What Is an Operations Manager? A 2023 Career Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

An operations manager oversees many day-to-day business operations. Discover how you can get a job as an operations manager with these 10 tips.

[Featured image] An operations manager leads a meeting in a company conference room.

Operations managers oversee the day-to-day operations of businesses and organizations. Taking on this role often means performing a range of tasks. One day you might be tackling issues with the supply chain and your inventory, another day you could be hiring new staff and drawing up a budget. Learn more about what it takes to get a job in this fast-paced management role.

What does an operations manager do?

Operations management is an upper-level career that requires a certain amount of education and experience to prepare you to support an effective, efficient, successful business. Tasks range from managing the supply chain to overseeing multiple departments to directing day-to-day business operations. 

Operations managers may be tasked with hiring and training staff, managing inventory, and participating in business planning and strategy. Duties vary depending on the needs of the organization. Some common responsibilities in this role might include:

  • Overseeing the production of goods and services

  • Planning the distribution of resources and materials 

  • Making sure every department meets its goals and key milestones

  • Preparing and overseeing budgets

  • Managing human resources, including personnel documentation, staff communications, and performance reviews

  • Formulating company policies and ensuring compliance

Operations manager salary and job outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities for operations managers in the US are expected to grow 8 percent this decade, on par with the national average for all professions [1]. The median annual wage for operations managers in the US was $98,980 in May 2021, according to the BLS. Salaries can differ significantly depending on your industry, responsibilities, location, and level of experience. Some industries where the median annual wage is higher than average include:

  • Professional, scientific, and technical services: $142,920

  • Manufacturing: $94,840

  • Wholesale trade: 106,100

  • Construction: $104,420

How to become an operations manager

If you’re interested in building a career as an operations manager, these ten tips can help set you firmly on the path. 

1. Earn your bachelor’s degree in a business-related field.

Most employers look for candidates with at least a bachelor's degree in a business-related field, like management or business administration. According to Zippia, 62 percent of operations managers have a bachelor's degree, and 17 percent have an associate degree [2]. Your education should focus on developing technical skills like mathematical modeling and statistics, along with workplace skills like organizational behavior and leadership. Key courses might include financial accounting, business communication, and management principles.

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2. Gain business experience in an entry-level role.

Operations manager jobs typically require a few years of professional experience in a management or supervisory role. Start with an entry-level role in the business world to build your skill set, expand your business knowledge, and make connections that could later help you advance your career. Some job titles include retail manager, customer service representative, business operations analyst, and project manager.

As you advance, look for managerial roles in retail, supply chain, or finance, where you can gain valuable leadership experience.

3. Find a mentor.

A big part of your role in this job will be mentoring new employees and providing outstanding leadership. One excellent way to learn how to lead by example while also getting a good feel for what the job is like is by finding a mentor to guide you. This could be a strong, essential relationship to give you the connections you need when it’s time to apply for a leadership job yourself. 

4. Consider getting a master’s degree.

Getting a master’s degree isn’t an absolute must, but many organizations prefer operations managers with advanced degrees. Look for master's degree programs that include courses in supply chain management, project management, and business ethics to lay a strong foundation in key business functions.

Read more: Master’s in Management vs. MBA: Which Is Better?

5. Get certified.

An industry-specific credential may give you a competitive edge by validating your essential skills to potential employers. Some certifications to consider include: 

  • International Association for Six Sigma Certification

  • ITIL by Axelos

  • Institute of Certified Professional Manager (ICPM) Certified Manager 

  • Certified Supply Chain Professional

  • Certification in Production and Inventory Management 

  • Certified Program Management Professional

Prepare for the Six Sigma Yellow Belt, Green Belt, or Black Belt certification exam with Specializations from the University System of Georgia.


6. Build leadership skills.

Effective leadership is among the most important traits in effective operations managers. Strong leadership means identifying and resolving sticking points that prevent teams from meeting their goals, keeping a close watch on operations without micromanaging, and working to ensure that team members are encouraged and enabled to perform at their best.

Leaders help employees and teams stay motivated, and they supply them with the tools needed to get the job done. They're also able to address sensitive issues and problems to keep everything running efficiently.

7. Cultivate supply chain management strategies.

The supply chain is a vital lifeline for companies. As an operations manager, you'll be working to create and execute strategies to not only get the most out of your supply chain, but to respond to fluctuations and disruptions. Being able to talk to potential employers about your business knowledge and management methodology might help generate interest in you as a candidate.

Read more: Supply Chain Analytics: What It Is, Why It Matters, and More

8. Develop relevant skills.

There’s a lot that’s required of an operations manager. From handling all aspects of inventory and supply chain to hiring and training to readjusting business strategies as circumstances evolve, you’ve got to have a strong set of skills. A few to master include: 

  • Interpersonal communication

  • Professional judgment

  • Ability to think "big picture"

  • Ability to prioritize  and respond quickly to changes

9. Enhance your resume.

Before you apply for a position, take time to customize your resume to the job you’re applying for. Potential employers often filter the resumes they receive through an automated system, which is why it’s important to include relevant keywords found in the job description, certifications, or memberships in professional organizations. 

Read more: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Resume

10. Prepare for the interview.

Potential employers are going to ask you key questions to gauge how you'll perform in your role as an operations manager. For example, you might be asked to talk about how you'd motivate an employee who resists change or about the experience you have negotiating contracts with suppliers. Taking time to prepare now will help you feel more confident when you’re sitting in front of an interviewer. 

Get started with Coursera

Start making progress toward your goals by building a strong educational foundation. If you’re just getting familiar with operations management as a career option, try taking a course like Value Chain Management from the University of Illinois, part of their Master of Business Administration degree.  If you’re ready to take your education further, learn more about how a degree in business can help set you on the path to a new career.



Value Chain Management

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Management Accounting, Quality Control, Operations Management, Marketing, Cost Accounting, Activity Based Costing, Cost, Accounting, Investment, Analysis Of Variance (ANOVA), Supply Chain, Inventory, Process Analytics, Operations Strategy, Lean Manufacturing, Program Management, Six Sigma, Process Control, Market Analysis, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Mix, Marketing Plan, Marketing Management, Writing

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Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Top Executives, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm." Accessed November 21, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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