What Is an Operations Research Analyst?

Operations research analysts work with an organization to help improve its overall business operations. Read on to find out about the specific tasks and responsibilities common to an operations research analyst career, as well as additional information about education requirements and relevant employment statistics. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Operations Research Analysts Overview

Operations research analysts create mathematical models to examine data and help a company's management team function properly. This may include improving efficiency, managing assets, analyzing business options, formulating policies, and making appropriate business decisions. Your specific duties are often determined by the type of company you work for and its administrative structure. Some companies have operations research analysts working in each department, while others have a separate operations research department. You may also work for an operations research consulting company doing contract work for other organizations, though this usually involves specializing in a specific area like finance, inventory, or transportation.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Work Environment Office setting; some fieldwork and travel
Key Skills Math, writing, and analytical skills; ability to think critically and solve problems
Similar Occupations Economist, logistician, mathematician, management analyst
Required Education Many expected a master's, some only want a bachelor's

Job Duties

The first step of commencing a new operations research project involves talking with the company's managers to determine project goals, including identification of any potential problems and finding out any information that may help solve them. You will then divide the problem into its component parts and gather pertinent data related to each component. After that, you will select the analytical method most applicable to the situation, such as a stochastic-process model, a Monte Carlo simulation, or a Markov decision process. You can then use the selected method to analyze the problem and evaluate the possible outcomes of various different solutions, oftentimes using the aid of a computer program.

In the event that there isn't any relevant data available, you'll establish an experimental model for use in decision-making. Finally, you will present your findings and recommendations to the company's management team who may either ask for revisions or choose to implement them, often with your aid and advice.


A bachelor's degree is the minimum education required for some entry-level positions, but many positions require a master's degree or higher. Operations research and management science are two common degree programs for operations research analysts, but a degree in mathematics, business administration, economics, engineering, or computer science also provides adequate education. Your undergraduate studies should include extensive training in economic algorithms and theories, industrial data structures, optimization methods, and administrative decision-making. It may be possible to specialize in industrial, economic, or social decision-making, among other topics.

A graduate program in operations research presents you with a more in-depth examination of deterministic and stochastic methods, mathematical statistics, and linear programming. It may be possible to earn a dual degree in operations research and another field of interest to you, such as business administration, civil engineering, economics, hotel and restaurant management, or mechanical engineering. You could also pursue electives in a particular aspect of operations research, like management, derivatives pricing, or corporate financing.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reported that in 2014, there were 91,300 people employed as operations research analysts. The BLS also reported that their average annual salary was $76,660. However, operations research analysts working in certain industries earned substantially more on average. Those working for communications equipment manufacturers earned $125,390 per year on average, while those working in the federal executive branch of government earned $109,960 per year on average. The BLS also predicted occupational growth of 30% for operations research analysts from 2014-2024.

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