Careers


If you enjoy maths but you’re not sure how you could use it in a career, take a look at operational research (OR). On this page you’ll find a brief definition of what OR, what qualifications and experience is required and examples of people who work in OR and for more information come along to our annual careers open day.

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.

OR can be used for strategic planning, operational planning and decision making, has enhanced organisations and experiences all around us. If are interested in real-world examples of OR making a difference, read our business case studies.

Who employs OR analysts?

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, analysts can bring a new perspective to the way problems are tackled. 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 OR you could study a PhD at a university and continue studying relevant research topics such as logistics, routing problems or performance measurement.

Career Profiles

Each of these profiles came from people at work in OR. Their experiences offer an insight into what OR looks like as a career choice.

Career Profiles

Qualifications and experience

People employed in OR are generally graduates with numerical degrees and many have followed courses with a significant mathematical, statistical or computing content, opportunities. However, since OR 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 OR from other professions. Anyone who is good with numbers and enjoys problem-solving could have a career in OR.

As a university student, it’s possible to gain experience by doing a placement year or summer internship in OR 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.

Workplace.jpg

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 OR department. Alternatively, many companies now employ people with an OR background in departments such as production or marketing or you could specialise in a particular area of OR. 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, OR teams are involved in projects which draw on a wide range of business skills and have dealings with anyone from shop floor to boardroom. There are a growing number of directors and senior managers who started off in OR. Whatever your career aspirations, OR will give you a flying start!