Operations Management

How Much Will You Earn With a Master’s in Operations Research?

How Much Will You Earn With a Master’s in Operations Research?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, operations research analysts earn an average annual income of $82,360. Image from Unsplash
Tom Meltzer profile
Tom Meltzer March 13, 2023

Operations research mines and interprets data to devise improvements in processes, systems, and decisions. It's a wonky combination of mathematics, computer science, engineering, and business analytics. To advance in this profession, you'll need a master's degree.

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In business, employees are often too busy doing to stop to figure out whether there’s a way to do it better. That’s where operations research analysts come in. They collect and organize reams of data to find inefficiencies that can be eliminated. Then they apply mathematical formulas and computer simulations to devise solutions, which they deliver to managers and executives for implementation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an operation research analysts’ responsibilities typically include:

  • Identifying problems in business, healthcare, government, and other fields
  • Aggregating data relevant to the problems they identify
  • Interviewing workers involved in the problematic process to gather additional information
  • Studying the data to identify the relevant issues in addressing the problem
  • Utilizing computer simulations, predictive modeling, and other applications to analyze and address the problem
  • Applying problem-solving skills to those problems
  • Communicating those solutions to managers, executives, and other stakeholders

It’s all as high-level as it sounds, and unsurprisingly operations research requires a great deal of training. You could conceivably learn it on your own, but you’re more likely to gain the needed expertise—and impress employers—with a master’s degree in operations research.

Master’s degrees aren’t cheap, so you are probably—understandably—wondering how much will you earn with a master’s in operations research? We discuss that in this article, which covers the following questions:

  • What is a master’s in operations research?
  • What will you study in an operations research master’s program?
  • Where can you earn a master’s in operations research?
  • What will you earn with a master’s in operations research?

    What is a master’s in operations research?

A master’s degree is the intermediary degree between an undergraduate bachelor’s degree and a doctoral degree, which is a terminal graduate degree. A master’s degree confers a high level of proficiency, and, for most operations research professionals, it is the highest academic degree they need. The next-highest degree—the PhD—is most often held by academics and advanced researchers. For most operations research positions in the business world—which make up the majority of jobs in this field—a master’s degree is sufficient.

Most operations research master’s degrees are Master of Engineering (MEng) degrees offered through their university’s engineering schools. Some schools offer the degree through their departments of computer science, mathematics, or statistics, in which case the degree designation is typically a Master of Science (MS). Yet another option is to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) by studying operations research at a business school. If you pursue this final option, your study will focus much more on business fundamentals—economics, marketing, operations, finance—and less on number-crunching and computer-geeking than it would in an MEng or MS program. Further confusing matters, some business schools also offer a Master of Science in operations research.

A master’s in operations research is typically completed in one to two years by full-time students, two to four years by part-time students.

What will you study in an operations research masters program?

Operations research combines several complex disciplines:

  • Mathematics
  • Computer science and modeling
  • Business analytics and operations
  • Industrial engineering
  • Systems engineering

Because the field has broad applications, master’s programs in operations research prepare students to work across many business functions, including:

  • Financial engineering
  • General management
  • Logistics
  • Manufacturing
  • Business operations
  • Risk management
  • Supply chain management

A master’s in operations research curriculum typically includes courses like the following:

  • Data Mining
  • Deterministic Models
  • Discrete System Simulation
  • Inventory Theory and Supply Chains
  • Linear Programming
  • Manufacturing Systems Analysis
  • Mathematical Programming
  • Mathematical Statistics
  • Metaheuristics for Optimization
  • Neural Networks
  • Operations Management
  • Operations Research Analysis
  • Optimization Models and Methods
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Revenue Management and Pricing
  • Stochastic Models
  • Systems Engineering Process

Many master’s in operations research programs culminate in a final research paper or thesis. Some programs offer both thesis and non-thesis options, and a few require no final project of any type.



University and Program Name Learn More

Where can you earn a master’s in operations research?

According to the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), US institutions offer 95 operations research master’s of science degrees in engineering/mathematics/computer science programs and another 60 operations research master’s in business degrees. If you decide to pursue this master’s degree, you will have plenty of options.

The most convenient way to earn your master’s in operations research is through online study. A number of excellent schools offer this master of science degree online, including:

For those prefer to study in a traditional, on-campus program, top programs include:

Many of the schools listed above are quite expensive. If you’re looking to economize, check the engineering school at your local state or technical university; many offer the master’s in operations research at a much more affordable tuition. These programs may not have the same national reputation as the heavy hitters listed above. Even so, they will definitely put you through your paces and prepare you for a career in operations research, without putting you in hock indefinitely.

What will you earn with a master’s in operations research?

With a master’s in operations research, you have two career paths to choose from. You could decide to become an academician and/or researcher. Pursuing this choice likely requires you to continue your education through to a PhD, after which you will be qualified to teach at the university level and/or conduct advanced research.

Alternatively, you could choose to pursue a professional career in business, nonprofits, government, military, healthcare, or education. In these jobs, you will probably hold one of the following titles:

  • Analytical strategist
  • Business analyst
  • Business insight manager
  • Data scientist
  • Decision analyst
  • Operations consultant
  • Operations research analyst
  • Product manager

Operations research professionals participate in business planning, strategy, and forecasting. They provide not only the data necessary to make informed decisions but also analyses and recommendations. Their work permeates every operational aspect of a business or organization, including:

  • Facilities maintenance
  • Networks
  • Performance measurement
  • Pricing
  • Resource allocation
  • Shipping and transportation
  • Supply chain management
  • Warehousing

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, operations research analysts earn an average annual income of $82,380.

Top-paying sectors include:

  • Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing ($217,210)
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services ($133,790)
  • Business schools and computer and management training ($132,760)
  • The federal executive branch ($121,690)
  • Engine, turbine, and power transmission equipment manufacturing ($112,630)

The highest-paying operations research jobs, by state, are:

  • Virginia (6,720 jobs; $117,480)
  • Alabama (550 jobs; $105,110)
  • Maryland ($4,670 jobs; $105,040)
  • Hawaii (390 jobs; $104,540)
  • New York (5,420 jobs; $100,100)

Top employers of operations research analysts include:

  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services (11,510)
  • Management of companies and enterprises (9.500)
  • Computer systems design and related services (8,970)
  • Credit Intermediation (7,700)
  • Insurance carriers (7,400)

The BLS projects rapid growth in this field over the coming decade, with the job market growing by 23 percent between 2021 and 2031. That’s nearly five times the growth rate of the US job market as a whole.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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About the Author

Tom Meltzer began his career in education publishing at The Princeton Review, where he authored more than a dozen titles (including the company's annual best colleges guide and two AP test prep manuals) and produced the musical podcast The Princeton Review Vocab Minute. A graduate of Columbia University (English major), Tom lives in Chapel Hill, NC.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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