Operations Researcher

Operational researchers use mathematical, analytical and computational techniques to provide quantitative and qualitative information that will improve managerial decision-making.

Operations researchers advise management on the rectifying of mistakes they make in the company or in their own lives. People often do not enjoy nor appreciate others pointing out their shortcomings, or trying to make drastic changes in their lives. It is, therefore, essential that the researcher build a positive relationship with the manager concerned, in which mentorship and persuasion become possible.

The aim is to develop alternatives. Operations researchers use quantitative techniques to find solutions to economic, managerial or financial problems. They are sometimes required to manage smaller businesses on a daily basis, or work at an international level. Some operations researchers are consultants at universities, other institutes or schools of business. However, most operations researchers are employed within one large company.

Operational research involves determining and clarifying strategic and operational problems via consultation with appropriate employees, outlining objectives, collecting, analysing and interpreting data, identifying and assessing possible strategies, presenting results that are easily understood and implementing agreed solutions.

A large proportion of the work involves numerical and computational analytical techniques, often using expert systems and artificial intelligence. Contact with managerial staff and other relevant personnel is a key feature of the job.

Operations researchers typically need to be proficient in database collection and management and programming and possibly the development and use of sophisticated software programs. They may have a background in Mathematics, Statistics, Informatics, Economics, Financial Accounting, Business Management and/or Computer Science.  important skills for operational researchers are good intellectual skills, logical skills, mathematical skills, problem-solving abilities, effective team-working skills, interpersonal skills, a diplomatic and persuasive manner and verbal and written communication skills.


Personal Requirements

  • mathematical aptitude
  • able to think logically
  • approach problems systematically
  • creative and resourceful
  • wide general knowledge
  • able to work in a team
  • excellent listening and interpersonal skills
  • optimistic and positive
  • always see the potential in another person
  • good oral and written communication skills

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree: The minimum requirement is a BCom or BSc in a mathematical discipline and preferably also honours in Operations Research or a related discipline. UKZN offers a BSc in Operations Research. At other universities, Operations Research is intertwined in courses of other disciplines.

Persons with a BSc (Hons) degree and in some cases, a BCom (Hons) degree, with a specific amount of practical experience, may register as professional scientists with the South African Council for the Natural Scientific Professions. This offers them professional status and its associated privileges.


  • small businesses
  • government
  • universities
  • mining houses
  • banks
  • technical specialists
  • self-employment

Further Information

Operations Research Society of South Africa
The Secretary
P O Box 850
Groenkloof, 0027
Tel. (012) 429-4564

Getting Started

  • practise thinking in terms of solutions rather than getting bogged down with the problems
  • practise lateral thinking and other creative thinking skills
  • work on your public speaking skills and on your analytical and listening skills
  • speak to operations researchers about their work

Programmes by Study Institutions

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