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Operations Research Analysts - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Beginning analysts usually perform routine computational work under the supervision of more experienced analysts. As novices gain knowledge and experience, they are assigned more complex tasks and are given greater autonomy to design models and solve problems.

Operations research analysts can advance by becoming technical specialists or project team leaders. Analysts also gain valuable insights into the industry where they work and may assume higher level managerial or administrative positions. Operations research analysts with significant experience or expertise may become independent consultants. Others may move into corporate management, where they eventually may become chief operating officers.

Operations research analysts held about 63,000 jobs in 2008. Major employers include computer systems design firms; insurance carriers and other financial institutions; management; telecommunications companies; and scientific, and technical consulting services firms. Most operations research analysts in the Federal Government work for the Department of Defense.

Job Outlook
Employment is projected to grow much faster than average. Individuals with a master's or Ph.D. degree in operations research or management science should have excellent job opportunities; some entry-level positions are available to those with a bachelorís degree.

Job Growth
Employment of operations research analysts is expected to grow 22 percent over the 2008-18 period, much faster than the average for all occupations. As technology advances and companies further emphasize efficiency, demand for operations research analysis should continue to grow. Technological advancements have extended the availability of data access and storage, making information more readily available. Advancements in computing capabilities and analytical software have made it cheaper and faster for analysts to solve problems. As problem solving becomes cheaper and faster with technological advances, more firms will have the ability to employ or consult with analysts.

Additionally, organizations increasingly will be faced with the pressure of growing domestic and international competition and must work to maximize organizational efficiency. As a result, businesses increasingly will rely on operations research analysts to optimize profits by improving productivity and reducing costs. As new technologies are introduced into the marketplace, operations research analysts will be needed to determine how to best use those new technologies.

Jobs for operations research analysts exist in almost every industry because of the diversity of applications for their work. As businesses and government agencies continue to contract out jobs to cut costs, opportunities for operations research analysts will be best in management, scientific, and technical consulting firms. The relatively small pool of qualified candidates will result in excellent opportunities for those with a masterís or Ph.D. degree in operations research or management science. Operations research is not a particularly well-known field, which means there are fewer applicants competing for each job.

In addition to job growth, some openings will result from the need to replace analysts retiring or leaving the occupation for other reasons.

Median annual wages of operations research analysts were $69,000 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $51,780 and $92,920. The lowest 10 percent had wages of less than $40,000, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $118,130. Median annual wages of operations research analysts working in management, scientific, and technical consulting services were $80,290 in May 2008. The average annual salary for operations research analysts in the Federal Government was $107,198 in March 2009.

Operations research analysts generally are paid fixed annual salaries with the possibility of bonuses. They also receive benefits typical of professional employees, such as medical and life insurance and 401(k) programs. Many employers offer training programs, including tuition reimbursement programs that allow analysts to attend advanced university classes.

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