Operations research analysts held about 109,700 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of operations research analysts were as follows:
|Finance and insurance||30%|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||23|
|Management of companies and enterprises||9|
Some 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. Some may spend time in the field to gather information and observe business processes directly. Analysts may also travel in order 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.
Almost all operations research analysts work full time.
Although the typical educational requirement for entry-level positions is a bachelor’s degree, some employers may prefer to hire applicants with a master’s degree. Because few schools offer bachelor’s and advanced degree programs in operations research, analysts typically have degrees in other related fields.
Many entry-level positions are available for those with a bachelor’s degree. However, some employers may prefer to hire applicants with a master’s degree.
Although some schools offer bachelor’s and advanced degree programs in operations research, some analysts have degrees in other technical or quantitative fields, such as engineering, computer science, analytics, or mathematics.
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.
Some operations research analysts are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Certain positions may require applicants to undergo a background check in order to obtain a security clearance.
Operations research analysts typically have an interest in the Thinking, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as an operations research analyst, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Operations research analysts should also possess the following specific 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.
The median annual wage for operations research analysts was $84,810 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $48,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $140,790.
In May 2019, the median annual wages for operations research analysts in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Management of companies and enterprises||87,220|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||86,170|
|Finance and insurance||85,320|
Almost all operations research analysts work full time.
Employment of operations research analysts is projected to grow 26 percent from 2018 to 2028, 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. In addition, increasing demand should occur for analysts in the field of analytics in order to improve business planning and decisionmaking.
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 employ 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. Operations research analysts manage and analyze these data to improve business operations, supply chains, pricing models, and marketing. For example, operations research analysts will be needed to help hospitals and physicians improve the delivery of healthcare.
Operations research analysts will continue to be needed in order to provide support for the Armed Forces and assist in the development and implementation of policies and programs in other areas of government.
Opportunities should be better for those who have a master’s or Ph.D. degree in operations research, management science, or a related field. Applicants with business experience in addition to strong analytical skills will also likely have the best job prospects.
For more information about operations research analysts, visit
Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences
Military Operations Research Society