Skip to main content

Melanie Bowden

Mel Bowden

I work as an Operational Research Analyst for the Department of Work and Pensions.

After finishing my undergraduate degree and PhD at Cardiff University I did a couple of years post-doctoral research abroad before applying to the Government Operational Research Service (GORS).

A career in operational research

Operational research is the application of mathematical techniques to business problems and is widely used across the government to support policy making and strategy. GORS recruits graduates from any degree with a strong problem solving or mathematical component.

Competition for places is fairly high and most successful applicants have either a Masters Degree or PhD or at least a years relevant work experience. I'd recommend anyone with only a Bachelors Degree and no relevant work experience look into getting funding to do an MSc in Operational Research before applying.

Putting skills into practice

My first job was with the Department of Health where I built a computer model using VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) to look at the impacts of changing the structure of the NHS pay-scale. After 18 months I then moved to the Department of Work and Pensions where I work on state pension reform.

My current role uses a sophisticated computer model built in a statistical programming language (SAS) to look at the impact of policies to change the state pension system. A recent project has been around looking at the impact of increasing the state pension age to 66.

My degree from Cardiff University not only ensured I passed the entry requirements needed to get through the graduate recruitment process, but gave me the analytical skills and problem structuring skills I use on a day-to-day basis. A big part of job is to turn messy unstructured problems into analytical problems that can be solved using computer modelling and simulation, a skill which forms part of many of the modules I took as an undergraduate.

I also found that after studying General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics even the most complicated pension scheme rules seem easy to understand in comparison. I also found it easy to pick up the programming languages used in the Government after learning a number of different languages during my degree.