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O.R. in Schools - Careers Profile

If you enjoy maths but you’re not sure how you could use it in a career, take a look at Operational Research (O.R.).  On this page you’ll find a brief definition of what O.R., what qualifications and experience is required and examples of people who work in O.R. and For more information, come along to our annual careers day (, visit the Learn About OR website ( or drop us an email at

The Profession

Operational Research is a profession where initiative, creativity and enthusiasm are every bit as important as technical ability. There is great scope for you to make your mark and, consequently, your future is very much in your own hands. O.R. can be used for strategic planning, operational planning and decision making, has enhanced organisations and experiences all around us. 

By using techniques such as problem structuring methods and mathematical modelling to analyse complex situations, operational research gives executives the power to make more effective decisions and build more productive systems. O.R. practitioners apply their skills of incisive analysis and numeracy to real world problems. Now, more than ever before, the public and private sectors require the involvement of those who can approach highly complex problems in a systematic, creative and pragmatic manner.

Industries and Sectors

Career opportunities for O.R. professionals are extensive – with the demand for O.R. specialists and the variety of projects they are needed for continuing to grow. One of the attractions of O.R. work is the ability to work many different sectors in which O.R. is contributing to the success of many organisations. For example, as an O.R. professional you could have the opportunity to move around in departments in the government, before  experiencing a different corporate environment for a large multi-national company.

Who employs O.R.

The Government - More than 25 Government departments and agencies rely on OR Analysts to help them find solutions to complex management problems: solutions vital to improving the quality of life for millions of people across the UK. But what is it that Government OR Analysts actually do? Simply put, Operational Research brings intellectual rigour to the decision-making process. By looking closely at complex systems, and developing models that predict the way they behave, our Analysts can bring a new perspective to the way problems are tackled. For our people, solving the problem at hand is everything. They’re also able to work with colleagues in areas such as economics, statistics, social research and science.

Industry – Examples include NATS (National Air Traffic Service), EY, British Airways, IBM, RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) to name just a few!

Academia – With an interest in O.R. you could study a PhD at a university and continue studying relevant research topics such as logistics, routing problems or performance measurement.

Qualifications and Experience

People employed in O.R. are generally graduates with numerical degrees and many have followed courses with a significant mathematical, statistical or computing content, opportunities. However, since O.R. is a multidisciplinary area where entry is not limited to people with particular qualifications (such as just mathematics), opportunities can exist for people from other disciplines and those who move into O.R. from other professions. Anyone who is good with numbers and enjoys problem-solving could have a career in O.R.

As a university student, it’s possible to gain experience by doing a placement year or summer internship in O.R. either in the Government or Industry. Additionally, if you’re doing a numerate degree at university, you can sign up for free student membership which offers the opportunity various opportunities and benefits. Sign up as a student member here:

Management Science

Operational Research also sometimes known as Management Science - is becoming increasingly flexible as a career and there is plenty of scope for people to move around. Within a few years, you might expect to become a project or team leader and, in due course, manage an O.R. department. Alternatively, many companies now employ people with an O.R. background in departments such as production or marketing or you could specialise in a particular area of O.R.

If you are thinking of a general management career, there are few better ways of getting an early overview and understanding of how organisations operate. Typically, O.R. teams are involved in projects which draw on a wide range of business skills and have dealings with anyone from shopfloor to boardroom. There are a growing number of directors and senior managers who started off in O.R. Whatever your career aspirations, O.R. will give you a flying start!

Career Profiles

We’ve got our first career on this page and we’ll be adding to it with a new person each month. Each of these profiles come from various people who have a job in O.R. Their experiences will hopefully offer an insight into what O.R. looks like as a career choice.