Driving statisticians and operations research analysts with big data

by Donald L. Johnson

Technological advances have made it faster and easier for organizations to get data. Coupled with improvements in analytical software, organizations are using data in more ways than ever before. Every sector of the economy now has access to more data than would have ever been imaginable at the turn of the century. 

When trying to answer the question “what is data science,” the University of California-Berkeley states that “Businesses are now accumulating new data at a rate that exceeds their capacity to extract value from it. The question facing every organization that wants to attract a community is how to use data effectively—not just their own data, but all of the data that’s available and relevant.” The need to extract value from data is translating into a demand for those individuals who can work effectively with “big data” in the emerging field of data science.

Data Science and Data Analytics Career Outlook

Data science, or what is also sometimes referred to as data analytics, includes such occupations as:

  1. Data engineers
  2. Data scientists
  3. Statisticians
  4. Data analysts

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook does not presently include data engineers and data scientists among their occupational categories. However, the BLS notes that nearly all of the 10 fastest growing STEM occupations that require a bachelor’s or higher degree for entry are in the computer and mathematics group. Of these, the two occupations with the fastest grow rates are statisticians and operations research analysts.  

10 fastest growing bachelor's degree STEM occupations, 2014 to 2024 (projected)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

BLS projects the employment of statisticians to grow 34 percent from 2014-2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. According to BLS, organizations will increasingly need statisticians to organize and analyze data in order to help improve business processes, design and develop new products, and advertise products to potential customers. In addition to the large increases in available data from the internet creating new areas for analysis such as internet searching and the use of social media and smartphones, biostatisticians will be needed to conduct the research and clinical trials necessary for companies to obtain approval for their products from the Food and Drug Administration.

Statisticians job outlook

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections Program

Employment of operations research analysts is projected by the BLS to grow 30 percent from 2014-2024, again much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS notes several reasons why this rapid growth should occur. As organizations across all economic sectors look for efficiency and cost savings, the need for operations research analysts should accelerate along with demand for analysts in the field of data analytics as businesses look to improve their planning and decision making. Along with their more traditional areas of employment in the Armed Forces and other government sectors, operations research analysts will also be needed to help companies improve their manufacturing operations and supply chains.

Operations Research Analysts Job Outlook

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections Program

Data Science and Analytics-related Occupational Growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, accessed Feb. 1, 2017.

About the author
Donald L. Johnson has a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Tennessee and serves as senior researcher and principle investigator for ORISE workforce studies. With more than 20 years of experience in surveying both industry and academia, he has conducted dozens of analyses related to science and engineering labor market trends, and on issues such as workforce skills, adequacy of labor supply, education requirements and employment demand.

Current Research Opportunities in Data Science and Data Analytics

Opportunity Title Opportunity Number Organization Program Location