How To Become An Operations Research Analyst

If you want to choose a career that offers ample earning potential, interesting work and growing demand from employers, operations research analysis is one of the fields to consider. Demand for operations research analysts is growing at an astounding rate of 27 percent. US employers are expected to add another 31,300 operations research analyst jobs to the US economy by the year 2026 – and they’re paying these analysts an average of $81,390 per year. Analysts who work for the federal government, on average, are earning even more, with median annual pay checks of $111,570. The highest paid operations research analysts are earning upwards of $134,470.

Work Environment

To earn these paychecks, operations research analysts spend most of their days doing intellectually stimulating work in office environments. Sometimes they need to travel to meet with stakeholders in other locations; but more frequently, they focus on talking to local colleagues and identifying data sources that are helpful for solving their employers’ problems. They also figure out ways of collecting and compiling the data, organizing it and extracting useful information from it. Typical daily activities include crunching numbers, analyzing sales data, coding and applying mathematical modelling technologies to solve problems on behalf of their hiring organizations.

So how do you become an operations research analyst?

Academic Credentials Necessary for Becoming an Operations Research Analyst

The first step, according to the career experts at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is to earn your bachelor’s degree. This career path requires expertise in quantitative analysis. If you haven’t already completed an undergraduate degree program, you’ll want to load up on classes in mathematics, statistics and computer programming. Linear algebra, calculus, probability, statistics and Python programming are all excellent courses to enroll in. 

If you’ve already graduated from college, but you haven’t taken these courses, you can teach yourself these skills by choosing to complete related MOOCs (massive open online courses) or reading relevant books.

Keep in mind that this career choice will obligate you to keep pace with changing technologies – so you will have to get comfortable with ongoing training or self teaching. It is the nature of operations research.

To be considered for the best jobs in operations research, you’re also likely to need to earn your master’s degree, according to US News. There are few degree programs specifically intended for operations research analysis; so consider relevant degrees such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Ideally, you’ll want to choose a degree program with a curriculum that is specifically focused on teaching you the principles of data-driven decision making. An example would be the online MBA offered by James Cook University. Other options for relevant master’s degrees would be Master of Computer Science (MCS), Master of Science in Management Science - Business Analytics (MSMS-BA) or Master of Applied Statistics (MAS).

Other Requirements

Some operations management jobs will require you to pass a background check and possibly even obtain security clearance.

To impress prospective employers, you may need to prove that you’ve actually solved some real-world problems of the type the hiring organization is facing. If you’re planning to enroll in a graduate degree program, you’ll want to choose one that requires a capstone project working with industry professionals to solve a pressing industry problem. If that isn’t something you’re prepared to do, another option would be to complete an internship. US News reports that graduate degrees and internships are both beneficial for aspiring operations research analysts.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Operations research is a career path that offers candidates the possibility of upward mobility. Many companies have operations research managers on their teams. It’s also becoming more common for companies to add chief analytics officer positions. This is definitely not a dead-end career. If you have an aptitude for solving problems, you may want to consider a career in operations research.