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Salary Outlook for Operations Research Analyst

January 16, 2017 6:33 pm0 commentsViews: 232
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More companies big and small are using ‘big data’ analytics today to mine large amounts of data and find hidden patterns, correlations and other important insights. Essentially, big data business analytics is a set of practices, applications, skills and technologies that investigate and analyze business performance to make better strategic business decisions.

Big data and business analytics helps companies to improve their decisions and profits over time. Consider the following statistics regarding the growth of business analytics:

  • Big data and analytics sales are expected to climb to $187 billion by 2019, which is a 50% increase from 2015.
  • The business analytics software business is going to see nearly 10% growth through 2017, according to the International Data Corporation. Demand for better business analytics solutions from business data professionals is expected to continue.

This growing importance of big data is driving employment for many people in business who have a high level of skill in collecting and interpreting a large amount of data.

For example, one of the most popular and growing career field for business data crunchers is operations business analyst, which will see a stunning 30% increase in job demand by 2024. If you are considering an exciting career in business management, you may want to learn more about what operations research analysts do and how to become one.

Operations Research Analyst Overview

An operations research analyst utilizes advanced analytical and mathematical methods to help companies to solve business problems and make better, more profitable business decisions. Specifically, operations research analysts:

  • Solve practical, real world business problems in logistics, healthcare, business and many other fields.
  • Collect and organize large amounts of data from databases, sales records and customer surveys and questionnaires.
  • Collect data from workers who are involved in many aspects of the business problem, or from others so that they all can work to solve the problem.
  • Examine large amounts of data to determine what is most relevant to the business problem, and determine the best methods to analyze the data.
  • Utilize statistical analysis, predictive modeling and computer simulations to analyze data and develop new solutions.
  • Assemble reports and other documents to detail business analysis findings and make recommendations to managers.

More About What Operations Research Analysts Do

These business professionals work in all aspects of a business’s operations. They have to help managers to determine how to most effectively allocate resources, come up with production schedules, manage the supply chain efficiently, which products to develop in the future, and set up pricing structures.

Tip: If you are interested in a research analyst career more focused on products and marketing, consider a career as a market research analyst. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that this field will see a 19% increase in demand by 2024.

For instance, they may help managers to determine the most profitable ways to set up products in a grocery store, or to help companies to determine the most profitable and efficient ways to ship and distribute their products.

Operations analysts utilize new and complex computer software, including databases and statistical programs, to analyze and solve business problems. These analysts use mathematical programs to run simulations of current and future events, and to evaluate other courses of action.

What Operations Research Professionals Do in the Military

Army

One of the most rapidly growing job markets for operations research is in the US military. Operations research first was used in World War 2 in the US military to help high level decision makers with various analyses that could be used to support ground, air and naval operations.

Operations research has expanded greatly since that time as more advanced computer technology became available. For example in the US army, operations research is used in the operational testing of new weapons and equipment, and to model force on force military conflict simulations.

OR professionals in the army often use statistics, test design techniques, and detailed operations analysis to provide operational assessments of new army weapons and equipment, such as the M1 tank, M2/3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the Global Positioning System.

Navy and Marines

Operations research professionals are used in the Navy and Marines to determine what the costs are to develop, procure, operate and generally support air combat platforms. OR professionals use mathematical models that allow them to run real world combat scenarios to determine how costs may change over time.

Operations Research Analyst Pay

The median pay for all workers in this field in May 2015 was $78,600. The top 10% earned more than $132,000 per year.

The best paid operations research analysts were in the federal government at $108,000 per year, followed by manufacturing at $89,400 per year.

US News and World Report states that this field’s median salary is $81,320.

Operations Research Job Demand

As noted above, job demand in this field will see a 30% surge by 2024, which is much, much faster than average. This is happening because companies are seeing great advances in computer technology, and they are using it to seek better efficiency and cost savings. Plenty of demand should be seen for many years in business planning and decision making in all industries, which rely on business analytics experts to make future plans.

Also, operations research analysts play a growing role in the military and in many areas of federal and state government.

Overall, more companies in most industries are expected to use operations research analysts to help them to convert big data into vital information that managers can use to make better decisions in business.

It is most likely that operations research analysts with the most demand for their skills will hold master’s degrees and Ph.D.s.

How to Become One

The best paying jobs in this field tend to be for people with advanced degrees, but you should be able to get into operations research with a bachelor’s degree. There are few universities today that offer degrees specifically in operations research, so these workers often hold degrees in related fields.

Many operations professionals enter this field with degrees in business, supply chain management, engineering, computer science, statistics, and mathematics. An MBA with a concentration in supply chain management or operations management can also be a good background.

Because this field has so much to do with quantitative analysis, it is recommended to have plenty of coursework in mathematics. You also should have classes in statistics, calculus and algebra.

Courses in computer science is also key because these professionals need to use statistical and database software to both analyze and model relevant business data.

Purdue University reports that potential operations research analysts should pursue degrees in math, operations research if available, computer science, management science, and even physics.

Curriculum Overview for Operations Research

As noted above, there are many potential degree programs that could suffice as a proper background for an operations research career. Columbia University currently offers a unique Master of Science in Operations Research that has six possible concentrations:

Required classes include the following:

  • Optimization Models and Methods
  • Introduction to Probability and Statistics
  • Stochastic Methods
  • Simulation

Summary

Operations research analysts held approximately 91,300 jobs in the US in 2014. The industries with the most workers in this occupation were:

  • Finance and insurance: 26%
  • Scientific and technical services: 23%
  • Manufacturing: 11%
  • Company management: 9%
  • Federal government: 6%

This is a career with very high future demand, and you should be able to find strong job possibilities in most industry sectors. If you are interested in federal government work, consider the US military, either as a service person or contractor. Also, there are strong job opportunities in this field within the Department of Defense, which employs many operations research analysts through consulting companies.