What Is an Operations Associate? (And How to Become One)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

As an operations associate, you'll assist the operations manager in making sure an organization runs smoothly. Discover more about what an operations associate does and how you can start this exciting career.

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An operations associate is like the glue that helps keep an organization's operations together. They support the operations manager through a wide range of duties, ranging from clerical work to customer service to human resources. It's the perfect role for gaining experience in business and operations and honing important human and technical skills that can advance you to the next level.   

A job as an operations associate is an entry-level position, and it can be ideal for someone just starting a new career. Many people in this role go on to bigger roles, including becoming team leaders, operations managers, or supervisors themselves. 

Learn more about what an operations associate does, how much they make, and what you can do to become one with this guide.  

What is an operations associate?

An operations associate's job is to assist an organization's operations manager in making sure the business's day-to-day operations run smoothly. Depending on the size of the company, they may work alone or as a part of a team, and duties can range from creating schedules and answering phones to handling human resources (HR) issues and meeting with vendors. 

This fast-paced position typically involves clerical duties and a fair amount of multitasking. Operations associates can work across almost any industry, and you'll discover plenty of options to advance your career with additional education and training. 

What does an operations associate do?

Location and industry greatly impact what an operations associate does. Much of the time, they handle the clerical or administrative duties required to support the operations manager. In larger companies, an operations associate may even work in a specific department, like HR or IT support. They might also handle some HR and customer service duties.  

No matter what the exact duties are, an operations associate must be ready to handle any challenge. On any given day, they'll help customers, colleagues, vendors, supervisors, and managers overcome any issues, which means they must be good at communicating and problem-solving.

Operations associate tasks and responsibilities

Specific tasks and responsibilities will vary from job to job and industry to industry. The size of the organization may also impact daily tasks and duties as an operations associate. However, they may do any of the following:  

  • General clerical tasks 

  • Create employee schedules 

  • Answer phones and direct customers to the right department

  • Handle customer inquiries or problems

  • Handle payroll or some accounting

  • Perform HR duties, like managing sick leave

  • Help with hiring and training new employees 

  • Provide suggestions on how to improve business operations to leadership

  • Enforce company rules and policies 

  • Manage supplies and inventory and order more as needed

  • Meet with management to determine an organization's needs 

Operations associate skills

Working as an operations associate is a great way to build skills as you work your way up to another career, but you should already possess some skills to succeed in this role. These include both technical and human skills. 

Technical skills

Operations associates must know how to operate general office equipment, like phones, copiers, and printers. They should also be comfortable using a computer and other modern technology. Many companies may prefer proficiency in Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, and industry-specific software. Some may want an operations associate who has experience with database or inventory management software, as well as basic math skills. 

Human skills

Human skills are the skills that you can't necessarily learn from formal education. You gain these often through professional and life experience, and they help make you a successful employee no matter where you work.

For operations associates, communication, both written and verbal, is a critical human skill. You'll interact with a variety of people each day and collaborate with your colleagues and supervisors frequently. Other essential human skills for this job usually include:  

  • Attention to detail 

  • Ability to stay calm under pressure

  • Willingness to learn

  • Organization 

  • Time management 

  • Listening skills

  • Problem-solving

  • Analytical skills

In addition to these skills, you must be comfortable spending long periods of time sitting or standing. Many organizations will also require that you have a valid driver's license.

Operations associate salary and job outlook 

According to Glassdoor’s August 2023 data, an operations associate typically makes an average base pay of $43,981, though total compensation, which could include bonuses and profit sharing, is $49,566 [1]. Factors like years of experience, the industry in which you work, the company you work for, and your geographic location could impact how much you make.   

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the demand across all clerical jobs will likely decline by about 8 percent by 2031 [2]. This decline is largely due to new technology that can handle many administrative tasks. However, many people who start out as operations associates go on to advance their careers after spending some time in this role honing their skills and gaining knowledge, making it a valuable stepping stone.   

Operations associate career path

The path toward becoming an operations associate varies from position to position and company to company. Some companies hire and train the right candidate without experience or formal education, while others may want you to have experience or a college degree. At a minimum, you typically need a high school diploma or GED.

Education and training

While it's not always necessary, many operations associates start with a bachelor's degree in a field like business, finance, accounting, marketing, or psychology. Previous work experience or an internship can also be helpful in landing a job. Many people who work in sales, customer service, or other clerical positions may go on to become operations associates. Any certifications relevant to your company or industry's specific duties may also help you stand out as a job candidate.  

Career advancement options

Many people who start out as operations associates advance to roles that pay more and offer more responsibility. Not only does this job help you hone your skills, but it also gives you a good idea of how a business works from the inside out. You may even find it possible to work your way up within the company where you start. Some potential options include: 

  • Operations specialist: $48,578

  • Operations supervisor: $56,058

  • Operations coordinator: $46,358

  • Operations support manager: $80,227

  • Operations manager: $67,917

  • Director of operations: $99,004

  • General manager: $63,790  

*All salaries based on August 2023 data from Glassdoor

Getting started with Coursera

While you may not need a college degree to get a job as an operations associate, taking courses or learning about specific programs or skills you may need on the job might help set you apart from other candidates.

For example, you might want to consider the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate on Coursera. This program requires no degree or experience, and you can learn the skills you need to succeed in an entry-level operations associate role in less than six months.

Article sources


Glassdoor. "How much does an Operations Associate make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/operations-associate-salary-SRCH_KO0,20.htm." Accessed August 4, 2023.  

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