What Can You Do with an Operations Research Analyst Degree?

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An operations research analyst works with a graph

When looking for opportunities to provide value in a corporate setting, helping an employer succeed and boosting their career prospects, professionals may gravitate toward the most in-demand and influential trends in business. Today, that can often mean working with data and applying analytics principles to deepen decision-making.

Taking on an operations research analyst role allows an individual to put large data sources to practical use, detecting trends and presenting information in a digestible form that assists with problem-solving, building efficiency and planning innovative new strategies.

Becoming such an employee means possessing keen knowledge of the latest technologies and techniques relating to data capture, storage and analysis. These professionals should also possess strong communication skills to express their findings clearly to colleagues, make recommendations to managers and turn data-derived insights into practical action items.

Building this mix of hard and soft skills is complex and often requires focused postsecondary education alongside work experience. A relevant advanced degree could help an operations research analyst not just find a job in the field, but thrive in the role and deliver impactful results.


What Are Operations Research Analysts’ Duties?

Working as an operations research analyst means dealing with advanced data and statistics at every stage of the information’s life cycle. The Bureau of Labor Statistics explained that these professionals have to collect data and organize it. This means both gathering up digital inputs from multiple sources and consulting with subject-matter experts who can help the analyst solve a problem.

Once the data has been collected, it’s up to the operations research analyst to select the best method of parsing the data. Analytics is not a one-size-fits-all discipline, and choosing the proper approach to resolving an issue is almost as important as performing the hard calculations.

Actually performing the necessary analytics may involve advanced statistical modeling and simulation to make predictions. The analysts must be skilled enough to turn these digital methods’ conclusions into actionable suggestions for leaders across the company. These professionals should be able to explain the costs and benefits of various courses of action, and must be prepared to present the benefits of alternative solutions to problems.

To demonstrate the practical effects of this work, U.S. News & World Report pointed out a few notable uses of operations research analysts by major companies. UPS employs these professionals to assist with the successful distribution of packages, even using real-time information to direct every stage of the logistics process. Operations research methods can even improve health care processes, such as at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which employs data modeling for prostate cancer radiation treatments.

Generating these advanced solutions to complex business problems is not typically the kind of work that can be accomplished by individuals working alone, especially because company-wide projects may require input from across disciplines. Accordingly, most analyst work is carried out collaboratively. Analysts work on teams and have to communicate their results to employees from beyond their own functional groups.


What Are the Salary and Hiring Trends for Operations Research Analysts?

Due to the importance of analytical work in today’s companies, salary projections are relatively high for these professionals. The BLS reported that as of 2018, the median salary for the position is $83,390. Depending on the industry, some of these analysts can earn even more, with the federal government having the highest median salary at $113,920. Manufacturing follows in second place at $92,170.

Not only are companies paying their operations analysts well, they are also hiring at an elevated rate. The relative newness of the technologies and analytical skills associated with data use today means demand for trained professionals may greatly exceed supply at the moment. Businesses are hurrying to staff their analytics departments, and roles for these jobs are expected to increase by 26% between 2018 and 2028 according to the BLS. That is far higher than the 5% predicted growth across all positions.

As for the industries most likely to have operations research analyst teams, the BLS data revealed finance and insurance are by far the biggest employers of these professionals. Almost one-third of all operations research analysts (30%) work in finance and insurance, 23% have positions in professional and technical services, and 9% are involved in the management of companies.


How Do Candidates Become Operations Research Analysts?

Getting a role as an operations research analyst means building up a strong resume. Business publication The Balance stated that companies generally prefer to hire applicants who have earned at least a master’s degree. While a bachelor’s degree may suffice for entry-level positions, applicants with a master’s degree in a related subject may find greater success securing these jobs.

The Balance listed a few of the subjects candidates should master as they build relevant experience for operations research analyst roles. These professionals should become skilled in statistics, calculus and linear algebra, due to the complex mathematical demands of advanced data modeling. Political science, engineering and economics may also be highly applicable, depending on what type of work individuals envision themselves performing.

The computing aspects of data analysis may be especially challenging to grasp, because IT is in a constant state of flux and development, with technological advances periodically changing the best practices of the field. The Balance recommended that operations research analysts keep educating themselves on the ins and outs of software and methodology changes to make themselves more valuable to current or potential employers.


Why Should Prospective Operations Research Analysts Study Analytics?

Degree programs such as the online Master of Science in Analytics from Villanova University may be the perfect match for professionals seeking to build a knowledge base they can use in the operations research analyst field. Successful operations research analysts require expertise in many of the disciplines and subject areas taught in this master’s degree program.

Since the online MSA program has been designed specifically with modern companies’ analytics needs in mind, every part of the curriculum relates to relevant and up-to-date scenarios. Students learn how to complete the specific tasks relating to effective data use, from collecting vast reserves of information to organizing that content and performing analysis.

Since all courses are administered online, the program is meant to be taken part-time by professionals already working full-time positions. This means individuals can build work experience while also building abilities targeted at becoming productive members of operations research analyst teams. It’s possible to complete the entire program in 24 months, with classes starting in either the spring or the fall each year.

The hiring trend data shows that companies are in desperate need of more analytical talent to fill out their ranks, and they are bringing new professionals on board at an accelerated rate. They will prioritize hiring people who possess deep knowledge of advanced data use, which is a compelling reason to seek out an operations research analyst degree such as the online MSA.

Just as the role of data analyst within companies has evolved rapidly over the years, degree programs have grown and changed to facilitate the new knowledge and skills these individuals must display. To find out how the online MSA program can help you boost your proficiency in this specialized area, check out the program page.


Recommended Readings:

What can you do with an Online MSA?

Villanova Online MSA- New Technologies


Bureau of Labor Statistics – Operations Research Analysts

The Balance – What Does an Operations Research Analyst Do?

U.S. News & World Report – Operations Research Analyst Overview

Houston Chronicle – How Much Should an Operations Research Analyst Get Paid?