Be an Operations Research Analyst: Education and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Research the requirements to become an operations research analyst. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in operations research analysis.

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Be an Operations Research Analyst

Operations research analysts use their quantitative reasoning skills and ability to think critically, solve complex problems, and provide solutions. Companies hire operations research analysts to improve their business practices by performing a variety of tasks, such as studying cost effectiveness, labor requirements, product distribution, and other factors involved in their day-to-day operations.

An analyst may be a full-time member of a company's staff or hired just to handle special projects on a contractual basis through consulting firms. Many work hours may be spent sitting at a desk and overtime might sometimes be required.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is standard for entry-level positions; employers may prefer a master's degree
Degree Field Operations research, computer science, management science, mathematics or another related field
Experience Entry-level; college graduates can obtain entry-level jobs and work their way up to higher level positions
Key Skills Strong skills in research and analysis, operations analysis, reasoning, mathematics, critical thinking, deductive problem solving abilities; proficiency with analytical/scientific software, computer aided design software, data base reporting/user interface/query software, development environment software, and object/component development software
Salary (2018) $83,390 per year (Median salary for operations research analysts)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online

This occupation has a relatively straightforward career path.

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

For an entry-level position as an operations research analyst, a minimum of a bachelor's degree, such as the Bachelor of Science in Mathematical Sciences and Operations Science, is required. Those interested in becoming operations research analysts should consider coursework that teaches quantitative analysis and computer sciences. Classes in communications and writing are also valuable because the analyst frequently compiles and delivers reports.

Develop key skills through relevant coursework. Operations research analysts will need logical thinking capabilities. Students can include classes in operations research, statistical analysis, mathematics, and computer science in their elective coursework. Be sure to also include several computer courses such as, but not limited to, Microsoft Visual Basic, C++, and SQL.

Step 2: Earn a Master's Degree

While some employers are willing to accept bachelor's degrees, some employers may require a master's degree. In addition to coursework focusing on operations research analysis, additional fields of study that can enhance the research analyst's desirability include computer science, applied mathematics, and engineering. Because this is a multi-disciplinary career, it is also helpful to have completed courses relating to economics, political science, or advanced research techniques, including quantitative and statistical analysis.

You can get ahead while earning a graduate degree. Consider a dual major concentration. Students who have an interest in a specialized area of operations research analysis can include the necessary curriculum within their degree program. Depending on the industry sector that a student wants to work within after graduation, preparation could include additional studies in the areas of finance, insurance, technology, or science.

Step 3: Find a Job

The U. S. Department of Defense and other government agencies employ operations research analysts. In the private sector, operations research analysts also work at technical and scientific consulting firms. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, although most positions may require a master's degree, a bachelor's degree is sufficient to meet the needs of many employers for an entry-level job as an operations research analyst.

Applicants that are just starting out in the field may initially work with analysts that are experienced and have acquired extensive knowledge and expertise. Over a period of time, as newly hired analysts progress and develop their skills, they are usually provided with more complex projects that require a higher level of proficiency.

Operations research analysts use the interdisciplinary skills and knowledge they gain through bachelor's degree programs in fields like finance or technology. Some employers do prefer candidates with master's degrees. This career typically requires operations research analysts to carry out business-related problem-solving activities for public or private companies or organizations.

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