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Operations Research Analyst

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(7.1 out of 10)

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Unemployment Rate

1.3 percent

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Operations research analysts are high-level problem-solvers who use advanced techniques, such as optimization, data mining, statistical analysis and mathematical modeling, to develop solutions that help businesses and organizations operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. For example, UPS uses operations research to chart the flow of packages, provide real-time route guidance to drivers and help plan and manage distribution. In the health care field, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York used operations research to design a radiation treatment plan for prostate patients using sophisticated modeling and computation techniques. Anne Robinson, director of supply chain strategy and analytics for Verizon Wireless and past president of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, says, in a nutshell, operations research analysts provide the insights for businesses to make decisions at the next level. "This is really decision guidance. Companies are trying to get value out of big data and analytics platforms investments, and they need the right talent to take it from raw data to an intelligent asset for business," says Robinson, whose focus includes developing models to ensure Verizon stores have enough inventory to meet demand.

Operations research originated with military planners in World War II, according to INFORMS, but businesses and other organizations soon began adopting the techniques. Today, operations research analysts can be found in virtually every industry, from manufacturing to finance and throughout the spectrum of government agencies. Demand for these professionals should remain high for years to come, as companies and governments seek greater efficiency and cost savings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment growth of nearly 27 percent for operations research analysts between 2012 and 2022, much faster than average for all occupations. During that time period, 19,500 new jobs will need to be filled.


According to the BLS, the median annual salary for operations research analysts was $72,100 in 2012. The highest-paid in the profession earned more than $129,490, while the lowest-paid made less than $40,550. The top-paying operations research analysts work in the securities and commodity contracts sphere of the financial industry, and the highest-paying metropolitan areas are New York, San Diego and Salinas, Calif.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $97,170
Median $72,100
25th Percentile $53,120


Entry-level professionals often have a bachelor's degree in math, business or industrial engineering, according to INFORMS. But most employers favor applicants with a master's degree. At the graduate level, you'll find degree programs in operations research, analytics and management science, and some operations research analysts have degrees in other technical fields like engineering or computer science. Coursework in both math and computer science is important, as is keeping up with technological advances and new software and analytical methods.

Reviews & Advice

Graduate school and internships give job candidates a leg up on the competition, Robinson says. "I need employees to have an intellectual curiosity about data as well as a true understanding of business problems and real company experiences, and that comes from an advanced degree and from doing internships to get exposure to real data and real problems," Robinson says.

Once you're established, there are plenty of opportunities for advancement in this profession. Options include becoming a senior analyst or a technical lead for a team of analysts, Robinson says. Interested in management? "The sky's really the limit,” she says. "You can go from an analyst to managing or directing a team, and we're seeing even more companies add chief analytics officers as part of their C-suite. Depending on where people's career ambitions want to go, that understanding of analytics and business acumen can take you all the way to the top of the C-suite."

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good Above Average
Stress Level fair Average
Flexibility fair Average
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Last updated by Katy Marquardt.

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