Operational researcher

Job Description:

Operational researchers analyse how organisations can improve the way they work.

Job Category:
Professional Services

What you will do:

In your day-to-day tasks you may:

  • observe staff and managers, and interview them about their jobs
  • collect and analyse data, using mathematical and statistical methods
  • apply business theories
  • identify areas for improvement and recommend changes
  • advise managers on making changes
  • check to see how changes are working
  • set up and test solutions to problems, using statistical and computer forecasting
  • present findings to an organisation


You’ll need:

  • maths skills
  • business management skills
  • to have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications
  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses

As well as:

  • analytical thinking skills
  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptability skills)
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • customer service skills
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork skills)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become an Operational Researcher, specific subjects are not typically required, but having a strong educational background, including certain subjects, can be beneficial for developing the skills and knowledge necessary for this career.

Operational Researchers use mathematical and analytical methods to solve complex problems and optimise processes within organisations. While specific subjects are not mandatory, here are some subjects and skills that can be helpful:

  1. Mathematics: Strong mathematical skills are fundamental for operational research. Topics like algebra, calculus, statistics, and probability are particularly relevant.
  2. Physics (optional): While not mandatory, physics can provide a foundation for understanding complex systems, modeling, and simulations.
  3. Computer Science or Information Technology (IT): Proficiency in using computer software and programming languages can be valuable for data analysis and modeling.
  4. English Language: Effective communication skills, including written and verbal communication, are crucial for documenting research findings, preparing reports, and presenting results to stakeholders.
  5. Economics (optional): Courses in economics can provide insights into decision-making processes and economic modeling, which are relevant to operational research.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly

You’ll usually need a degree in operational research, maths or other relevant subject, for example:

  • statistics
  • computing
  • economics
  • management science

Some employers may prefer you to have a postgraduate qualification in operational research or management science.

You could do an operational research specialist higher apprenticeship.

This apprenticeship typically takes 24 months to complete.

Most trainee operational researchers are graduates with strong maths and analytical skills.

Direct Application
You may be able to get into operational research if you’ve got related experience from industry, for example in research and development, or project or change management.

Working Hours and Environment:

Typically you could work 37 to 39 hours a week.

You could work in an office or from home.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience you could become a project or team leader, then manager of an operational research department.

You could also become self-employed as a management consultant.