How to Become an Operations Research Analyst

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What do Operations Research Analysts Do?

Operations research analysts help businesses solve problems and reach their goals. They do this through math and analytical methods. For starters, analysts gather info from sources like customers or sales records. Then, they use that data to suggest a course of action to improve sales. This action could mean anything from changing prices to arranging products.

Analysts could work in many industries. A few are logistics, healthcare, and manufacturing. The biggest employer of analysts are finance and insurance companies. No matter where analysts work, this role is growing. Operations research analyst jobs should increase 26% between 2018 and 2028. That’s much faster than average.

Much of this growth is due to advances in technology. It’s now much easier for businesses to collect data. Which helps lead companies to improve sales, operations, and cost efficiency. Analysts are the key link between raw data and insights that could help companies run better. That explains the demand for their services, plus their salary potential.

5 Key Skills for Operations Research Analyst

Operations research analysts may learn skills in college. While degree paths vary, future analysts take a lot of math courses. Some analysts are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. So, they may learn certain skills while in the military.

  1. Data analysis: This is the process of finding useful info in data sets. Different tools and methods make this possible. Some are data mining, visualization, and modeling.
  2. Research analysis: Analyzing info is a key part of research. This skill draws on the same tools and methods as data analysis. You could use these methods when doing research in your industry.
  3. Microsoft Excel: Microsoft Excel is a software program for making spreadsheets. The program stores and sorts data. Tools in Excel help you work with and visualize info.
  4. Data Modeling: Data modeling is a way of planning or showing how to use data. By creating a model, you can see how data stores and used.
  5. Simulation: A simulation imitates a process or system. You could create a computer simulation that shows how something works. This is one way to plan before making or doing something.

How Do I Become an Operations Research Analyst?

Operations research analysts must earn at least a Bachelor’s degree. But, some employers want them to earn a Master’s degree.

Since there are few Bachelor’s degree programs in operations research, most analysts study something else. This should be a related field. Common programs include engineering, computer science, business, and math.

There are few Bachelor’s degree programs in operations research, so degrees vary. But, these programs should be in a related field. Common programs include engineering, computer science, business, and math.

No matter which program you choose, you’ll need to take a lot of math courses. Classes in statistics, calculus, algebra, and computer science should help. Also keep in mind that many industries rely on operations research. Courses in areas like engineering or economics could help you in the specific field you’d like to work in.

Finally, military experience may be useful. Operations research is important to the government and armed forces. So, veterans sometimes pursue this career path. For some roles, you may need a background check and security clearance.

What Degree Should I Earn to Become an Operations Research Analyst?

Operations research analysts could choose from a few degree paths. Only some colleges and universities offer operations research programs. But, analysts could earn a related degree instead. Let’s go over some possible options:

  • Bachelor’s in Operations Research: This program covers quantitative problem solving. You’ll learn to model data, plus use math and computer science to solve challenges. Some programs focus on fields like management, engineering, and more. You may find programs like:
    • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Operations Research and Management Science
    • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Operations Research
    • S. in Operations Research and Engineering
  • Bachelor’s in Computer Science: Computer science covers how to use computers and networks. You could study everything from computer architecture to programming. And, you could learn how to use technology to work with data and solve problems. That’s key for operations research analysts.
  • Bachelor’s in Business Analytics: Business analytics covers the use of big data in business. Big data is a term for massive data sets. Experts can use mining, programming, and analytics to draw insights from data. A business analytics degree program teaches these methods.
  • Bachelor’s in Mathematics: A math program may cover what’s called pure mathematics. That includes subjects like algebra, geometry, and analysis. The program could also cover applied math. That includes areas like computer science and physics. You may find paths like:
    • BA in Mathematics: This program may offer more flexibility for electives. This could leave you room for courses like computer science and statistics.
    • BS in Mathematics: The BS could help you prepare for graduate math programs. It could lay the groundwork for advanced study, like solving proofs. Since it’s more focused, there are fewer chances to take electives.
  • Bachelor’s in Engineering: This program covers how to design and develop solutions. That could be anything from highways and bridges to software programs. It depends on your engineering specialty. In any case, you’ll take many math and science courses. These topics are useful for operations research analysts.

Some employers look for analysts with a Master’s degree. Again, your degree could be in any number of areas. You could study math, computer science, business intelligence, or something else. But, some schools offer graduate programs in operations research.

A Master’s in Operations Research program covers the skills to solve problems using data. You’ll study areas like math programming, stochastic models, and simulation. Some programs offer concentrations. These could be in areas like healthcare, logistics, and finance. So, you could study topics specific to your industry.

Working as an Operations Research Analyst

California employs the most operations research analysts, with over 11,300 roles. It’s followed closely by Texas, Virginia, New York, and Illinois.

These and other states are home to companies in many industries that need analysts. These include government and defense contractors. Northrop Grumman is a major employer in this arena. As an aerospace and defense technology company, they often hire analysts. American Systems is another government services contractor that employs analysts. They offer IT and engineering solutions. Companies like these directly serve the government and military. So, you may need security clearance to work for them.

Internet companies also need analysts. Facebook is no exception. This company hires experts who can use data to improve processes. The ecommerce marketplace Amazon may hire operations research analysts for other reasons. These could include routing delivery trucks to optimize efficiency.

The finance and insurance industry is also one to watch. For instance, companies like Invesco often hire analysts. This independent investment management company needs experts to interpret financial data. This informs risk management and investment strategy. The same is true for banks like JPMorgan Chase. Not to mention, financial services companies like American Express.

Operations research analysts could even work in the research industry. Yes, some companies build around the work of research analysts! This is true of Forrester Research, a market research company. Forrester needs analysts to help turn data into insights.

Many other companies hire operations research analysts. But, these employers could be a good starting point as you explore possible career paths.

Top Industries for Operations Research Analysts

Operations research analysts could work in any industry that needs to turn data into solutions. That said, some industries are more likely to need analysts. These are:

IndustryAnnual Mean Wage
Federal government$113,920
Manufacturing$92,170
Professional, scientific, and technical services$86,720
Management of companies and enterprises$85,250
Finance and insurance$82,340

Professional Certifications for Operations Research Analysts

Operations research analysts may have their pick of skill based certifications to earn. These could help prove your expertise in anything from analytics to modeling. Here are some to check out:

Certified Analytics Professional

Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) tests and proves your analytics skills. It covers areas like data, model building, and business problem framing. Some employers may look for pros who have earned CAP certification. To get started, you should:

  • You could take a CAP prep course. Or, you can study on your own, using CAP guides and materials.
  • You must create a MYCAP account and apply. You’ll need to meet education and soft skills requirements.
  • Pass the exam. You must take a computer-based exam that tests your knowledge of key subjects.
  • CAP must renew every three years. You will need to complete professional development units.

IWLA Certification Programs

Operations research pros who work in logistics should consider these certification programs. IWLA offers them at different career levels. These include:

  • Qualified Warehouse Logistics Professional (QWLP): This credential is for entry level logistics pros. You must attend two IWLA courses in warehousing.
  • Certified Warehouse Logistics Professional (CWLP): This is the next step after QWLP. You must complete many IWLA courses and events, among other requirements. And, you must have two years of experience in warehousing or logistics.
  • Executive Warehouse Logistics Professional (EWLP): This is the most advanced cert. You must have at least an officer level role with your employer. And, you must serve in many roles, including chair or co-chair of an IWLA committee. Other requirements apply.

IBM Certification Programs

IBM offers many credentials related to its products. A lot of them could be useful for operations research analysts. Some to consider are:

Professional Organizations for Operations Research Analysts

Joining a group offers potential benefits for operations research analysts. These include chances to learn, grow your career, and meet others in your field. Here are a few orgs to consider:

  • INFORMS. This is the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. Joining comes with many resources, like education programs and chances to network. INFORMS also offers the CAP certification. A regular membership costs $160 per year. Students can join for $39.
  • MORS. This is the Military Operations Research Society. It serves a range of experts, like defense analysts and researchers. If that’s your field of operations research, consider MORS. Member benefits include discounts, networking, and resume posting. Regular membership is $100 for one year, $35 for students.
  • ACSM. This is the Association for Supply Chain Management. The group supports pros in this field. That may include operations research analysts who specialize in supply chains. Member benefits include learning, career resources, and networking. CORE membership is $180.
  • Academy of Management. This global group is all about management and organization research. It brings together many resources for learning and building a career. Members can also join more specialized sub groups. There’s one on operations and supply chains. Academics and executives pay $182 in dues. Students pay $91.

Top Salaries by State for Operations Research Analysts

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
District of Columbia870$109,400
New Jersey3,000$106,820
Virginia9,100$104,980
New York5,790$102,560
Hawaii150$102,270

Types of Careers in Operation Research Analytics

Market Research Analyst

Market research analysts survey market conditions. They use their insights to figure out what products people want and how much they will pay. This involves looking at sales and consumer trends. Analysts also look at competitors and other factors of a given market. They use statistical software to analyze data plan next steps.

Median Salary: $63,120 per year

Job Growth Through 2028: 20% (Much faster than average)

Common Entry level Education: Bachelor’s degree

Logistician

Logisticians are key to a company’s supply chains. They both analyze and coordinate the movement of products from suppliers to purchasers. Since logisticians manage a product’s life cycle, they have duties at all phases. They may play a role in everything from a product’s design to its disposal.

Median Salary: $74,600 per year

Job Growth Through 2028: 5% (As fast as average)

Common Entry-level Education: Bachelor’s degree

Management Analyst

Management analysts help improve how businesses run. They gather info on how a company works, and what challenges it has. That means looking at factors ranging from efficiency to profit. They consider data such as financial records and even personnel interviews. Then, they suggest solutions to managers. Management analysts may specialize in a particular industry, like healthcare.

Median Salary: $83,610 per year

Job Growth Through 2028: 14% (Much faster than average)

Common Entry-level Education: Bachelor’s degree

Statistician

Statisticians use math and statistics to solve problems. These could be in areas like business, engineering, and healthcare. First of all, these pros figure out what data they need to solve a given problem. They design ways to collect data, like surveys. Then, they use mathematical or statistical models to gain insights. They apply these insights to real world challenges.

Median Salary: $88,190 per year

Job Growth Through 2028: 30% (Much faster than average)

Common Entry-level Education: Master’s degree

Economist

Economists study, research, and try to solve economic issues. These include challenges related to making and distributing resources, goods, and services. Economists tackle these problems by gathering and analyzing data. They use this data to draw conclusions and make predictions about the market. These insights can help inform businesses and governments.

Median Salary: $104,340 per year

Job Growth Through 2028: 8% (Faster than average)

Common Entry-level Education: Master’s degree

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Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.