Operations researchers crunch numbers, analyze data and suggest solutions to management problems in both the public and private sectors. Read on to learn more about career options, salaries and educational requirements for operations researchers.
Is Operations Research for Me?
As a professional in operations research, sometimes called management science, you'll solve the complex management issues that arise in industry, government or the military. Employing the types of math used in statistics and computer science, such as computer modeling and algorithms, you might run various scenarios to arrive at the best solution. You'll then advise management decision makers on issues ranging from scheduled maintenance programs and inventory coordination to more efficiently run operations.
You could have a number of job titles, including operations research analyst, operations research manager, analytical strategist and decision analyst. Many operations researchers work for the federal government and the military. You might also find employment with local or state government, in academia or within almost any type of industry. The fields of telecommunications, healthcare, transportation and computer systems design, as well as science and technology, financial services, criminal justice and education are additional possibilities. Some experienced operations researchers also supplement their incomes with consulting work.
Employment and Salary Options
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that job opportunities for operations research analysts would increase 27%, or much faster than average, between 2012 and 2022. This is due in part to advances in technology that have improved the efficiency of data analysis and lessened the cost of hiring researchers. The BLS also reported that operations research analysts earned a median yearly salary of $74,630 in May 2013 (www.bls.gov).
How Can I Work in Operations Research?
Educational Options and Requirements
A college degree and a strong background in mathematics and computer science are required to work in the field. Many colleges and universities offer programs in operations research, management science and associated disciplines at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. While a bachelor's degree may help you qualify for an entry-level position, many employers favor candidates who have a master's degree in operations research. A doctoral degree program is typically designed to prepare graduates for a career in high-level industry research or academia. You might boost your employment chances by earning graduate degrees in both operations research and computer science.
An operations research curriculum might include topics in advanced math, computer science, economics and the sciences. You might also study financial and risk management, probability theory, logistics, quality assurance and supply chain management. Once employed, you might want to take continuing education courses to stay current with advances in technology, computer programs and analytical practices.