Operations research analysts find insight in complexity

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In the era of big data, it’s more important than ever for businesses to employ personnel who are capable of using quantitative methods to gain fresh insights into complicated processes. With the right approach, data can be a powerful force to confront tough questions, make decisions and drive growth. Operations research analysts are the data, mathematics and problem-solving experts who find the best means to put those numbers to work, providing valuable insights that guide companies forward.

Professionals who want to make a career in applying data to real-world business initiatives can find a rewarding path as operations research analysts. They gain the necessary skills and experience to take on these jobs by completing an analytics masters degree program. With a thorough understanding of the current thinking and tools in analytics, they are well prepared to take on the challenges and opportunities of a quickly expanding field.

Harnessing data to solve problems

Operations research analysts draw on a variety of quantitative information and techniques, finding ways for an organization to function more efficiently and fulfill its goals. These experts apply their skills to many different areas of an organization and a range of situations, such as setting production schedules, optimizing logistics or shifting the allocation of resources. They help businesses seize chances for growth and make the most of advances in big-data collection and storage.

Analysts identify problems by gathering information from databases and financial records as well as eliciting feedback from the workers or customers involved in particular business processes. They mine stores of data, analyze statistics and create mathematical models to gain a deeper understanding of these issues and find ways to make improvements. Then, they present insights and recommendations to leaders, suggesting next steps for developing more cost-effective, sustainable strategies and processes.

These experts work for a wide variety of organizations, and opportunities continue to emerge at a rapid pace: In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 27 percent growth in operations research analyst positions over the next 10 years. According to the agency, 28 percent of the existing roles were at finance and insurance firms, and another 22 percent at companies offering professional, scientific and technical services. Other common employers for people in this field include enterprise management, manufacturing facilities and the federal government.

The skills to engage with complex operations

Pursuing a career in operations research analysis calls for a diverse set of specialized skills. Individuals who are seeking one of these positions should have an excellent grounding in math, including statistics, calculus and linear algebra. They must be savvy in determining what data is relevant to their organizations and be able to apply math concepts to an array of complicated problems.

Experts should also know how to use software tools to perform quantitative research and interpret their findings. Analysts should be skilled at working through tough business questions by mining data, running simulations and forecasting changes. They benefit from having the programming knowledge to create their own predictive models capable of extrapolating how current issues might play out in the months and years ahead.

In addition to these technical areas, analysts are most effective if they have the strategic awareness to effectively apply the numbers to particular areas of business. They need the soft skills to collaborate with a team on sorting out problems, critically evaluating evidence or potential solutions along the way. Analysts must also be highly effective communicators, getting complicated ideas across to decision-makers through written reports and presentations, conveying actionable intelligence to managers and executives who may have limited technical knowledge.

An education in analytics

For professionals to build the expertise necessary for successful careers as operations research analysts, they need an education in the latest business strategies and analytics technology. Earning a masters in analytics is a means of gaining the combination of technical knowledge, hands-on experience and problem-solving ability they require. They discover robust methods for collecting, manipulating and interpreting quantitative information and applying what they learn to the demands of an organization.

Students in the Villanova School of Business Master of Science in Analytics program get the extensive background it takes to work in operations research. They study analytical methods for data mining, optimization and simulation. In their courses, they have opportunities to study with experts in the field, use advanced statistical programs and work closely with teams on solving real-world problems.

Graduates with a masters in analytics are prepared to capture big-data insights, taking on the complicated questions facing organizations. To learn more and find out how you can apply, visit the program page.

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