Operational research

 

Operational researchers use statistical and mathematical modelling to analyse and solve business related problems for their clients (which include corporations from across a variety of sectors to government organisations). You might be employed by consultancies, transport and logistics organisations, oil companies, FMCGs, utility companies and many more. You may be based within an organisation and work on their operational problems or work at a consultancy.

Skills and knowledge important for operational researchers include:

  • Economic modelling techniques
  • Data analysis and interpretation
  • Good written and spoken communication skills
  • Good client interaction and rapport building abilities
  • Report writing and evaluation
  • Ability to explain complex ideas in a simplified manner
  • Knowledge of certain programming language e.g. SPSS
  • Able to work under pressure
  • Identify innovative solutions to problems 

As you can work across a broad range of sectors you would be advised to consider the sector in which you would like to work - this will determine the types of business problems you will be addressing. Making a decision on your preferred sector will also help you target your job search and subsequent commercial and sector research.

Resources

  • Euro-online

    Association of European Operational Research Societies (EURO) – Contains some careers information (nice simulation of 24 hours in OR) but very useful as it lists OR related journals.

  • IFORS

    The International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS). Useful information and list of publications, plus short list of regional worldwide OR societies.

  • INFORMS

    A professional society for people working within operational research and management sciences. There is an excellent careers section on the website, in particular the Student Society section which contains FAQs is highly informative.

  • Learn about O.R.

    Careers information about jobs in operational research. Information suitable for students, graduates and professionals.

  • Maths careers

    Information about careers with a numerical degree, useful careers profile, including for operational research.

  • Science of better

    Aimed at potential clients but includes a list of OR professionals, which may be useful to use in your employer job search. Can download an executive guide to OR.

  • TARGETjobs: operational research

    Careers profile about the role of an operational researcher.

Useful Information

Routes in

Internships

Internships specifically in OR are few. Instead, consider showing your interest for this sector by gaining an internship in another area but one which can demonstrate the types of skills required in an OR career. Analyst internships (in risk especially) would be beneficial.

As well as applying for structured internships which will utilise the skills needed in an OR career, you may decide to approach a company yourself to discuss internship or work experience opportunities. Be clear about the skills you can offer the organisation, and be prepared to discuss how you can help their business. Employers who do not offer formal internships may be more open to you approaching them in this way. See our advice on writing speculative applications. Make a careers discussion appointment with a careers consultant to discuss the best way to approach companies speculatively.

Graduate training schemes

A small number of employers offer graduate schemes for students wanting to work in OR. The following is a sample of these schemes:

  • Civil Service Fast Stream - One of the many Analytical Fast Stream programmes is based in operational research within the Government Operational Research Service (GORS).
  • Government Operational Research Service (GORS) - As well as gaining access to this employer through the Civil Service Fast Stream, you can apply for their GORS Mainstream suitable for entry level to experienced candidates.

For more graduate schemes see Prospects and employers’ websites. Visit our resource centre to pick up copies of the Times top 100 graduate employers, The Guardian UK 300 and TARGETjobs which list employers with graduate vacancies.

You can also search LSE CareerHub for graduate jobs and find organisations who are coming on to campus to recruit LSE graduates.

Advertised positions

It is possible to apply for jobs that are not specifically graduate schemes. There are advertised positions for entry level to experienced candidates. Visit employer websites and search CareerHub for vacancies.

Job roles

As well as searching for operational research roles, try searching for other terms which have the same meaning; OR is otherwise known as management science and decision science. The roles and responsibilities of OR jobs will vary from employer to employer and sector to sector. The following is a guide of the typical job role you might expect in an OR function:

Operational researcher / Decision science analyst

They are responsible for conducting analysis into clients’ data to help put together insights which are then presented to the clients to help them make business decisions.  The analyst maybe working in house, in which case their clients will be colleagues, or may be advising external clients. The analyst will create models, through the use of analytical tools and research, designed to predict and identify trends.

Decision science manager / Operational research manager

With people management responsibilities the decision science manager would also be responsible for new and continued statistical modelling. They would be required to source and manipulate data, analysing it to create reports that can lead to practical solutions. They would present their findings and models both internally and to clients. Their modelling and analysis would be supported by the analyst.

Useful websites

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