provide additional insight into the performance.
- Prepare paperwork, supplies, and equipment for use in the manufacturing environment and analytical laboratory.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Operations Research Analysts.
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Operations Research Analysts.