Operations Research

2022 Operations Research Degree Guide

Ever wonder how airlines keep track of the hundreds on flights coming in and out? Or how online stores ensure the right shipments go out to customers? Operations Research professionals analyze data and systems to ensure business operations in a variety of industries run properly and efficiently.

Students studying Operations Research learn the skills to pinpoint problems in logistics, sales, and production in order to create solutions and allow business to operate at maximum productivity. Classes in fields such as engineering, mathematics, quantitative analysis, computer science, software, and business will prepare students for a successful career collaborating with managers to improve business operations.

Operations Research Degrees Decreasing

#203 Most Popular Major
1.7k Degrees Awarded
-3.7% Increase in Graduates

Operations Research was the 203rd most popular major in the 2020-2021 school year. Colleges in the United States reported awarding 1,698 degrees in this year alone. This represents a 3.7% reduction in operations research degrees awarded over the prior year's total of 1,760.

Our 2023 Best Operations Research Schools ranking analyzes 17 of these schools to determine the best overall colleges for operations research students. Continue reading to check out one of our many unbiased rankings of operations research programs later in this article.

Best Operations Research Schools by Degree

Operations Research Degree Requirements

A strong background in math, especially statistics and calculus, is necessary for those interested in going into Operations Research. Professionals use different models that require an understanding of applied mathematic principles. Critical and analytical thinking skills will help professionals interpret data and determine solutions to operational dilemmas. Students must also be creative in developing solutions that aren't immediately obvious.

Operations Research professionals work fulltime in an office setting. Since they often work on projects that are of high importance, this career can be stressful as analysts work to meet deadlines. This can also cause professionals to work overtime. You will often be collaborating with others to meet goals, making communication and teamwork skills important.

A bachelor's degree will allow graduates to get an entry-level position, but most employers prefer to hire those with a master's degree. It is also common for operations research analysts to hold degrees in other areas, such as computer science, engineering, or advanced mathematics.

Prior Education for an Operations Research Program

New students will need to have completed high school or a GED program and each school will have their own minimum GPA and SAT/ACT test requirements. In addition to these basic operations research program qualifications, to serve in some operations research careers, special certification may be required outside of your degree.

Operations Research Degree Types

Operations Research degree levels vary. Operations Research programs offered by schools range from a to a , which is the highest operations research degree you can get. Different operations research degrees vary in how long they take.

Degree Credit Requirements Typical Program Length
Associate Degree 60-70 credits 2 years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 credits 4 years
Master’s Degree 50-70 credits 1-3 years
Doctorate Program required coursework including thesis or dissertation At least 4 years

A bachelor's degree is the most common level of education achieved by those in careers related to operations research, with approximately 45.7% of workers getting one. Find out other typical degree levels for operations research workers below.

Level of Education Percentage of Workers
Bachelor’s Degree 47.2%
Master’s Degree 31.7%
Doctoral Degree 6.3%
Post-Doctoral Training 3.9%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 2.9%

About 93.8% of workers in careers related to operations research obtain at least bachelor's degrees. View the chart below to get an idea of what degree level most of those in operations research careers have.


The education level required is different depending on the operations research career you are seeking.

Career Opportunities for A Degree In Operations Research Graduate

Average Number of Jobs
$84.8k Average Starting Salary
22% Growth Job Outlook 2016-26

Operations Research graduates work in a variety of occupations. Since they have the skills to analyze many different types of data pertaining to business operations, they can easily find jobs in finance, engineering, and manufacturing. Those who decide to work for the government often find jobs in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Advancing technology and the desire to become more efficient in business operations may open more jobs for Operations Research graduates in varying industries.

High Growth Projected for Operations Research Careers

Want a job when you graduate with your operations research degree? Operations Research careers are expected to grow 21.6% between 2016 and 2026.

The following options are some of the most in-demand careers related to operations research.

Occupation Name Projected Jobs Expected Growth
Operations Research Analysts 145,300 27.5%
Natural Sciences Managers 62,300 9.9%

How Much Money Do People With a Operations Research Degree Make?

Operations Research graduates between 2017-2019 reported earning an average of $84,787 in the 2019-2020 timeframe. Earnings can range from as low as $45,988 to as high as $111,312. As you might expect, salaries for operations research graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.


Highest Paid Operations Research Careers

Salaries for operations research graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top highest paying careers operations research grads often go into.

Occupation Name Median Average Salary
Natural Sciences Managers $139,680
Operations Research Analysts $88,350

Getting Your Operations Research Degree

With over 73 different operations research degree programs to choose from, finding the best fit for you can be a challenge. Fortunately you have come to the right place. We have analyzed all of these schools to come up with hundreds of unbiased operations research school rankings to help you with this.

Study Areas in Operations Research

One of 40 majors within the Engineering area of study, Operations Research has other similar majors worth exploring.

Majors Similar to Operations Research

Related Major Annual Graduates
Mechanical Engineering 46,178
Electrical Engineering 28,844
Civil Engineering 21,388
Computer Engineering 17,987
Chemical Engineering 12,917

View All Operations Research Related Majors >


More about our data sources and methodologies.

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