How Much Will You Earn With a Master's in Operations Research?
March 10, 2021
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.
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 pore over reams of data to find inefficiencies that can be eliminated. 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
- Developing solutions 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; they are 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:
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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:
- Columbia University
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Main Campus)
- Kansas State University
- The University of Alabama
- University of Southern California
For those prefer to study in a traditional, on-campus program, top programs include:
- Cornell University
- Dartmouth College
- Duke University
- Johns Hopkins University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Northwestern University
- Stanford University
- Purdue University (Main Campus)
- Tufts University
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
- Performance measurement
- Resource allocation
- Shipping and transportation
- Supply chain management
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, operations research analysts earn an average annual income of $83,390. Top-paying sectors include:
- The federal government ($113,920)
- Manufacturing ($92,170)
- Professional, scientific, and technical services ($86,720)
- Management of companies and enterprises ($85,250)
- Finance and insurance ($82,340)
The highest-paying operations research jobs, by state, are:
- District of Columbia (870 jobs; $109,400)
- New Jersey (3,000; $106,820)
- Virginia (9,100; $104,980)
- New York (5,790; $102,560)
- Hawaii (150; $102,270)
Top employers of operations research analysts include:
- Companies and enterprises (10,420)
- Computer systems design and related services (9,400)
- Insurance carriers (9,000)
- Credit Intermediation (8,770)
- Scientific, management, and technical consulting services (8,720)
The BLS projects rapid growth in this field over the coming decade, with the job market growing by 26 percent between 2018 and 2028. That's nearly five times the growth rate of the US job market as a whole.
Questions or feedback? Email email@example.com