What background do I need to have?

A strong foundation in math and an interest and curiosity about solving real world problems.

You Can Become an Operations Research/Analytics Professional

Entry-level professionals generally begin with a bachelor's degree in math, business, or industrial engineering with an emphasis in operations research, analytics, or quantitative methods. University operations research and analytics programs are housed in different departments and schools, and most universities offer degrees in operations research and analytics only at the graduate level. But it isn't necessary to hold a degree in operations research or analytics to get your career started as long as you’ve developed the necessary problem solving skills.

Although entry-level positions start with a bachelor's degree, you may want to consider studying for a master's degree so that you have the opportunity to apply your skills at the highest level in a corporation, consulting group, government agency, or nonprofit agency. Most graduate programs don't require an undergraduate degree in operations research or analytics for admission. If you can demonstrate you've developed good quantitative skills as an undergraduate you shouldn't hesitate to apply.

If you're interested in taking your skills to the very highest level, perhaps even doing research or teaching, consider pursuing a Ph.D.

  Examples of Courses
Take the core high school math courses, at college-prep level if available Algebra, Geometry, Precalculus 
If there are statistics or advanced math classes also take those if you can. Probability, Statistics
In college, take calculus and other core math courses. Also take writing and economics. Calculus, Multivariable Calculus, Linear Algebra, Probability, Statistics, Stochastic Processes, computer programming, algorithms
Social science and business courses are also useful for gaining insight into real world problems.  Psychology, economics, computer programming. Other courses you are interested in—e.g., geopolitics, health care, business management, social networks. Take O.R./analytics courses if they are available.
In addition, gain experience in communication (writing, speaking, and presentations).

Click here for a listing of O.R. and Analytics Programs at universities in the U.S. as well as overseas

The Power of Mathematics (Goldsman)

ISyE Professor Dave Goldsman talks about some interesting uses of mathematics in industrial engineering and operations research.