Masters (MS) in Operations Research in USA

Masters in Operations Research USA

If you had to make decisions in a system which is too complex for simple facts or intuition, who would you call? Not ghostbusters, but a graduate in the field of Operations Research. These graduates are equipped with the knowledge of mathematical sciences, computer science, and statistical analysis to model complex systems and help decision makers in reaching resolutions that are optimized for maximum profit while keeping risks, time and money at a minimum.

For a field of study which had its modern origin in the World War II era, when scientists in the UK and the United States, found ways to model complex logistics and training problems that could help their war efforts, it has found its way well into peaceful times.

Operations Research (OR) analysts are essentially an integral part of almost every industry, spanning industrial engineering, banking, manufacturing, policy modeling, insurance, data processing and pretty much any industry that needs sound management decisions based on information provided by these analysts.

For instance, tech giants like IBM, Intel and HP use OR to manage improved manufacturing with lesser resources and in turn reduce the cost of our technological gadgets. Airline industry uses it to cut through the complexities of volume, and variables, to make decisions on flight prices, schedules, crew, all while minimizing the risks to passengers.

In this article, we will lay out the basic requirements and the possible potential for students in MS Operations Research – GRE and TOEFL scores, Top Schools in the US, their tuition costs and consequent industry based employment facts, population and salaries.

Read Guide to get an MS in USA.

Masters (MS) in Operations Research in USA

Industry Profile, Salaries, and Top Schools


Eligibility requirements

As far as the basic requirements for eligibility for an MS in OR, you need to have an undergraduate degree in one of industrial engineering, engineering, mathematics, statistics, business with quantitative training, and a general strong head for all things Mathematical.

Any other pre-requisite courses can be filled in once you join your desired university. Of course that bit will be tailored to each individual university and easily known once you do your own little research into the admission requirements.

What’s in it for you?

Given the large versatility, Masters students, in Operations Research, find themselves in quite popular demand after graduation. In fact it is among the top ten MS specializations in the US with average salaries on the happy side of $130,000 after ten years of successful performance (Read Top 10 Masters Specializations).

The job prospects are also expected to grow an impressive 30% in the next ten years. To begin with, let us summarize the various industries that are currently holding the flag for being the largest employers of these jewels, in the mathematical world. Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (, from 2015, the summary of the 95,860 employees, that year, are shown here.

Industry Percent of industry employment in the US Average Salary in the industry
Management of Companies and Enterprises 0.42 $85,380
Insurance Carriers 0.81 $81,970
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services 0.68 $86,690
Computer Systems Design and Related Services 0.43 $88,330
Federal Executive Branch 0.24 $110,600
Monetary Authorities-Central Bank 0.85 $93,400
Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing Not Released $103,190
Other Financial Investment Activities 0.64 $94,870
Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services 0.64 $79,700
Securities and Commodity Contracts Intermediation and Brokerage 0.53 $105,310


Job Description: What will you be doing?

By the end of your graduation, you will need to understand a few basic concepts to step into that dream office and start modeling, managing and help making well structured decisions. The designations are fancy.

You will be the Operations Research Analyst, Operations Manager, Materials Manager, Purchasing Manager, Production Manager, Facilities Coordinator, Logistics Manager, Quality Assurance Manager, Business Analyst and so on.

Nearly all of them will require you to be well versed with (from,

  • Handling Big Data.
  • Setting up a system to constantly update your data.
  • Decision Making.
  • How sets of data are connected to each other, like in Network analysis.
  • How to optimize a commodity or service? Like what kind of products to prioritize manufacturing, based on known data. Optimization involves mathematical programming models like stochastic modeling, nonlinear programming, etc.
  • Use probability theory to predict uncertainties in, say production, in the next few years.
  • Use the queueing theory to manage flow of production, people or services in an efficient manner. Perhaps even solve airline management.
  • Computer modeling to obviously program, test and apply a model with efficiency.

In some sense, it is a way to play a real world problem, with all its variables and uncertainties, in a computer program to decide what’s best.

Best universities for Operations Management with eligibility and tuition

The next big question is where? While most US Universities do offer a course in Operations Research, quite a few offering only PhD programs, there are a obviously a few which stand a cut a above the rest.

So here’s a list of some of the top schools, their requirements and tuition costs for getting an MS/Masters (SM or MSOR degree) in Operations Research. The departments, offering OR degrees, are usually one of Statistics, Mathematics, Industrial Engineering or Business. The ranking is based of QS World University Rankings from 2016.

University Average GRE Score TOEFL Application Fee Tuition
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) V: 162
Q: 167
MIT doesn’t specify a minimum
PBT*: 577
iBT*: 90
IELTS(Preferred): 7
$75 $68,250
(MIT Tuition)
Stanford University V: 159
Q: 163
TOEFL: 110/120 $125 $50,244
(Stanford FAQs)
University of California Berkeley (UCB) V: 157
Q: 165
UCB doesn’t specify a minimum
PBT: 570
iBT: 90
$125 $27,386
Georgia Institute of Technology V: 158
Q: 167
GATECH doesn’t specify a minimum
iBT: 90
Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking: 19
IELTS not accepted
$75 ~$30,000
Princeton University Application in the department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering is subject to approval from a faculty. Students are mostly trained towards a PhD degree. Applicants are encouraged to contact in advance.
University of Washington Due to the various options and backgrounds of applicants to the department of Applied and Computational Math Sciences, applicants are encouraged to contact advising committee well in advance at
University of Columbia V > 64 percentile
Q> 91 percentile
PBT: 599
iBT: 99
IELTS: 6.5
$85 $63,563

CBT: Computer Based TOEFL Test, iBT: Internet Based TOEFL Test, PBT:Paper Based TOEFL Test, IELTS: International English Language Testing System
The tricky bit about an OR degree comes in the university specific details. As is the nature of the specialization, students from various backgrounds, albeit with a strong Mathematics core, can apply.

Being interdisciplinary, the choice of department, degree title and even the nature of academic level is best left for you to research to suit your needs. However, one thing is for certain.

Students with a love of applying their intuition, logical abilities and analytical intelligence towards real world problems will find themselves quite at home with a specialization such as operations research – putting complex real world systems on a map, finding ways for decisions to move forward.

So here’s hoping that you have found your way to this article, getting set on your path to a bright future ahead. Good Luck!
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