Explore your career as an operations research analyst

Do you love data? Do you find it rewarding to submerge yourself in analytics, closely examining information to extract the most relevant and useful facts? Are you looking for a career that focuses on using data to help an organization succeed? If this sounds like you, exploring a career as an operations research analyst might be worthwhile.

Operations research analysts examine trends and provide insights into how proposed business strategies may impact an organization. Tasked with offering innovative interpretations of data, these individuals use data analysis to identify deficiencies in existing processes and offer solutions.

The role can greatly rely on information technology to help solve business problems using mathematical modeling and simulations. This may require operations research analysts to design their own computer programs to address specific problems not already covered by existing software.

To prepare for a career in this complex profession, it’s important to have the right skill set and educational background. A graduate degree, such as an online Master of Science in Business Analytics, could help you demonstrate advanced understanding of the field. Combining thorough data analysis and business intelligence, an online degree program provides the flexibility to learn on your own schedule while preparing you to enter the growing field of business analytics.

A group of operations research analysts meeting to discuss new information

A typical day in the life of an operations research analyst

In the broadest sense, a typical day for an operations research analyst focuses on formulating and applying mathematical modeling and simulation methods to develop and interpret information. The results are then utilized to support company leadership with responsibilities including decision-making, policy formation and establishing managerial functions. Many pieces come together to help achieve this goal, such as:

  • Working directly with executives to identify issues or clarify company objectives
  • Reviewing operations-related trends and research
  • Formulating mathematical models
  • Validating test models
  • Training others on using mathematical models
  • Evaluating data quality
  • Analyzing large sets of data

Once an analysis is complete, operations research analysts prepare reports or briefs to document analytical efforts and present the results to the key stakeholders aiming to resolve the issues at hand. These business challenges can range from how to reduce costs without impacting efficiency to modifying existing processes to meet industry standards.

A closer look at the professional landscape of an operations research analyst

Most operations research analysts have a master’s degree, which is usually preferred by hiring managers. Certifications can also be important for operations research analysts. Various certification options may be available based on your industry.  Furthermore, it’s important to continue learning throughout your career to keep up with advances in technology, software tools and analytical methods.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this field is projected to grow 27 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is much higher than the national average for all occupations. Associate Professor Pei-yu Chen at Arizona State University explains that growth in data analytics positions may be a result of there being, “too much data out there. It has created a demand for people who can process and digest large quantities of information.”

Also potentially impacting demand are advances in technology as well as company goals to improve efficiency and reduce costs. According to the BLS, more businesses are looking to employ operations research analysts to help them turn data into valuable information that can be used by management to influence a range of decisions.

The BLS reports the median salary for an operations research analyst position is $79,000.

Operations research analyst exhibiting advanced mathematical and analytical skills on her computer

Becoming an operations research analyst

As an operations research analyst, you must be able to exhibit advanced mathematical and analytical skills. You’ll need to demonstrate an understanding of a wide range of methods like forecasting, data mining and statistical analysis. Computer programming comprehension will help in selecting the appropriate software packages and programming languages to use for designing and developing models. Such models are firmly rooted in mathematics, specifically statistics, calculus or linear algebra, among other disciplines.

Building on this foundation of mathematical, technical and analytical skills, operations research analysts should also have strong communication. They must be able to use interpersonal skills to collaborate with, present to and persuade company decision makers to accept their recommendations.

Finally, operations research analysts should possess critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These skills are useful when diagnosing and solving issues within an organization.

Learn more about your potential career as an operations research analyst

If you have a passion for data, you might want to consider a career as an operations research analyst. Earning the right degree can be a good place to start. The online Master of Science in Business Analytics from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University can help you develop the skills to analyze large volumes of data. By teaching students to derive value from data, manage data-driven analyses and create business advantages across markets and industries, the MS in Business Analytics can help professionals succeed in a market where demand for analytics experts is on the rise.


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