PhD in Operations Research

MIT’s doctoral degree (PhD) program in operations research (OR) provides you with thorough understanding of the theory of OR while teaching you to how to develop and apply OR methods in practice.

We offer a general degree track as well as three optional degree tracks in operations management, networked systems, and analytics. All doctoral students must complete the general degree track requirements; those who choose an optional degree track will have additional, specialized requirements to fulfill. 

General Degree Track

In addition to the writing competency requirements, our rigorous curriculum includes challenging coursework, action learning, and innovative research.

You’ll take eight graduate-level classes that have been approved by the ORC co-directors, including at least two courses in optimization, at least three in applied probability and statistics, and at least one in OR modeling.

You’ll put OR theory into practice through valuable, hands-on learning experiences, completing one of the following:

  • Option 1: Participate in a summer internship, during which you’ll create OR models that address a real-world problem.
  • Option 2: Undertake a project with an ORC faculty member, either as part of a supervised research activity or as an extra part of a regular course offering.
  • Option 3: Take part in a class, for which you’ll build and implement OR models that have practical applications.

And, you’ll conduct in-depth research on a topic that complements your academic interests and career goals. You’ll write a thesis based on the independent research you conduct under the guidance of our expert faculty.

Qualifying Process and General Examination

All students enrolled in an ORC doctoral program must complete the Qualifying Process and receive a passing score on the General Examination.

  • Qualifying Process: By the end of a student’s first semester at MIT, ORC doctoral students must choose three courses they would like to declare as their Qualifying Courses. Students must choose one approved course from the three different categories (Optimization, Probability, and Machine Learning/Statistics). Students must then satisfactorily complete these three courses with a minimum of 2 As and 1 B or a combined GPA of 4.6 or higher by the end of their third semester at MIT. During the student’s first summer at MIT (month of August), ORC doctoral students will engage in a Common Experience project where students will work in teams to address an important problem for an organization. 
  • General Examination: You’ll take the General Examination once you’ve passed the Qualifying Examination and completed all of your program requirements. It is comprised of a research-oriented (RO) paper and a presentation of a research paper.

Upon completion of our doctoral program, you’ll have the specialized knowledge and technical skills to have a positive impact in a variety of fields, including business, education, and research. Many of our graduates have gone on to careers in academia, in the U.S. and abroad, while others have found success in business and industry as researchers and consultants.

 Analytics Track

In addition to the general PhD degree requirements, you will also:

  • complete a summer internship with an organization related to analytics for your hands-on learning experience.
  • take two specialized courses in analytics; these classes may count toward your eight required graduate-level classes.
  • serve as a teaching assistant in courses related to analytics, or an approved equivalent.
  • write a thesis on a topic related to analytics; one member of your thesis committee should be among the ORC faculty who specialize in analytics.

Networked Systems Track

In addition to the general PhD degree requirements, you will also:

  • complete a summer internship with an organization related to networked systems for your hands-on learning experience.
  • take two specialized courses in networked systems; these classes may count toward your eight required graduate-level classes.
  • serve as a teaching assistant in courses related to networked systems, or an approved equivalent.
  • write a thesis on a topic related to networked systems; one member of your thesis committee should be among the ORC faculty who specialize in networked systems.

Operations Management Track

In addition to the general PhD degree requirements, you will also:

  • complete a summer internship with an organization related to operations management for your hands-on learning experience.
  • take two specialized courses in operations management; these classes may count toward your eight required graduate-level classes. 
  • serve as a teaching assistant in two MBA courses related to operations management or assist in one and take another one for credit. At least one of the classes for which you’re a teaching assistant must include recitation.
  • write a thesis on a topic related to operations management; one member of your thesis committee should be among the ORC faculty who specialize in operations management.

For more information about ORC course offerings, please go here.