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The OR Society encourages schools to get on board with operational research in National Careers Week

To mark National Careers Week (4-9 March),[i] The OR Society, the membership organisation for operational researchers, is introducing teachers to an array of resources to promote Operational Research (OR) to students. These resources, including engaging videos and interactive games, that highlight the diverse and interesting careers available in OR and offer guidance on how to get into this career.

Operational Research involves the application of advanced mathematical techniques such as modelling, optimisation, and simulation, together with innovative problem-solving approaches, to address complex real-world challenges.

Leveraging skills such as practical applications of maths and analytics can open many career opportunities, all encompassed under the broad umbrella of OR.  These range from chartered accountant, software and sound engineer to financial trader, management consultant, meteorologist, palaeontologist, and quality surveyor[ii].

Employers are equally as varied and could include NATS (National Air Traffic Service), EY, British Airways, IBM, RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland), Tesco, as well as many Government departments and the NHS.

OR professionals are in high demand in industries such as healthcare, retail, manufacturing, transportation, and sports, occupying roles ranging from business analyst to operations research analyst and data scientist.

For organisations, a qualified Operational Research Specialist can deliver a wide range of performance improvements such as reducing costs, increasing revenue, saving lives, raising levels of customer service and designing public policy.

The Education Group (TEG) reports that the UK national average salary for an Operational Researcher stands at £43,589, with a London average of £45,042. The career path offers a broad salary range, from £27,000 to £69,000 nationally and £29,000 to £70,000 in London.

Critical for those aspiring to a career in OR are proficiency in mathematics and statistics, as well as analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills.

Chiara Carparelli, Education Manager at The OR Society, emphasises the rapid growth of OR, stating, "With technologies like AI and data analytics advancing at pace, job opportunities for OR specialists are expected to surge in the coming years, across diverse industry sectors and fields. OR professionals are at the forefront of solving pressing challenges like climate change, healthcare delivery, and transportation congestion. During National Careers Week, The OR Society seeks to raise awareness, ensuring that young individuals exploring future career paths are informed about the breadth of opportunities in OR. Chiara says, "We want young people to understand what OR is, the career options it offers, the skills and the pathways into this dynamic field."

Laura Reid, CEO at Simul8, a leading simulation software company, describes how she started a career in operations research: “I remember feeling like light a light had gone on after my first introduction to operations research. Up until that point, since I was a small child, I had been “good at maths”, but it was hard to see where I could really make an impact. It was through operations research that I discovered what my purpose was and how I could use my maths skills to make a positive difference on the world. I haven’t looked back.”

Dr. Lucy Gullon, an operational researcher and statistician at BT, echoes this sentiment and highlights the rewarding nature of applying OR techniques to address real-world challenges.

She says, "I would encourage anyone with a background in maths, data science, or numerical studies to explore the myriad career opportunities in OR. Whether it's energy, aerospace, Formula One, or fashion, there are problems to solve and improvements to make. It's fascinating to apply these techniques to real-world problems."

The OR Society highlights the importance of STEM subjects at the A-level for those considering a career in OR. Post A- levels, pursuing an OR degree, or degrees in data science or business analytics, is recommended. However, employers also consider candidates with any STEM subject or numerate degree. For those who opt not to attend university, a degree-level apprenticeship is a viable alternative.

To explore the possibilities within OR visit: www.theorsociety.com/get-involved/or-in-education/careers


[i] https://nationalcareersweek.com

[ii] https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/what-can-i-do-with-my-degree/mathematics