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Careers in modeling and simulation?

  1. Jul 13, 2008 #1
    So I have been further researching possible career paths with a degree in math that would suit me, and I came across the idea of modeling and simulation for national defense (for example: http://www.boozallen.com/careers/9001843/recruitsoft?rs=https%3A//bah.taleo.net/servlets/CareerSection%3Fart_ip_action%3DFlowDispatcher%26flowTypeNo%3D13%26pageSeq%3D1%26art_servlet_language%3Den%26csNo%3D10320 [Broken] EDIT - I'm having trouble linking directly to the page but the title of the job is Modeling and Simulation Analyst, Junior)

    There are a couple things I am wondering. Does anyone know more about a career in M&S? I can't seem to find much. Or any other companies that may have similar positions? I've seen RAND, SAIC, and BAE. Government maybe? I was also wondering about the idea of overqualification. I have been thinking that I would probably need a PhD in applied math before I got into industry. Now, the job i specifically linked requires a BA/BS and experience, as do several others I have seen. But it seems that some require a masters degree. Now, if one was to apply for a job lke this with a PhD would that hurt chances? Thanks for any help, I think I'm slowly finding the areas I am interested in :)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
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  3. Jul 17, 2008 #2
    hm no one knows about this field?
  4. Jul 17, 2008 #3


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    My husband does a lot of modeling in his job. He's an Industrial Engineer, and yes he has a PhD. In grad school, he specialized in Operations Research. Wiki has a pretty good page on OR:

  5. Jul 17, 2008 #4


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    "Modelling and simulation" isn't so much a field itself. It's more of a means of approaching problems within a given field. The simulations a national defence scientist performs are generally going to be quite different than those performed by a medical physicst (although the fundamental physics obviously won't change).

    Overqualification is an issue whereby the employer may refuse to look at a person who exceeds the position's qualifications because that person is a risk to leave the project as soon as something better or higher paying comes along. There is a risk associated with having a PhD in this regard when you're applying for a job that only requires a bachelor's level education. The advantage of the PhD is that you can apply for more demanding (and presumably higher paying and more interesting) jobs.
  6. Jul 17, 2008 #5

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    Modeling and simulation encompasses a very wide range of applications and a very wide range of skills. The google-count for http://www.google.com/search?q=careers+in+modeling+and+simulation" is about 2,120,000. Modeling and simulation techniques are used throughout the government and industry. The military simulates battles, NASA simulates space vehicles, astronomers simulate the universe (or parts of it), meteorologists simulate the Earth's atmosphere, drug companies simulate chemical interactions, and so on. Computer scientists, domain specialists, and maybe even a mathematician or two are needed to build a good simulation.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  7. Jul 17, 2008 #6
    I would note that industry seems to have never figured out what to do with IE/OR types.
    However, the financial industry is essentially simulation driven from the trader who is attempting to see how sensitive her trading scheme is, to the middle/back office checking for risk issues.

    With respect to degree, you really need at least a M.S. to be considered for modeling & simulation openings.
  8. Jul 17, 2008 #7


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    Isn't that the truth!
  9. Jul 18, 2008 #8
    I thought I read modelling and stimulation...
  10. Jul 18, 2008 #9
    hahah that actually sounds like a much better field to get into ;)

    thanks for everyones help. it looks like its a pretty broad field. I am mostly interested in doing simulations for defense, maybe like war games or modeling diplomatic or military issues. Right now i am double majoring in math and poli sci so it seemed like a good bridge (athough doing aerospace/nasa stuff always interested me also so thats a possibliity). Would a phd in applied math be a good field for these kind of jobs? Or do they really favor engineering/comp sci guys?
  11. Jul 19, 2008 #10


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    There is need for those who can develop the mathematical theory behind the modeling and simulation. Computer scientists develop the software based on the mathematical models, and it's great if one can do both model development and programming.
  12. Apr 1, 2009 #11
    thanks for everyones help. it looks like its a pretty broad field. I am mostly interested in doing simulations for defense, maybe like war games or modeling diplomatic or military issues. Right now i am double majoring in math and poli sci so it seemed like a good bridge (athough doing aerospace/nasa stuff always interested me also so thats a possibliity). Would a phd in applied math be a good field for these kind of jobs? Or do they really favor engineering/comp sci guys?
    I have about 25 years in this business. There is room for all types. My main issue with this field is that the jobs are spread out all over the country. Some areas have enough concentration of this kind of work to keep you employed long term like the DC area, Orlando and Norfolk. The specific areas you mention can be difficult unless you are willing to relocate. You also need to consider the domain. Two major domains are analysis and training. My work has been more on the training side which uses simulations to stimulate command and control staff. Much of that work is done in Orlando's Research Park which is a major center for Army training simulation work. The university there (UCF) also offers a Phd in Simulation (if I recall correctly).

    I have really enjoyed my work in this area. It is a challenging field because it spans many domains and technologies. The downside is that it is sometimes hard to get work unless you live in the right area.
  13. Apr 1, 2009 #12
    I'm interested in modeling and simulation, too.

    I'm currently double-majoring in CS and Physics, and I might get a minor in Math depending on scheduling issues. I've done about 4 semesters of undergraduate research in computational physics and got to work on a couple of really interesting projects. I'll also be doing a year-long research project and senior thesis in climate modeling and computational issues.

    I've been trying to decide on graduate school issues. I think I want to go, especially if I can't find a job that I will like (and which pays enough to lure me away from school, which I love). However, if I go, I'm not sure what to go in.

    I will go into CS, Applied Math, or Physics. I don't think I would go for a Master's in Physics... I love the subject, but at the same time I don't think a degree in physics will advance my goals as much as a degree in either of the other two areas. And there are arguments I can think of for each choice:


    I am a CS undergrad major, so I'll definitely have all the pre-reqs and a solid foundation for advanced study. I'm a fairly heavy-hitting CS major at my school, too, so it seems like it's a good fit, and I'd probably do well in grad school. However, I much prefer the more software-specific issues in CS, and the mathematical theory. If I decide not to go into modeling and simulation, software engineering is a huge field with tons of opportunities and great pay.

    I'm really not into hardware, per se. The program would probably make me spend some time on some nitty-gritty hardware courses which, due to my low interest level, may or may not be a complete waste of time. Also, I don't know if modeling jobs for the software people are different from the modeling jobs for math or science people. I love writing software, but I don't want to be the guy they hand the answer to and say "write some software for that".

    Applied Math:

    I do really, really well in Math courses I take. I am comfortable with "real mathematics", that is, reading, understanding, and writing proofs, and it seems like I could really enjoy some more advanced theory. Also, it seems like modeling jobs for math people would be more domain- and less application-focused.

    I haven't taken as much math as regular math majors. Also, I know of several people who do just about as well as me in the same math classes... so I'm not as exceptional. Finally, jobs if I decided against modeling would be more of an issue with a math degree as opposed to a software degree.

    I'm really glad I decided on CS / Physics as an undergrad combo, and even though I have had some doubts, my final conviction is that it was probably for the best. CS / Math would not have been sciency enough, Math / Physics would not have been enough software. I do, however, feel that CS / Physics was "enough" math in the sense that I've taken, and will be taking, a fairly representative cross section of math courses. There's a lot of higher-level math I'm lacking, but I guess I feel that I can hold off on learning that during undergrad.

    What do you guys think? Have I made good choices? Are my plans realistic? Should I go CS or math? I'm leaning towards CS, but I don't want to mess up. I think I just need some outside opinions on this.
  14. Apr 1, 2009 #13
    In my opinion CS is the more flexible path. I occasionally take jobs that have only a partial connection to simulations. You need to be flexible enough to do other types of work as well. DoD work is very project oriented and the work can come and go. I have never been laid off since I started in 1982 but I have moved around. You need to consider what area of M&S you want to work. For example, there is engineering, analytical and training simulations. Engineering simulations can be hardware/software/real-time focused. The end customer is usually a platform developer and the simulation is used to assist the development of hardware/software. Simulations run in real-time. That was some of the funnest simulation work for me. Applicable skills included math (navigation, coordinate transformations, etc.), and real-time (fast, effecient, time-sensitive). Analytical is more along the lines of Operations Research. Lots of math, simulations are usually discrete event. The end result is often in the form of a study. Typically the engineer runs the simulation and analyzes the results. Training simulations is one of the few areas where the simlulation is delivered to the customer. The customer uses the simulation to support training. My longest running simulation job involved developing models that ran in a war game that at times involved up to 15,000 participants interacting in real-time. That was a high stress adventure but lots of fun as well. This technology involved a lot of math but not nearly as intensive as engineering/analytical. Simulations usually run in real-time but are not strictly real-time. A big challenge here is scalability. The 15K participant exercise I mentioned involved several million "battlefield objects". The trick here is to carefully tradeoff fidelity vs. training needs.

    Of all this I probably enjoyed engineering and training the most. Doing analytical engineering work I tended to be a mushroom growing in the dark. Engineering work allowed me to play with expensive hardware toys. The training work had a lot of satisfaction in seeing your work used directly by an end user.

    The main thing for me is that this work can be a lot of fun and is both challenging and varied. The downside is you get spoiled and a lot of other work seems mundane in comparison.
  15. Apr 1, 2009 #14
    Thanks, that's really good information. So you vote to stick with CS if I do a Master's?
  16. Apr 1, 2009 #15
    Yes. You will have a wide variety of options if you take that path. My BS and MS is in Comp Sci and have never had a problem. Once you get experience, the exact area your degree is in does not matter as much.
  17. Apr 16, 2010 #16
    I heard that lots of engineers don't recommend others to pursue an engineering career because they don't like their jobs and the pay isn't great, and also because engineering doesn't have very strong job security and its hard to change disciplines as technology and economic conditions change. Also, I heard that outsourcing will just continue to become a major problem.

    I know for sure that I like computational and modeling work instead of experimental and hands-on work, and I've been looking into getting an MS degree in that area. I would also like to apply them to ME problems if possible since I enjoyed most my courses in heat transfer, fluid mechanics, PDEs, ODEs, linear algebra, and numerical analysis. If one is concerned about employment like me, should I not do an MSME and instead do an MS in Computational Science and Engineering. That, way in addition to positions working on CFD, missile and thermal analysis (which are the ones I want the most), I can also have doors to other positions with possible better job security?
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