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Operations Research Analyst

Operations research analysts use mathematical modelling and information technology to develop decision support systems for decision-makers in public and private organizations.

Also Known As:Management Scientist
NOC Number(s):2161.2
Minimum Education:4 years post-secondary education/training
Employment Outlook:Job openings generated due to employment turnover. Occupational outlook currently unavailable.
Interests:I M D

Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study

Duties

Operations research analysts use analytical methods, mathematical modelling techniques and information technology to predict system performance and compare the outcomes of alternative strategies or ways of managing complex systems.

Operations research analysis can be applied to a wide variety of management problems. For example, it may be used by:

  • emergency medical services to plan the deployment of ambulances
  • governments to analyze the flow of patients through a health care system
  • hospitals to design blood banking systems or schedule staff and operating rooms
  • police departments to devise shift schedules that minimize response time and meet budget and human resource needs
  • municipalities to decide where a hazardous waste facility should be located
  • railway companies to schedule and optimize the use of rolling stock
  • airlines to develop pricing strategies, schedule crews and aircraft, and develop disaster recovery plans 
  • manufacturing companies to design or increase the efficiency of production systems
  • oil companies to evaluate prospective oil or gas projects
  • freight forwarders and transportation companies to develop and plan vehicle routes
  • logistic companies to design a long term plan for warehouse location and consolidation
  • service intensive companies to schedule the most efficient worker allocation 
  • forestry companies to help decide how to manage large tracts of forest land
  • investment firms to manage risk and optimize portfolios.

In general, operations research analysts:

  • meet with decision makers to identify problems and clarify management objectives
  • observe the current system in operation, if necessary and possible
  • manage and analyze large amounts of data that describe how systems operate and perform
  • use scientific methods to develop mathematical models that can be used to predict how systems will behave if different courses of action are taken
  • use computers to develop and run models and investigate the merits of alternate courses of action.

Sometimes, operations research analysts work as part of interdisciplinary teams that include such diverse professionals as economists, engineers and managers.


Working Conditions

Operations research analysts usually work in office environments in large organizations or consulting firms. Since the work is project oriented, some overtime may be required to meet project deadlines. However, hours of work are often flexible. Some travel may be required to study systems in operation.


Personal Characteristics

Operations research analysts need the following characteristics:

  • good mathematical and analytical abilities
  • good spatial perception
  • good modelling skills to solve complex problems
  • good communication skills including listening and public speaking skills.

They should enjoy synthesizing information to develop innovative solutions to complex problems, applying statistical theory and mathematical techniques, and advising others.


Educational Requirements

The minimum academic requirement to become an operations research analyst is a bachelor's degree specializing in industrial engineering, management science, computer science, applied mathematics, statistics or quantitative analysis. Computer skills related to data analysis and mathematical or statistical modelling are required. Those who have a related master's degree have a definite advantage when seeking employment.

Post-secondary institutions throughout Alberta offer business administration, management, industrial engineering and mathematics programs (for more information, see the Industrial Engineer and Mathematician occupational profiles, and visit EDinfo). The following institutions offer Commerce degree programs with specializations directly related to operations research:

  • The University of Alberta in Edmonton offers four year and five year co-operative education Bachelor of Commerce degree programs with specializations in operations management, distribution management, and decision and information systems. The entrance requirements are a competitive average in English Language Arts 30-1, Pure Math 30, a 30 level science and two other approved Grade 12 subjects, and completion of one pre-professional year with a competitive average in math, economics and English courses. The University of Alberta also offers a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program and a doctoral (PhD) degree program with a concentration in management science.
  • The University of Calgary offers four year and five year co-operative education Bachelor of Commerce degree programs with specializations in management information systems and business process management. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with a competitive average in English Language Arts 30-1, Pure Math 30 and three of the following: Math 31, Social Studies 30, Biology 30, Chemistry 30, Physics 30, Science 30, a 30 level language other than English, one five-credit Grade 12 subject.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

In collaboration with several Canadian universities, the Canadian Operational Research Society (CORS) offers a diploma to members who have completed post-secondary studies that cover operational research techniques, probability and statistics, computers and systems, and applications of operational research.


Employment and Advancement

Most operations research analysts are employed in the head offices of large process, manufacturing and service firms. Some are employed by:

  • consulting firms
  • universities
  • logistic firms
  • private research institutions 
  • government departments.

Entry level operations research analysts start working on well defined problems and progress to less clear cut problems. Experienced analysts may start their own consulting businesses or move into other management positions.

Operations research analysts are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 2161: Mathematicians, Statisticians and Actuaries. In Alberta, 83 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Employment demand for operations research analysts has been relatively limited in Alberta but changes in computer technology (for example, reasonably priced, user friendly spreadsheet tools for operations research) are making operations research more accessible to smaller organizations.


Salary

Starting salaries for operations research analysts vary according to the employee's qualifications and the nature of the position.


Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website: www.alis.alberta.ca/edinfo

Canadian Operational Research Society website: www.cors.ca


Related Occupational Profiles
Actuary
Business Continuity Planner
Demographer
Financial Analyst
Industrial Engineer
Management Consultant
Manufacturing Engineer
Mathematician
Operations Manager
Statistician

Related High School Subjects
English Language Arts; Mathematics; and Science

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Business, Management and Administrative Studies; Computer and Information Technology; Engineering, Architecture and Related Studies; and Mathematics

Produced February 2013
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at alis.alberta.ca, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.


Government of Alberta, Human Services