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.
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
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 . 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
Wholesale trade: 106,100
If you’re interested in building a career as an operations manager, these ten tips can help set you firmly on the path.
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 . 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
Ability to think "big picture"
Ability to prioritize and respond quickly to changes
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
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.
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.
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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
Operations managers work in a wide variety of industries, including retail, health care, finance, insurance, and manufacturing. This is a key role in many businesses or organizations.
This is a leadership position that typically requires a bachelor’s degree at a minimum, along with sharp skills and managerial experience—all to prepare you for the challenges that come along with the job.
If you enjoy working in a fast-paced business environment and performing a variety of tasks, you're passionate about quality and efficiency, and you enjoy leading teams, this might be an ideal role for you.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.