Operations Research Analyst Job Description & Salary
An operations research analyst helps an organization make better decisions based on relevant, available data. Using advanced analytics and mathematics, operations research analysts identify and solve problems through investigations of complex challenges and obstacles.
Many employees in this type of position work in teams with other analysts and organizational leaders. Operations research analysts typically communicate directly with high-level decision makers and focus primarily on optimizing work flow and simplifying organizational procedures.
In addition to private companies, the U.S. military often employs operations research analysts to evaluate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of procedures in order to ensure peak performance.
What Does an Operations Research Analyst Do?
Most operations research analysts work in an office setting. They spend time communicating with organizational stakeholders, including executives and department heads, to stay current on evolving short-term and long-term company goals.
They undertake research and studies that give them the information they need to provide guidance for decision makers. The research can involve most, if not all, aspects of the organization. This might include:
- Resource allocation
- Development of production schedules
- Supply chain management
- Pricing for goods or services
Day-to-day duties often revolve around generating reports, memos and other documents based on their research. The reports reflect the results of information gathered from databases, sales histories, customer feedback and other sources and are presented to executives, managers and other organizational stakeholders.
An operations research analyst’s first responsibility is to identify potential problems that require solutions, or processes that must be made more efficient. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the following daily responsibilities for the typical operations research analyst:
- Identify and solve real-world problems
- Collect, organize and analyze data from a variety of sources
- Interview and survey workers involved with the process or problem under review
- Determine best practices for the method of analysis based on the problem at hand
- Develop practical solutions using statistical analysis, simulations, predictive modeling
- Advise managers and executives on best practices
This position can be found across a broad spectrum of industries, including the military, healthcare, logistics and business. In addition to developing ideas based on research, an operations research analyst might be expected to help implement solutions and measure results.
Job Growth & Salary
Because so many organizations are moving to a data-driven model of decision making, the position of operations research analyst is expected to grow rapidly in the near future. According to the BLS, the position is projected to grow 30% through 2024, much faster than the 7% average projected growth across all industries.
There were approximately 91,300 operations research analysts employed in 2014. That number is projected to increase to 118,900 by 2024.
The BLS reports that positions such as this will continue to be in demand with the U.S. Department of Defense and in other areas of government. Further technological advances also could spur even greater growth for this profession.
The median annual wage for operations research analysts varies widely by industry. According to the BLS, as of May 2016, the median salaries for the position by industry were:
- Federal government – $109,770
- Manufacturing – $90,810
- Professional, scientific, technical services – $83,520
- Management of companies and enterprises – $81,730
- Finance and insurance – $77,630
How to Become an Operations Research Analyst
The BLS recommends candidates for most operations research analyst positions pursue advanced degrees, such as an MBA or a Master of Science in Applied Business Analytics. However, a bachelor’s in business, research, engineering, computer science or another related major might be adequate for some entry-level positions.
No matter how well-positioned a candidate might be based on past academic performance, the BLS also recommends that operations research analysts take part in regular continuing education. This is because of the rapid changes in the field of analytics, advances in software development and improved technology.
Skill sets that should be developed by aspiring operations research analysts include analytical skills, communication skills, critical-thinking skills, interpersonal skills, math skills, problem-solving skills and writing skills.