Management Science Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a master's or PhD management science program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and PhD and potential careers.
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Study Management Science: Degrees at a Glance

Management science analysts use tools such as statistics and modeling to solve complex business problems and optimize managerial decision-making. Independent consultants in this field tend to be known as management analysts, while employed workers are often called operations research analysts. Management science is broadly applicable, since it is the science of helping management analyze a problem and determine the best solution. You may choose to specialize in concentrations such as healthcare, manufacturing, computer operations or economics, to name a few.

Management analysts ranked 33 on the U.S. News and World Report 'Best Jobs 2012' list, while the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that the number of management analysts will grow by a faster-than-average 22 percent through 2020. However, the field is very competitive, and the BLS noted than many employers prefer analysts with a graduate degree. Almost a third of management analysts become consultants, working either independently or as part of a consulting firm.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Those looking to stand out in a competitive market or to advance in their careers People who want to work in academia or government as professors or researchers
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Midlevel operations research analyst ($76,100)*
- Operations research analysis supervisor ($99,100)*
- Operations research analysis manager ($146,000)*
- Academic researcher ($73,000)*
- Professor of mathematics ($86,000)*
- Dean of mathematics ($97,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 3-5 years
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 6-8 graduate level courses
- Master's thesis/research paper
- Master's exams
Most (or all) of the master's degree requirements, plus:
- Roughly 4-6 more graduate level courses
- PhD qualifier exams
- Dissertation prospectus (proposal)
- Dissertation
- Teaching requirement
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in management science or related field Bachelor's or master's degree in management science or related field
Online Availability Yes Yes, but rare

Source: *Salary.com (2012 figures).

Master's Degree in Management Science

Master's degree programs in management science and engineering, or operations research, concentrate heavily on advanced math, modeling and engineering coursework. Sometimes, as a business student, you may pursue a dual degree, such as MBA/MS degrees in operations research, or an MBA with a management science concentration. The MBA combinations focus more on business and management subjects, but still apply advanced mathematical and statistical skills to managerial decision-making. A straightforward master's program generally would take you up to two years of full-time study to complete and requires you to have a bachelor's degree in a related field.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Employers in this competitive field often prefer job candidates with a graduate degree
  • The analytical and problem-solving competencies taught in management science are highly valued by employers and often result in well-paying jobs
  • A master's in management science can be applied to a broad range of sectors, allowing degree holders choice and flexibility; it's relatively easy to change jobs, if desired
  • Management analysts have the option to become independent consultants and often earn more than their employee counterparts

Cons

  • A master's is costly in time and money
  • Management analysts and operations research analysts often work on complex problems under tight deadlines and may have to work unpaid overtime
  • Complicated problems, time constraints and client demands may result in stress

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (May 2010).

Courses and Requirements

As a master's student, you'd take six or seven advanced courses followed by rigorous testing. After passing these tests, you then choose an appropriate topic and conduct intensive, mostly independent research culminating in an original master's thesis. Core management science coursework may focus on decision-making models, operations research or consulting, and elective coursework in one of several concentration areas, such as logistics, finance or technology. Sample courses might include:

  • Stochastic decision models
  • Deterministic models
  • Probability
  • Organizational behavior
  • Risk analysis
  • Advanced business finance
  • Resource allocation

Online Degree Options

An online master's degree program is designed primarily for you if you want to advance in your career while working already. Some accredited master's programs in operations research are available online; some programs offer coursework only, so that you can earn the degree entirely online. You'd watch lectures, communicate with the professor and submit work through the Internet. Online courses are not free, though they may be less expensive than their onsite alternatives. Some hybrid programs may require you to travel to school to attend a week or two of seminars, or to submit a thesis.

Stand out with this Degree

The BLS suggests that demand will be high for small independent consulting firms that specialize in specific industries or functions. Additionally, the BLS notes that consultants who can facilitate international business expansion, the implementation of new information or computer technology or 'green' energy cost-cutting measures will be in demand going forward. The BLS recommends specialized expertise, certification and/or a graduate degree as useful career tools in this field. According to U.S. News, students with dual degrees in computer science and operations research are especially in demand.

Degree Alternatives

Management analysts and operations research analysts are generally well-paid, and their skills are needed almost everywhere. However, a master's in operations management, or an MBA with an operations management track, is one similar alternative to a master's in management science. According to U.S. News, the median annual salary for a business operations manager was $94,000 as of 2012, as opposed to $76,000 for a midlevel OR analyst. Employment growth in operations management, however, was projected to be much lower than average through 2020, at 4.6 percent.

PhD in Management Science

A PhD degree in management science is for you if you plan to enter academia as a university professor, or if you want to move into research, executive positions in business or consulting. A PhD program in management science or operations research would usually take you five years of full-time study to complete, and is comprised of a coursework and testing phase, followed by mostly independent research resulting in an original doctoral dissertation. Management science coursework at the PhD level concentrates on hard math and science subjects like optimization, statistics and advanced economics. It will also likely include a course on research methods and management, plus elective choices that allow you to tailor your degree to a specific area of concentration, such as finance or operations.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A PhD can help independent consultants get clients
  • A PhD can open the door to research or policymaking positions in industry and government
  • A PhD may help a management analyst move up to an executive position
  • Stipends and tuition waivers are often available to help reduce the cost

Cons

  • A PhD may take as much as five years to complete
  • A management science or operations research PhD covers extremely technical and difficult coursework
  • Financial aid may not cover all the costs of tuition

Courses and Requirements

A PhD in management science or operations research takes the master's courses to the next level, and often adds to your training in research methodology as preparation for the extensive research portion of the program. As prospective student, you'd usually have already a master's degree in management science, operations research or a related field before enrollment, and must often maintain a B average to stay in the program. Proficiency in a computer programming language may also be required. Likely subjects include:

  • Stochastics
  • Linear optimization
  • Non-linear optimization
  • Advanced Research
  • Applied Statistics
  • OR Modeling

Online Degree Options

Accredited online PhD programs in this subject exist, but are rare. You would probably have to enroll in a management program with an operations research concentration. Online doctoral programs, when available, are often structured as online/onsite hybrids, in which you watch lectures, submit coursework online, attend occasional seminars and perhaps defend a dissertation onsite. In this instance, you may be able to complete a virtual residency and finish the entire program online if you meet certain requirements. Coursework for online programs generally mirrors onsite equivalents; usually the only difference is the method by which information is transmitted. Online PhD programs are not free, though loans, stipends or tuition waivers may be available.

Stand out with this Degree

The BLS noted that the number of university professors was expected to grow at an average pace through 2020, and that engineering professors should have better-than-average job prospects in spite of government budget constraints. Since the BLS projected that management science concentrations such as computer operations and international business management should be increasingly in demand, degree holders with the expertise to teach such concentrations should be in demand, as well. Entrepreneurs or industry professionals with a PhD may also stand out by focusing on growth areas within the discipline, and by taking advantage of the networking and certification opportunities that industry organizations, such as the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), offer.

Degree Alternatives

If you have programming experience or a prior educational focus on computer-related OR, you might consider switching over to computer programming. A computer science, software engineering or math degree is usually required, though a bachelor's is often sufficient. The annual median salary was $88,000 in 2010, per BLS reports, about the same as that for a mathematics professor, and more than the salary for a midlevel OR analyst, which was $76,000 annually in 2012. The BLS projected that computer programmers should be increasingly in demand, and that the number of computer programmers should grow much faster than the average, at 30 percent, through 2020.

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Colorado Technical University

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Grand Canyon University

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  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Organizational Development

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Northcentral University

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  • Doctor of Business Admin - Organizational Leadership

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Indiana Wesleyan University

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Abilene Christian University

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