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Operations Research Major

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Operations Research

1,085 Master's Degrees Annually
77 Doctor's Degrees Annually
#109 in Popularity (Master's)
$88,350 Median Salary

Types of Degrees Operations Research Majors Are Getting

The following table lists how many operations research graduations there were in 2018-2019 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Master’s Degree 1,085
Graduate Certificate 111
Doctor’s Degree 77

What Operations Research Majors Need to Know

In an O*NET survey, operations research majors were asked to rate what knowledge areas, skills, and abilities were important in their occupations. These answers were weighted on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the most important.

Knowledge Areas for Operations Research Majors

According to O*NET survey takers, a major in operations research should prepare you for careers in which you will need to be knowledgeable in the following areas:

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  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Administration and Management - Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

Skills for Operations Research Majors

When studying operations research, you’ll learn many skills that will help you be successful in a wide range of jobs - even those that do not require a degree in the field. The following is a list of some of the most common skills needed for careers associated with this major:

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  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Abilities for Operations Research Majors

As you progress with your operations research degree, there are several abilities you should pick up that will help you in whatever related career you choose. These abilities include:

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  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Written Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

What Can You Do With a Operations Research Major?

People with a operations research degree often go into the following careers:

Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary
Clinical Research Coordinators 9.9% $123,860
Natural Sciences Managers 9.9% $123,860
Operations Research Analysts 27.5% $83,390
Water Resource Specialists 9.9% $123,860

Who Is Getting a Master’s Degree in Operations Research?

1,085 Master's Degrees Annually
39% Percent Women
8% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities*
This major attracts more men than women. About 61% of the graduates in this field are male.

Racial-Ethnic Diversity

At the countrywide level, the racial-ethnic distribution of operations research majors is as follows:

Racial-Ethnic Diversity of Operations Research Students with Master's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 50
Black or African American 9
Hispanic or Latino 19
White 147
International Students 835
Other Races/Ethnicities 25

Geographic Diversity

Students from other countries are interested in Operations Research, too. About 77.0% of those with this major are international students. The most popular countries for students from outside the country are:

  • China
  • India
  • France
  • Canada
  • South Korea

How Much Do Operations Research Majors Make?

Master’s Degree Starting Salary

The U.S. Department of Education found that students who graduated in 2015-2017 with a master’s degree in operations research made a median starting salary of $103,000 per year. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $98,750 (25th percentile) and $107,250 (75th percentile).

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It’s important to note that just because the people reporting these salaries have a degree in operations research, it does not mean that they are working in a job related to their degree.

Salaries According to BLS

Average salaries range from $88,350 to $139,680 (25th to 75th percentile) for careers related to operations research. This range includes all degree levels, so the salary for a person with just a bachelor’s degree may be a little less and the one for a person with an advanced degree may be a little more.

To put that into context, according to BLS data from the first quarter of 2020, the typical high school graduate makes between $30,000 and $57,900 a year (25th through 75th percentile). The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $45,600 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,600 and $125,400.

Median Salary for an Operations Research Major  ( 88350 to 139680 )
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250K
Median Salary for a High School Graduate  ( 30000 to 57900 )
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250K
Median Salary for a Bachelor's Degree Holder  ( 45600 to 99000 )
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250K
Median Salary for an Advanced Degree Holder  ( 55600 to 125400 )
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250K

Some degrees associated with operations research may require an advanced degree, while others may not even require a bachelor’s in the field. In general, the more advanced your degree the more career options will open up to you. However, there is significant time and money that needs to be invested into your education so weigh the pros and cons.

How much schooling do you really need to compete in today’s job market? People currently working in careers related to operations research have obtained the following education levels.

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Education Level Percentage of Workers
High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED) 2.3%
Post-Secondary Certificate - awarded for training completed after high school (for example, in agriculture or natural resources, computer services, personal or culinary services, engineering technologies, healthcare, construction trades, mechanic and repair technologies, or precision production) 2.4%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 2.9%
Bachelor’s Degree 47.2%
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Baccalaureate degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees carrying the title of Master. 2.8%
Master’s Degree 31.7%
Doctoral Degree 6.3%
Post-Doctoral Training 3.9%

Online Operations Research Programs

In the 2018-2019 academic year, 40 schools offered some type of operations research program. The following table lists the number of programs by degree level, along with how many schools offered online courses in the field.

Degree Level Colleges Offering Programs Colleges Offering Online Classes
Certificate (Less Than 1 Year) 1 0
Certificate (1-2 years) 0 0
Certificate (2-4 Years) 0 0
Associate’s Degree 0 0
Bachelor’s Degree 6 3
Post-Baccalaureate 1 0
Master’s Degree 27 7
Post-Master’s 1 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 15 1
Doctor’s Degree (Professional Practice) 0 0
Doctor’s Degree (Other) 0 0

Is a Degree in Operations Research Worth It?

The median salary for a operations research grad is $88,350 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 121% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $969,000 after 20 years!

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You may also be interested in one of the following majors related to operations research.

Major Number of Grads
Electrical Engineering 12,934
Mechanical Engineering 9,668
Civil Engineering 6,961
Computer Engineering 5,021
Biomedical Engineering 4,057
General Engineering 3,449
Industrial Engineering 3,359
Chemical Engineering 2,897
Systems Engineering 2,639
Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineering 2,163
Materials Engineering 1,863
Other Engineering 1,859
Environmental Engineering 1,117
Petroleum Engineering 537
Engineering Science 451
Nuclear Engineering 440
Manufacturing Engineering 412
Agricultural Engineering 338
Robotics Engineering 333
Construction Engineering 312
Engineering Physics 282
Architectural Engineering 247
Polymer & Plastics Engineering 205
Geoscience Engineering 176
Engineering Mechanics 168
Ocean Engineering 154
Mining Engineering 142
Textile Engineering 106
Biological Engineering 63
Metallurgical Engineering 51
Marine Engineering 48
Ceramic Engineering 30
Surveying Engineering 21
Electromechanical Engineering 17
Paper Science & Engineering 9
Biochemical Engineering 6
Forest Engineering 0

References

*The racial-ethnic minorities count is calculated by taking the total number of students and subtracting white students, international students, and students whose race/ethnicity was unknown. This number is then divided by the total number of students at the school to obtain the racial-ethnic minorities percentage.

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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