Operations research analysts apply advanced analytical techniques to improve decision-making and problem-solving. Operations research has been particularly successful in war planning, and peacetime applications have had much success in industries and occupations. Operations research analysts apply analysis from mathematics, science, and engineering, solving problems and proposing alternatives to management. They may tackle issues as diverse as strategy, planning, forecasting, resource allocation, performance measurement, scheduling, design of production facilities and systems, supply chain management, pricing, transportation and distribution, and the analysis of large databases. Their duties vary according to the structure of their organization. Some organizations have a centralized operations analysis department, while others have operations research analysts in each department. Still others contract services with a consulting firm.
Operations research analysts must have training and experience in computer programming, due to its high level of importance for their positions. They also need to be well-versed in database collection and management, programming, and the development and use of sophisticated software packages.
In 2002, operations research analysts earned a median annual salary of $56,920. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $34,140, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $92,430. The median annual salary for operations research analysts in the Federal government was $83,740.
Training and Education
Employers look for candidates with at least a master’s degree, usually in operations research or a related field, such as computer science, engineering, business, mathematics, information systems, or management science. Some look for candidates with a degree in a quantitative discipline, such as economics, mathematics, or statistics. Employers especially prefer candidates with dual degrees in operations research and computer science. Entry-level analysts assist more experienced analysts, are assigned increasingly complex tasks, and eventually may advance to nontechnical managerial or administrative positions, or become consultants.
In 2002, operations research analysts held about 61,700 jobs. Most worked for telecommunication companies, aerospace manufacturers, computer systems design firms, financial institutions, insurance carriers, engineering and management services firms, and Federal and State governments. A majority of operations research analysts in the Federal government work for the Department of Defense.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of operations research analysts is expected to increase more slowly than the average. However, overall growth in operations research should be average. This will be due to organizations in all sectors of the economy attempting to improve their productivity, effectiveness, and competitiveness. Operations research analysts will be especially necessary to determine how to integrate technology in the most efficient way. Opportunities will be best for those with a master’s or Ph.D. degree in operations research, management science, or a closely related field.