Ollikainen began piano studies at age 3, and also learned the violin and French horn. She started conducting studies by age 12. She attended the Sibelius Academy from 1994 to 2002 and graduated in 2002 with a Master of Music Degree in piano. She studied conducting with Jorma Panula and Leif Segerstam. Ollikainen has been a member of the Finnish contemporary ensemble Uusinta, and has premiered several works of Finnish composers.
In 2003, Ollikainen won the second Jorma Panula Conductors' Competition. She first guest-conducted the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in 2005. In the summer of 2006, she was a Tanglewood Music Center conducting fellow, the only fellow that year who already had agency representation. She returned as guest conductor with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra on three occasions between 2007 and 2010, and once again in February 2019.
In June 2017, the Nordic Chamber Orchestra (Nordiska Kammarorkestern) announced the appointment of Ollikainen as its next chief conductor, effective with the 2018-2019 season, with an initial contract of 3 seasons. This appointment marks Ollikainen's first chief conductorship, and she is the first female conductor to be named to this post. In June 2019, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Ollikainen as its next chief conductor and artistic advisor, effective with the 2020-2021 season, with an initial contract through 2024. Ollikainen is the first female conductor to be named chief conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. In November 2019, the Orchestra della Toscana announced the appointment of Ollikainen as its next principal conductor, the first female conductor to be named to the post, effective with the 2020-2021 season.
- Marcus Boldemann (18 August 2017). "Eva Ollikainen håller i taktpinnen". Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
- Geoff Edgers (3 July 2006). "She's conducting herself with aplomb". Boston Globe. Retrieved 3 September 2009.
- "Eva Ollikainen ráðin aðalhljómsveitarstjóri Sinfóníuhljómsveitar Íslands: Tekur við stöðunni í upphafi starfsársins 2020/21" (Press release). Iceland Symphony Orchestra. 12 June 2019. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
- Anna Beijron (13 June 2017). "Ny chefdirigent i Nordiska Kammarorkestern". SVT Nyheter. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
- Susanne Holmlund (14 June 2017). "Eva Ollikainen blir första kvinnliga chefdirigenten för Nordiska Kammarorkestern". Sundsvalls Tinding. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
- Valgerður Árnadóttir (12 June 2019). "Eva Ollikainen ráðin aðalhljómsveitarstjóri". Fréttablaðið. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
- "L'ORT presenta i nuovi direttori" (Press release). Orchestra della Toscana. 22 November 2019. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
| Chief Conductor, Nordic Chamber Orchestra