FAQs - Operations Research
Frequently Asked Questions
NPS operates on a quarter system. There are four academic terms per year, each 12 weeks in length, and there is a graduation held each quarter (a link to the academic catalog is here: https://www.nps.edu/web/registrar/calendar). Typically, a tenure-track faculty member will teach four courses per year. Most faculty members teach two courses in each of two terms per year, leaving the other two terms open for research. Teaching two sections of the same course counts as two courses.
Classes in NPS-OR typically meet daily for 50 minutes, either four or five times per week. Some courses will meet less frequently for longer periods (e.g., twice a week for two hours). Students typically take four classes per academic term.
Quality of instruction is extremely important to NPS, so class sizes are kept deliberately small. Class sizes can vary, but mostclasses have approximately 20 students in them. If a class has more than 30 students enrolled, it is typically broken into two sections.
There are no teaching assistants at NPS. Professors are responsible for all lectures, labs, grading, and office hours. The intent is for students (who are mid-career military professionals) to have direct exposure with the faculty so they can develop thesis topics with them and engage with their research.
The department offers a variety of in-residence and distance-learning programs, but the flagship program is Curriculum 360 (Operations Analysis). A listing of the programs and courses for each curriculum can be found here.
The various curricula in the department are all postgraduate programs; most offer either a Master of Science or a Master's degree in a particular subject of study. We also offer a PhD in Operations Research, but it is a much smaller program than the master's programs.
Students are mid-career military professionals from the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and Space Force, as well as international officers. Most students have had approximately 7-10 years of experience as an officer, but students can range from folks in their early 20s to their early 40s.
The vast majority of students in NPS-OR are master's students. We have both in-residence curricula and distance-learning curricula, both of which are approximately two years in length.
At any given time, we typically have only 1-3 PhD students in residence. Most branches of the military give officers only 3 years to complete a PhD, so we have to be very selective in the students that we accept for such an aggressive timeline.
Our students are mature, motivated, and hard-working. It is literally their job to pursue their degree. Although the transition from work back to life as a student can take some adjustment, they are ideal students. Once they start working on their thesis they become more like collaborators and colleagues than traditional master's students at other institutions.
All in-residence master's students write a master's thesis, and most of the advising by the faculty is for master's theses. In many cases, we hold these student theses as finished products for sponsored-research projects. A list of recent theses is available on the OR Department website here.
Working with master's students typically means that larger research projects need to be broken into smaller pieces that are executed either in serial or parallel. Faculty members also have been successful working with doctoral students and collaborators at other institutions.
Faculty members are expected to maintain a reasonable advising load, with at least two or three students graduating per year, but trying to avoid having more than two graduating in any quarter.
Unlike many civilian universities where faculty members can create and offer courses based on their own or student interests, the curricula at NPS-OR are individually aligned to specific needs of the Navy and military more broadly. While there is considerable flexibility in the delivery of individual courses, changes to a curriculum require coordination with the sponsoring organizations. Each curriculum has a formal review with its sponsor every two years to ensure that it is meeting the needs of the Navy, and to adjust its delivery in response to new advances or changing needs.
The department has a few general purpose elective courses that can provide more flexibility for creating content in a new area of interest. These allow new content to be "tested" with the students, without interfering with the core coursework they are required to take.
Established in 1951, the Operations Research Department at NPS has the oldest OR instructional program in existence. The Department is a leader in its contribution to the practice of operations research as recognized by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) in receiving the 2013 UPS George D. Smith Prize “for effective and innovative preparation of students to be good practitioners of operations research, management science, or analytics.” The department has consistently led or been near the top of the practice literature as reported in the INFORMS “Rothkopf Rankings”. Three NPS OR faculty members have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Be sure to read about the rich heritage of NPS OR.
Research is integral to graduate education. Although the primary mission of NPS is graduate education, tenure-track faculty members are expected to engage in productive research activities that solve problems for the Navy and DoD while also enriching and improving the education of our students.
Like all research universities, NPS has an expectation that each faculty member is able to create and sustain a high-quality sponsored research program that covers a portion of their salary. However, the needs of a faculty member in terms of research grants are considerably lower than they are elsewhere, in large part because the faculty does not have to cover the tuition or stipend of our students, who are "free" to the faculty.
There are many different research profiles for faculty members. On average, though, a tenure-track faculty member is paid to teach two of the four quarters each year, and covers the rest of their salary with sponsored research.
The OR Department at NPS is very collaborative. A look at the publications of the faculty reveals that most of our research and publishing is done in teams, typically with others in the Department and often with colleagues at other institutions. We work to foster a culture of collaboration, with senior colleagues mentoring younger faculty colleagues and engaging them in Navy and Defense-related research projects.
The Promotion and Tenure process at NPS works in a manner similar to that other universities. At the agreed upon time based on a "tenure clock", the candidate prepares a "tenure package" that is reviewed by a Department committee, which seeks letters of reference from outside scholars and experts within the candidate's area of expertise. However, in addition to seeking such letters from academia, NPS also values letters from military organizations that can speak to the way in which research by the candidate has helped to shape military decision-making and operations.
As stated in the official Policy Regarding Appointment, Promotions, Salary, and Tenure of Office, "Faculty members of the NPS may be permitted to engage in outside employment or professional activity that enhances their professional competence. Any outside activity must be limited in scope so as not to interfere with the full and energetic execution of the member's primary responsibility in meeting all assigned professorial duties." Such engagements must comply with government regulations regarding ethics and standards of conduct and be approved in advance of any activity.
Absolutely not. Most of our students are active duty officers, but the vast majority of our faculty members are civilians who work for the Navy, most of whom have no prior military experience. What is required is a willingness to work on applied problems related to the Navy and Department of Defense (DoD). Given that the DoD is the largest corporation in the world, this is not hard to do. Theoretical work is highly valued as well, but with the general hope that it will find application in support of operational problems.
The Naval Postgraduate School provides defense-focused graduate education, including classified studies and interdisciplinary research, to advance the operational effectiveness, technological leadership and warfighting advantage of the Naval service. Read more about the NPS Mission and the Navy's Mission, Vision, and Priorities here. For recent initiatives to provide world-class education and research programs, see the 2018-2023 NPS Strategic Plan.
NPS is committed to the principles of equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion. Read more about Our Vision and Principles on diversity and inclusion here.
The cost of housing, either through rental or purchase, is high by national standards. NPS pays its employees a "locality adjustment" to account for this higher cost. Still, it is possible to find more affordable areas near Monterey, as many NPS faculty members do. Those who live in the Monterey area find that the attractive climate, outstanding beauty of the coast and nearby mountains, cultural amenities, and pleasant pace of living (with little traffic and moderate population size) are worth the costs. Learn more about the area at seemonterey.org.
NPS follows the rules and guidelines of the Navy as it pertains to its operations. In addition, local residents must follow the guidelines of the State of California and Monterey County as it pertains to daily life (e.g., businesses, schools, restaurants, etc). Currently, NPS is teaching exclusively via distance learning, using Zoom for Government and Microsoft Teams as its two primary platforms. Faculty members and students are allowed on campus "by exception" for access to offices, labs, and other special workspaces. We do not yet know when we will be able to return to campus for normal instruction.
Non-citizens can apply. The requirement for being hired is that you are either a U.S. citizen or committed to obtaining citizenship when eligible. However, it is important to understand that due to security screening, the process for non-citizens can be very long (more than one year). This is the case, no matter the home country.
In general, NPS and other federal organizations in the Monterey area are always looking for talented individuals to hire. You can search for postings of local job announcements at USAJOBS (https://www.usajobs.gov/) or the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, HERC (https://www.hercjobs.org/), or you can always email the NPS Human Resources Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a cover letter and resume indicating the type of position that you seek.
There are a large number of benefits for civilian employees. The Department of Navy Civilian Benefits Center document CBC 12800-31 (Rev 08/20/2018) summarizes information on benefits programs for newly hired employees.