If you’re looking for a job with an intellectual flavour, a career as an operational researcher might be just the ticket. These clever clogs use mathematical and scientific techniques to improve the management and structure of an organisation.
Operational researchers collect and analyse data, build models of organisations and construct simulations, all with the aim of informing and developing management strategies and operational procedures.
Often they’ll be focusing on a particular problem, tasked by a company to help find them a solution.
Not only do operational researchers need strong mathematical and analytical skills, but they also require top-notch communication skills. Why? Because a large part of the job will involve interviewing employees, conducting workshops and presenting findings to senior management.
As part of this, operational researchers will need to have the ability to explain complex processes in relatively simple terms, so that a non-technical audience can understand them.
Salary & benefits
Operational researchers might start off with a salary between £20,000 and £27,000 a year, rising along with more responsibility and experience. Those working at a senior level could earn anything between £39,000 and £80,000 a year.
Obviously, salaries will vary depending on location and employer, with those working for the public sector earning less than those in the private sector.
Operational researchers usually work a 40-hour week, although it isn’t uncommon to work longer hours, particularly near project deadlines.
Not all operational researchers are in-house. With experience, social researchers might join consultancies or strike out as a freelance consultant.
If you want to become an operational researcher, you’ll probably need a degree in business, computing, management, mathematics, economics, psychology, or other science or mathematical subjects.
An MSc in Operational Research or Management will likely improve your chances, particularly as some employers might largely recruit from MSc courses, but it isn’t mandatory.
Operational researchers need to be experts at problem solving and using analytical methods. They should be highly numerate with exemplary communication skills, and possess excellent planning and organisational skills.
Training & progression
If graduates haven’t got an MSc in Operational Research, some companies might expect them to complete it part-time or undergo extensive in-house training. Most entrants start off working under strict supervision before gradually taking on more responsibility.
Career progression usually takes the form of advancing to more managerial and supervisory roles, like leading a team of operational research consultants.