Operations Research Major

Operations Research is a scientific approach to decision making with a focus on how best to design and operate systems, usually under conditions requiring the allocation of scarce resources. However, whether one means the term to be a professional designation, a label for a body of methods, or an approach to problem solving, operations research is today inextricably linked to the direction and management of large systems of people, machines, materials, and money in government, industry, business, and defense. Since its inception during WWII, the interdisciplinary field of operations research has set itself apart as an applied mathematical science and engineering discipline with a diverse range of applications. Because of the increased demand for operations research analyses within the Army, the operations research specialty continues to enjoy steady growth in membership, and is associated with superb educational and promotion opportunities throughout an officer's military career. West Point remains the single largest source of operations research officers for the Army. Graduates of the operations research program at USMA are well prepared to tackle some of the Army's most challenging problems and to pursue graduate study in support of the operations research career field.

Military Applications of Operations Research

The military specifically uses Operations Research at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. The applications cover a full spectrum of military activities including national policy analysis, resource allocation, force composition and modernization, logistics, human resources, battle planning, and maintenance and replenishment.

Operations Research Major


Student Outcomes

The student outcomes of the operations research major include:    

  1. Demonstrate competence in modeling processes and systems by:
    • Identifying and articulating assumptions, metrics and constraints
    • Applying appropriate solutions techniques
    • Interpreting results within the appropriate context
  2. Argue and inquire soundly and rigorously; become independent questioners and learners
  3. Achieve proficiency in operations research – in breadth and depth
    • Understand and apply probabilistic and statistical models and methods
    • Understand and apply simulation methods
    • Understand and apply optimization methods
  4. Communicate effectively - orally and in writing
  5. Use technology to model, visualize, and solve complex problems
  6. Develop attitudes – habits of mind:
    • Creative and curious
    • Experimental disposition
    • Critical thinking and reasoning
    • Commitment to life-long learning
  7. Understand the role of operations research in interdisciplinary problem solving

Program of Study

Operations Research applies quantitative methods to decision-making. The Operations Research curriculum offers a combination of mathematical optimization, statistics, systems engineering, engineering management, computer science, and economics. This broad foundation of problem-solving skills and knowledge afford an adept perspective when confronting the challenging and complex problems that face military, government, and industry leaders.

Cadets interested in studying operations research can pursue a degree in Operations Research, Operations Research Studies, or Operations Research with Honors. All cadets must complete 26 core courses.

The Operations Research Major requires an additional 16 courses (12 required and 4 elective) for a total of 42 academic courses.

The Operations Research Studies Major requires an additional 14 courses in the major (11 required and 3 electives) for a total of 40 academic courses. SE402 and SE403 are not required. Instead, the Studies Major requires SM401 Systems Management Capstone.

Honors Program

Operations Research offers an honors program. In order to receive an Operations Research Major with Honors a cadet must:

  • Complete two courses MA498 Senior Thesis I and MA499 Senior Thesis II in place of MA491
  • Graduate with an APSC > 3.0 in the 30 core academic program courses
  • Graduate with an APSC > 3.5 in the 17 mathematical sciences major courses.

Required Courses (11 of 11)

Course No. Course Title
MA371 Linear Algebra
MA376 Applied Statistics
MA381 Nonlinear Optimization
MA476 Mathematical Statistics
MA481 Linear Programming
SE301 Fundamental Engineering Design and Systems Management
SE385 Decision Analysis
SE387 Deterministic Models
SE388 Probabilistic Models
SE402 Systems Design
SE403 Systems Design and Engineering Management
IT Course (1 of 2)
Course No. Course Title
IT305 Theory and Practice of Military IT Systems
IT355 Advanced Theory of Military IT Systems
Simulation Elective (1 of 2)
Course No. Course Title
EM481 Systems Simulation
SE485 Combat Modeling
Operations Research Elective (2 of 19)
Course No. Course Title
EM381 Engineering Economy
EM411 Project Management
EM420 Production Operations & Systems
EM481 Systems Simulation
EM482 Supply Chain ENG and IM
MA372 Introduction to Discrete Math
MA383 Foundations of Math
MA386 Introduction to Numerical Analysis
MA387 Mathematical Analysis I
MA391 Mathematical Modeling
MA461 Graph Theory and Networks
MA462 Combinatorics
MA488 Special Topics in Mathematics
MA489 Advanced Individual Studies in Math
MA491 Research Seminar in Applied Mathematics
SE370 Computer Aided Systems Engineering
SE485 Combat Modeling
SM421 Systems Acquisition Management
SM484 System Dynamic Simulation
General Elective (1 of 17)
Course No. Course Title
CS384 Data Structures
CS486 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
EM420 Production Operations & Systems
EM481 Systems Simulation
MA386 Introduction to Numerical Analysis
MA391 Mathematical Modeling
MA461 Graph Theory and Networks
MA488 Special Topics in Mathematics
MA489 Advanced Individual Studies in Math
SE385 Combat Modeling
SE489 Advanced Individual Study in Systems Engineering
SE490 Special Topics in Mathematics
SE491 Applied Research Project in Systems Engineering
SM484 Dynamic Systems Analysis
SE382 Microeconomics
SS388 Macroeconomics
SS469 Econometrics II