Operations research analysis, one of the top degrees for the highest-paying business careers, is a math-heavy field that emphasizes how data drives decisions. A bachelor’s degree in operations research isn’t a broad degree path that students can leverage to get a job in a variety of occupations, but the occupation does lend itself to many different industries. At different career levels and in different functions, you could hold a few distinct job titles within the operations research analyst profession.
The Operations Research Analyst Career Path
Operations research is a fairly specialized degree program, so most students who enroll in this program do so with the intention of becoming an operations research analyst. After all, there’s a lot to like about the career field, if you have the mathematical and analytical aptitude to succeed in it. U.S. News & World Report has ranked operations research analyst as one of the best business jobs, best STEM jobs and 100 best jobs overall. In addition to boasting a median salary of $84,810, the occupation is in the midst of rapid growth, with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expecting jobs to grow by 26 percent – more than 28,000 new jobs – over a decade.
What operations research analysts do is apply high-level methods of mathematical and statistical analysis to real-world data to help organizations in all industries solve problems and improve outcomes.
Job Titles in Operations Research Analysis
Just because students of operations research degree programs usually go into the same occupation doesn’t mean all jobs in this field are interchangeable. You may work in many different industries, under a variety of job titles and functions, all within this field of operations research.
Often, recent graduates begin their careers in entry-level operations research analyst roles. Early-career job titles may include decision analyst, analytics associate, analytical strategist, operations research scientist, optimization analyst or simply operations research analyst. As you gain experience, you may be able to move to senior analyst roles. Leadership roles in this field include operations research group manager, operations research director, business insight and analytics manager and business analytics director.
To advance to higher-level roles in operations research, you may need a master’s degree. Most operations research analysts – 70 percent – report having a master’s degree, so not having a graduate education can hold you back from senior-level management roles.
Industries for Operations Research Analysts
The finance and insurance industry is the largest employer of operations research analysts, making up 30 percent of jobs in this field, the BLS reported. Operations research analysts who work for banks and other financial institutions often focus on the analysis of trade markets and risk management in investments. Those working in insurance often focus on risk mitigation in the insurance industry and potentially on cost-reducing initiatives, such as programs implemented in health insurance companies that are designed to bring down the cost of care.
Another 23 percent of operations research analysts work in professional, scientific and technical services. You might, for example, work in modeling, simulation and analysis of biotechnology design and development or support research and development work in pharmaceutical companies searching for groundbreaking treatments and cures.
The 6 percent of operations research analysts who work in manufacturing are often involved in matters of quality control, human capital, analyzing sales operations or developing cost-effective lean manufacturing processes. Another 5 percent of the field works for the federal government in agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Justice and various branches of the United States military.
Although skills in research analysis are particularly crucial to industries related to financial risk and to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, there’s value in careful analysis of operations for just about all businesses. Management positions account for 9 percent of operations research analyst jobs. In these operations research management roles, your analysis of company operations and processes could help with decisions that range from how to design a store layout to how to price products and services and to schedule flight departures and arrivals.
There are even job opportunities in the field of healthcare for operations research analysts. While you won’t perform clinical work treating patients, your analyses can help advance medical treatments for diseases through data modeling of an intervention’s effectiveness.