I was wondering how important it is to have a complete idea of one's research interest idea in the kind of field in OR/Applied math that one wishes to work in prior to applying for an MS/MSc (not PhD) in the same.

From what I've read and heard, an MS in OR is a generic program from an OR point of view in that it covers all the facets of OR (statistics,optimization etc) and provides an overview of the same. A PhD would be a program where one obviously needs to have clear research interests since one would be committed to working on this.

Is a clearly defined research interest necessary? Does it give one the edge? From my point of view, it would be a tad premature right now to say I enjoy and wish to build my career in one field in OR over another.

asked 16 Nov '12, 09:21

shadowblade360's gravatar image

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edited 16 Nov '12, 09:23

Answers to questions like this should come with an automatic disclaimer: "May not apply to all schools." That said, some MS programs require original research (a masters thesis), some make it optional (one track doing a thesis, another track not doing a thesis) and some just do coursework and possibly exams. If you're looking at a non-thesis plan, I doubt that anyone would ask you about research interests. Even at a school with a thesis plan, I think the expectation is typically that you come in somewhat "uninitiated", find out what OR is about and what interests you during your first year (along with finding a compatible faculty advisor), then pick a topic at the start of your second year based on your new-found understanding of what OR is about (and/or what your advisor finds interesting).

Incidentally, not all PhD programs expect entrants to have clearly defined research interests, although they may expect you to know coming in whether you want to work in discrete optimization, simulation, data mining or whatever. Some are happy to accept highly qualified students whose interest is no more specific than "OR" and give them a year or so to narrow down what they want to do.


answered 16 Nov '12, 09:38

Paul%20Rubin's gravatar image

Paul Rubin ♦♦
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Asked: 16 Nov '12, 09:21

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Last updated: 16 Nov '12, 09:38

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