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When it comes to managing organizations, operations research plays an integral role. This analytical method is key to solving problems and making sound business decisions. Operations research makes it easy for organizations to break down problems into basic components before being solved with the use of mathematical analysis.
Operations research analysts are needed across various industries. Labor Statistics show this job position has a median annual salary of $85,720. While a bachelor's degree is enough to guarantee an entry-level position in this field, earning a master's degree in operations research can enhance one's credentials and give them leverage regarding salary negotiations, better compensation, and job growth.
Most operations research master's programs build upon prior knowledge and analytical skills. Students can expect to learn important OR techniques, often focusing on practical, real-world applications. It is common to find degrees in this field that combine rigorous coursework and hands-on research.
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Many universities and colleges in the country offer a master's degree in operations research. Although most of these programs are offered on campus, some are fully or partly available online. Online master's degree in operations research programs is ideal for working professionals who wish to pursue advanced education and land higher positions in various industries. They can work in business organizations, government, and even non-profits.
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Choosing an excellent Master’s in Operations Research online program may require some intensive research on your part because it is rarely offered in a 100% web-based format! On our list are our top picks, featuring the programs offered mostly in hybrid or blended formats. Each master’s program is worth investing in, considering these outstanding academic features:
- Delivered in a blended format, requiring students to participate in online classes and discussions, while also completing certain practical learning requirements on-campus,
- Features rigorous academic coursework that blends the concepts and principles of analytics, research, engineering, and financial savvy, shaping graduate students for Operations Research leadership roles,
- Facilitated through a robust LMS or Learning Management System that features a dependable platform for web-based discussions and offers convenient access to online master’s degree coursework,
- Features a faculty of seasoned professors who hold terminal degrees and demonstrate expertise in the Operations Research field,
- Earned academic accreditation from agencies that establish the standards of teaching and learning the Operations Research track at the master’s level online,
- Esteemed in industry associations and relevant groups or organizations organizations that seek to advance the profession,
- Positively viewed by master’s degree students and alumni.
Check out the process that goes into selecting the Best Online Master’s in Operations Research, Read our Methodology page.
Top 5 Operations Research Master's Programs
Georgia Institute of Technology
Offered under the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology's Master of Science in Operations Research provides students with a strong foundation in deterministic and stochastic operations research. The focus is on the theory and practice of operations research.
This online program can be completed within 12 to 16 months. Students will need to complete 30 credit hours worth of online courses. Some core courses are industrial systems engineering, mathematics, and computer science. They can also choose from various concentrations, including statistics, optimization, computational science, and more.
The SACSCOC-Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges accredits all the online degrees at Georgia Institute of Technology.
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
The University of Southern California offers a Master of Science in Operations Engineering degree program for students with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, engineering, science, or related fields. In this degree, students are equipped with the skills to solve problems using computers and mathematics. There are a total of 21 industrial and systems engineering courses that are relevant to operations research.
The program is offered completely online, which makes it an ideal choice for working adults. It is also available for full-time and part-time enrollments. Students are allowed to choose among nine units of approved elective courses. Required courses account for 21 units. Graduate-level courses in this program include Performance Analysis with Simulation, Inventory Systems, Optimization Theory and Algorithms: Numerical Optimization, Financial Engineering, Decision Analysis, and Design of Experiments, among others.
To successfully earn this master's degree, students must complete 30 units. They must also meet the minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0.
Kansas State University
Kansas University is another accredited university that offers a master's degree in operations research online. This program teaches students to draw from their mathematical and decision-making skills to solve real-world problems.
The program is composed of 30 credit hours. Some of the graduate-level courses in the curriculum include linear programming, integer programming and combinatorial optimization, simulation of industrial management systems, applied stochastic processes and theoretical simulation, industrial stimulation, methods of operations research, and so much more.
While most of the program requirements are offered in online classes, prospective students need to personally attend an oral examination in the Manhattan, KS campus at the end of the program.
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina
Students interested in pursuing a rewarding career in operations research may consider earning a Master of Operations Research degree from North Carolina University. This program prepares students for a rewarding career in operations research, whether in the private or public sector.
To earn a graduate degree, students must complete 30 credit hours of graduate-level courses with an overall GPA of 3.0. This is equivalent to 10 courses. The curriculum includes elective courses that are from the STEM disciplines.
Core subjects that must be completed include Algorithmic Methods in Nonlinear Programming, Probability and Statistics for Engineers, Simulation Modeling, Stochastic Models in Industrial Engineering, and Operations Research Engineering, among others.
Admission requirements for this program include an undergraduate degree from a relevant field, GRE scores, and an accomplished online form.
New York, New York
Columbia University offers a Master's Degree in Operations Research that is available online. This applied science program involves quantitative decision problems that often require the use of mathematical and statistical models for solutions.
The online master in operations research program allows students to choose among concentration options such as mathematical programming, stochastic models, and simulation. They may also pick among domain-specific courses, including supply chain management, revenue management, entrepreneurship, general management, risk management, and more. The program is offered full-time and part-time, with fall or spring semesters.
The core courses include Stochastic Models, Introduction to Probability and Statistics, Optimization Models and Methods, and Simulation, among others.
Specialization Areas for Operations Research Master's Programs
Depending on their particular curriculum designs, Operations Research degrees often feature a set of Specialization Areas that students can choose to take up on top of the general track. These specialization areas often involve specific processes, disciplines, and skill sets.
This concentration area teaches skills that apply to optimizing the various operations of businesses and organizations. This may include analytics tools and techniques for effective research design and implementation.
Often employed by businesses but is a readily repeatable and scalable approach in other settings, the decision analysis process involves looking at various aspects involved in a particular decision, anticipating possible outcomes, and choosing the ones with the most favorable outcomes.
This area involves skillsets and tools typically used in analyzing big data, which powers a lot of policies and decisions in various industries and fields. This may involve the entire analytics process, which includes designing data gathering methods, conducting analysis using various tools/programs, and even skills in presenting and communicating the results of data analysis.
This specialization area is commonly applied to careers related to investment and finance. Financial engineering has a theoretical and practical side and may involve skillsets and courses in applied mathematics, statistics, economics, and computer science, particularly computer programming.
Common Courses in Online Master's Degree in Operations Research
Typical Operations research degree program curriculums emphasize advanced mathematical principles and often feature common courses that may vary slightly in name or content but generally stick to the same thematic lines. The more significant variance between degree programs comes from the specialized/elective courses offered as part of specialization areas since these programs often do not offer the same set. Let's look at some of these courses.
Deterministic models do not involve any random elements and as such, are determined by an initial set of inputs and relationships, with expected consistent and repeatable outcomes. Course/s on deterministic models typically form part of the set of fundamental courses.
Stochastic models form part of the typical set of fundamental courses. Unlike deterministic models, stochastic models incorporate probabilistic elements/degrees of randomness and can therefore be seen as the diametric opposite of deterministic models.
Making mathematical predictions is a wide-ranging topic, and developing predictive models involves several models and tools, such as regression analyses and algorithms, such as neural networks and support vector machines.
Decision Analysis is a specialized skillset that focuses on the outcomes of particular decisions, picking the ones with the most favorable outcome. This is often offered as a course. However, this may also be offered in some degree programs as a separate specialization area subdivided into many courses.
Some degree programs offer this as part of the fundamental courses. This can generally be seen as a computer science/programming skill set useful in other tools, courses, or specialization areas.
Statistical and Research Methods
Operations Research degree programs may offer one or more courses related to fundamentals in statistics and research, as students' mastery of these skills forms the backbone of most of the processes they will be doing throughout the degree and onwards in their professional practice.
Careers for Master's in Operations Research Graduates
Typical Operations Research master programs often feature interdisciplinary structures and have curriculum designs that draw on skill sets from several related industries so that graduates can launch careers.
Let's look at some potential career paths for graduates of Operations Research degrees.
- Logisticians/Supply Chain Specialists – Logisticians work in the often highly crucial aspect of many industries: their set of complex and often global supply chains. They are often tasked with actively coordinating and overseeing inventories, purchasing, and the flow of goods band.
- Business Analyst – Business analysts often take up external consultant roles, providing input to businesses' strategies, employing various methods and tools such as risk analysis, and recommending changes that can help achieve efficiency, reduce costs, and maximize profits.
- Economist – Economists work with the economy in all its scales (local/domestic and global), taking various data points such as current industrial figures, government policies, current international affairs, and market movements in analyzing and predicting possible future directions and market trends.
- Operations Analyst – Operations Analysts are found in various businesses and organizations and are tasked with employing various tools and methods to analyze various business/organizational processes, solve complex problems and maximize their efficiency.
- Industrial Engineer – A significant amount of the work done by Industrial Engineers involves optimizing processes and achieving operational efficiency in various production processes and industries; in fact, many Operations Research curriculums feature coursework drawn from the Industrial Engineering field.
- Data Scientist – Data Scientists specialize in working with Big Data in various research and analytical processes. Data science involves employing various probabilistic and statistical methods and other tools to gather, analyze, and manage large amounts of data. Some of the skillsets in Operations Research degree programs deal with training students on various software programs they will conceivably encounter and use throughout their professional practice.
- Operations Manager – Operations Research prepares students for various technical and analytical jobs. However, the knowledge and skill sets they gain in the program can readily translate into managerial roles, as it also involves decision-making processes and optimization. Given their technical skills, managers with this background also have a good grasp of what the various tools are at their disposal.
- Operations Research Analyst/Statistician – Statisticians are specialists that utilize various statistical principles and models in designing data-gathering methods and processing and analyzing these datasets. The work done by statisticians often forms the basis for policy and action by governments and private institutions. Statisticians may work in-house for various corporations and government agencies, or they may work as independent consultants.
- Education/Teaching Roles – Similar to other graduate degrees in other fields, graduates of Operations Research degree programs can also take up teaching roles, given the specialized skillsets they already have. Active industry practitioners also take up teaching roles, and the firsthand insights they gain from their practice often prove very valuable to their students.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an online Master of Operations Research program a worthwhile educational investment?
The field of operations research is continuously growing. This position is essential in every industry and sector. Operations research helps solve complex problems and provides insights for decision-making. Pursuing an advanced degree in this field can help prospective students widen their knowledge and acquire skills they can easily apply at work.
Earning a master's degree in operations research can help one get into key positions in business operations and other organizations. This means better employment options, especially if they want to become operations research analysts.
However, since operations research often offers various specializations, it is important to find one to help them meet their career goals. Some operations research degrees encompass financial engineering and mathematical programming. People who love working with numbers and analyzing data will find this master's program interesting and rewarding.
What is the master’s degree timeline for completing an online program in Operations Research?
An online Master's in Operations Research program can take one to two years. However, this can be shorter or lengthier depending on the number of credits students will take every semester. Full-time students will be able to complete the program faster. They can also reduce the time it takes the earn the degree by choosing accelerated options.
Most online Master's in Operations Research programs are developed to fit around the busy schedules of working professionals, however. This means they can enroll part-time and work through the coursework at their own pace.
Other degree requirements can also affect the program duration. Many master's degrees in operations research programs require students to complete a thesis, which can take considerable time.
What are the most common admission requirements for an online master's degree in operations research?
Usually, prospective students who want to earn a graduate degree in operations research need a bachelor's degree in mathematics, engineering, computer science, or other related fields. A strong background in mathematics can also help a lot, as operations research programs often involve mathematical optimization techniques.
Some universities require students to have an excellent undergraduate degree record to help them become competitive for admission. This means meeting particular minimum GPA requirements. They might also need to submit GRE test results, although some academic institutions forego this requirement.
Other common admission requirements include:
- Online application
- Official transcripts
- Personal statement
- Recommendation letters
How much is a Master's in Operations Research degree?
Depending on the accredited academic institution that students choose, the tuition costs for a Master's in Operations Research can be anywhere between $15,000 to $50,000. The exact amount varies from university to university. Other factors can also influence the total graduate program cost. This will include the different tuition rates for in-state students and for those who live out of state. There might also be other fees on top of tuition.
Online programs generally have the same tuition rate as their on-campus counterparts. However, there might be internet and software fees that students will need to consider. On the other hand, students can save a lot when it comes to online programs since they don't have to pay for rent and transportation. They can complete the graduate courses from the comfort of their homes.
It is also worth checking if the university offers different financial support options. Financial aid for graduate students often comes in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans. One of the most common financial aid options is a student loan that can be taken from the federal government. There are also student loans from private creditors.
Taking advantage of financial aid can be a huge help for students who want to pursue their graduate studies. It will allow them to earn their graduate degree without compromising their personal needs and responsibilities.
Operations Research is a STEM (Science, Technology, Mathematics, & Engineering) degree program that focuses on employing various advanced mathematical principles and tools to optimize organizations, such as the decision-making and process efficiency of businesses.
While they may typically have a heavy emphasis on advanced mathematics, Operations Research degrees still have an interdisciplinary structure, drawing course content from a number of related fields such as engineering, data science, logistics, and statistics. Faculty who teach these degree programs and are also professional practitioners often work in collaborative roles with professionals from other industries.
Graduates of Operations Research degree programs have the skills to take up leadership roles in a wide variety of private and public industries and settings, including manufacturing, education, and insurance, as well as in government agencies.