Applicants need a master’s degree for most operations research positions, but a bachelor’s degree is enough for many entry-level positions. Many schools offer bachelor’s and advanced degree programs in operations research, but it is common for analysts to have degrees in related fields.
Most employers prefer to hire applicants with a master’s degree, but many entry-level positions are available for those with a bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer bachelor’s and advanced degree programs in operations research, management science, or a related field. Many operations research analysts have degrees in other technical fields, such as engineering, computer science, mathematics, and physics.
Because operations research is based on quantitative analysis, students need extensive coursework in mathematics. Courses include statistics, calculus, and linear algebra. Coursework in computer science is important because analysts rely on advanced statistical and database software to analyze and model data. Courses in other areas, such as engineering, economics, and political science, are useful because operations research is a multidisciplinary field with a wide variety of applications.
Continuing education is important for operations research analysts. Keeping up with advances in technology, software tools, and improved analytical methods is vital.
Analytical skills. Operations research analysts use a wide range of methods, such as forecasting, data mining, and statistical analysis, to examine and interpret data.
Critical-thinking skills. Operations research analysts must be able to figure out what information is relevant to their work. They also must be able to evaluate the costs and benefits of alternative solutions before making a recommendation.
Ingenuity. Solutions to operations problems are not usually obvious, and analysts need to be able to think creatively to solve problems.
Interpersonal skills. Operations research analysts typically work on teams. They also need to be able to convince managers and top executives to accept their recommendations.
Mathematical skills. The models and methods used by operations research analysts are rooted in statistics, calculus, linear algebra, and other advanced mathematical disciplines.
Problem-solving skills. Operations research analysts need to be able to diagnose problems on the basis of information given to them by others. They then analyze relevant information to solve the problems.
Communication skills. Operations research analysts need to be able to gather information, which includes interviewing people and listening carefully to the answers. They also need to communicate technical information to people who do not have a technical background.
Writing skills. Operations research analysts write memos, reports, and other documents outlining their findings and recommendations for managers, executives, and other officials.
Many operations research analysts who work with the military are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition