Known in the industry as "decision scientists," "systems analysts," "statistical modelers," and "marketing scientists," operations research analysts work for manufacturing industries, governments, and the military. They contribute to virtually every sector of the economy, from telecommunications and traffic systems to universities. Whether in marketing-oriented hotels and retails stores, creative fields of advertising, or specialized sectors of banking and finance, operations research analysts are in high demand.
Job Profile of Operations Research Analysts
Operations research analysts examine, analyze, predict, decide, and recommend. After exploring various aspects of the strategic concerns of client organizations, they decide what might have an impact on the problem. Based on this analysis, they compile the required data, use several techniques to analyze it, and consider the probable effects of implementing various solutions. Finally, analysts decide on strategies to recommend to client organizations.
Though most analysts do their calculations and computer work independently, a large segment of their work involves teamwork. They need to spend considerable time keeping themselves updated on changes and consulting with clients and managers. Except in situations when pressure is especially high, analysts work around 40 hours per week.
Regardless of the type or structure of the client organization, the job of an operations research analyst entails the following:
- Working closely with the clients to identify problems and determine their scopes.
- Reviewing others' work.
- Breaking problems into smaller components.
- Collecting data relevant to the problem from a variety of sources.
- Using computers and other scientific models to analyze collected data.
- Developing a model and reexamining it to consider different assumptions.
- Presenting solutions and recommendations to the clients who then choose the course of action that they perceive to be best for their organizations.
- Ensuring successful implementation once the managers reach decisions.
Education and Training
Analysts need to have at least master's degrees in operations research or closely related fields. Employers also prefer applicants with master's degrees in computer science, engineering, mathematics, or information science. Applicants with bachelor's degrees in quantitative disciplines such as economics, mathematics, or statistics can also find opportunities for advancement.
Regardless of degrees, thorough knowledge of computers and data processing systems is valued highly in the industry. However, employers usually prefer to provide on-the-job training to all new recruits, regardless of their degrees or work experience.
Beginners start under the supervision of senior analysts and, with time, get more freedom to work on complex tasks and devise solution models.
According to the estimates of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly earnings of operations research analysts in 2006 were $69,100. Those analysts who worked in computer and data processing industries earned more, while those in government departments were paid much less.
Competition at domestic and global levels forces almost all the organizations to strive to make their operations efficient. As a result, organizations will open doors to research analysts for their own survival and for optimization of profits.