What Is Management Science? + How to Enter This Field

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover what management science encompasses and career options in this interdisciplinary field.

[Featured Image] A manager stands in front of a staff member at work on a laptop computer.

What is management science?

Management science is the study of problem-solving and decision-making in organizations. You can think of it as applying the scientific method to management, enabling managers to make decisions for an organization and improve its performance. For example, health care facilities can use management science to determine the necessary information systems, while airlines can use it to schedule planes and crew.

Management science is important because it helps organizations identify issues they must solve, streamline management efforts, use resources more effectively, and develop roadmaps for achieving goals. There are several assumptions or principles of management science that guide professionals in this field, including:  

  • Problem-solving is central to management. 

  • Managerial problems can be quantified and described in mathematical terms. 

  • Mathematical tools, techniques, simulations, and models can enhance the problem-solving process.

Originating from operations research, management science is interdisciplinary, which means it involves two or more academic or professional disciplines. Disciplines that management science intersects with include engineering, game theory, psychology, project management, data science, and supply chain management. 

Did you know? Operations research, management science’s predecessor, was developed during WWII when the Allied Forces (Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union) used mathematical models to improve military operations.


In your research into management science, you may come across similar terms like scientific management or business analytics. Note their distinctions in the table below: 

Management scienceUsing scientific and research-based approaches to help a business make decisions, improve performance, and meet goals
Scientific managementAnalyzing and synthesizing workflows, improving economic efficiency and labor productivity
Business analyticsUsing data and statistical methods to understand business performance and drive business planning

Careers in management science

With a degree in management science, you can work in a variety of fields, from marketing and branding to finance, human resources, and data science. According to job site Zippia, the average median US salary for management science graduates is $68,844, with the top 10 percent earning over $120,000 [1]. The most popular job titles include:

  • Business analyst: Studies the market, determines a business’s profitability, and identifies solutions to a business’s challenges. 

  • Data analyst: Gathers and interprets data, highlights important trends, and reports findings to an organization’s management. 

Read more: Data Analyst vs. Business Analyst: What's the Difference?

  • Actuarial analyst: Works in the insurance industry and uses data analysis and statistical modeling to calculate the probability and risk of events like death, accidents, and property damage 

  • Finance analyst: Assesses the performance of stocks, bonds, and investments to advise businesses and individuals on their investment decisions

  • Programmer analyst: Tests, analyzes, and maintains software applications to help businesses achieve their goals 

  • Risk analyst: Analyzes financial documents and economic conditions to determine the risk involved in business decisions and planned activities. 

  • Research analyst: Collects data from varied sources to help organizations determine target markets and ideal pricing for products and services.

Your management science career path 

If you want to draw from multiple disciplines to solve business problems, take on a leadership role, and use analytical and critical thinking skills, management science could be an aligned career path for you. 

Follow the steps below to get started. 

1. Get a management science degree.

Getting a degree in management science or a related field, such as business statistics or international marketing, can expose you to the important concepts, methods, skills, and techniques for pursuing a rewarding career. Depending on the degree program, you can expect to take courses in statistics, financial accounting, systems analysis, data analysis, research design, statistics, marketing, operations research, decision risk analysis, and more. 

When you research management science degree programs, decide what criteria will make a program a good fit for you. You may find it useful to investigate programs’ rankings. For example, Universities.com ranks the management science programs at the University of Pennsylvania, Washington University in St. Louis, Cornell University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Southern California as the top five in the US. Rankings are based on such factors as

  • The diversity of the student body

  • Retention and graduation rates

  • Student-faculty ratio

  • Percentage of tenured or tenure-track faculty 

2. Hone your management science skills. 

In addition to earning your degree, you can benefit from continuing to build skills, knowledge, and industry insight in the broad field of management science. In continuing your education, you can better narrow down an area of focus or identify a specific career track for applying your management science training, such as data science or project management. 

Here are four approaches you can take: 

3. Build a management science resume. 

Once you decide on a focus area or specific career track, the next step is to build a resume that represents your capabilities. Be sure to list your education, certifications, specific skills, conferences you’ve attended, memberships in professional organizations, and other qualifications. 

Read more: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Resume

6. Apply for management science jobs. 

Start by researching current job openings on a variety of career sites, including general sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, or LinkedIn. Try search queries like “management science careers,” “management science jobs,” “management scientist,” or roles in your chosen area of focus.

For each job listing, pay close attention to salary information, qualifications required, and the tasks and responsibilities you’d be responsible for. Tailor your resume to each position. Practice interviewing skills like how to answer different types of questions and how to research a company. 

Learn management science with Coursera

Taking online courses can be a great way to gain some knowledge and skills in management science before or, at the same time, pursue a bachelor’s degree or advanced degree in this field.

If you’re ready to pursue an advanced degree, check out the Master of Science in Management program from the University of Illinois. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Article sources


Zippia. “Average Management Science Major Salary, https://www.zippia.com/management-science-major/salary/.” Accessed June 16, 2022. 

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.