The following article discusses the critical aspects of a career in operations management. You will learn what operations managers do, where they work, job duties, how to become one, popular career paths and much more.

What We Do

Operations managers are responsible for planning, directing and coordinating the general daily operations of either public or private sector organizations. The operations manager is one of the most important roles in the facility. He or she is responsible for the daily planning and organization of the business activities on a day to day basis.

Operations managers may be in charge of the oversight of many different departments from accounts payable to human resources. They also may monitor expense reports, devise and review annual budgets, interpret financial information, and do cost/benefit analyses on various activities in the organization.

These managers also will often use advanced analytical and mathematical tools to help the organization to solve its problems and to increase efficiency.

Job Duties

Precise job duties for operations managers will vary with the size of the organization and the industry, but general duties usually include:

  • Determining how to improve the operational systems of the company, as well as the processes and policies to support the mission of the organization
  • Work in support of better management reporting, information flow and organizational planning to increase profits and efficiencies
  • Play a major role in the long term strategic planning of the organization, especially initiatives that enhance operational excellence
  • Devise program budgets and review them as needed
  • Manage and boost the effectiveness of support services efficiency through improving all functions and coordinating and communication between the business and support aspects of the business
  • Support management initiatives that contribute to the long term success of the enterprise
  • Gather feedback and input from employees that are involved in problems and challenges in the organization and determine what can be done to solve it
  • Use advanced predictive modeling and statistical analysis to develop solutions to difficult business problems

Where We Work

General operations managers work in virtually every industry in the country in both private and public organizations. Currently there are 2.1 million general and operations managers jobs in the US.

Operations managers can work in almost any organization, but these are the most common:

  • Finance and insurance: 26%
  • Professional, scientific and technical organizations: 23%
  • Manufacturing: 11%
  • Management of enterprises and companies: 9%
  • Federal government: 6%

Also note that some specific areas of the country offer better pay for operations managers than others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015, below are the top paying US cities for operations managers:

  • Bridgeport-Stamford, Conn., $161,940
  • New York City, $156,820
  • San Jose, $149,930
  • New Haven, Conn., $144,550
  • San Francisco-Oakland, $140,540
  • Washington DC, $139,990
  • Philadelphia, $139,980
  • Providence, $135,180
  • Hartford, $134,410
  • Raleigh, $134,050

How to Become

A bachelor’s degree in business or finance is a suitable background to get started in a career in operations, but you will soon need to have a master’s degree.

The reason is that operations usually requires you to have a good understanding of quantitative analysis, and you will need to have an extensive background in mathematics. This is usually why many professionals who want to get to the top of the operations career ladder get an MBA in supply chain management or a related field.

Employment/Salaries

Salary.com reports that the median income for operations managers in the US is $91,095. It also states that the range is typically between $79,200 and $106,500.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for operations managers and analysts is $78,600, with the top 10% earning in excess of $132,000 per year.

Median annual wages in operations naturally will vary upon the industry. BLS states that operations professionals in different industries will earn these median salaries:

  • Federal government: $108,000
  • Manufacturing: $89,400
  • Professional, technical and scientific services: $83,600
  • Management of enterprises and companies: $79,900
  • Finance and insurance: $75,700

The job outlook for operations managers and analysts is going to grow very quickly, with a 30% increase in job demand anticipated by 2024. Companies are desperately seeking ways to reduce costs and to be more efficient. Thus companies will be hiring more operations managers who can provide recommendations on how to streamline operations.

For the best job opportunities, it is important to stay current with technology advances in supply chain management. Companies are in need of operations professionals who can take large amounts of data and use it to make money saving decisions at the company operations level.

Career Paths

Operations professionals can choose to work in many related careers, such as:

  • Operations research analysts: These operations professionals use complex mathematical and analytical tools to assist companies in solving their problems. They are very active in helping companies to better allocate resources, manage the supply chain more economically, and to set competitive prices. Operations research analysts use advanced computer software to do detailed data analysis and solve business operations problems.
  • Management analysts: These operations-related professionals may be referred to as management consultants. They propose new ways to streamline company operations and to improve their efficiency. Management analysts also offer advice to company managers to help the company to be more profitable and to increase revenues. A management analyst may work for a consulting company, or may work for one specific company.
  • Market research analysts: Study the conditions of the market to determine what the possible sales are of a certain product or service. They assist one company or many companies to understand the products that people want and at what price they want them. Also, they collect data and perform research to help a company to determine how to properly market its products. They may collect data about consumer demographics, buying habits and needs and help the company tailor their operations to new consumer desires.

Education Requirements

An operations manager needs to hold at minimum a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field, while the majority of senior operations professionals hold a master’s degree in business administration. A concentration in supply chain management and/or operations is an excellent background for this career type.

Specializations

An operations manager can actually have several different specialties, depending upon the company size and industry:

  • Materials manager: Supervise and store products throughout the entire production progress. This manager typically will ship the products between various departments, different warehouses, and finally to the end customer. A materials manager needs to be sure that the right item is purchased for the right price and in time.
  • Purchase manager: This manager is charged with procuring raw materials and services. The quality, time of delivery, quantity and price need to be carefully coordinated by the purchase manager.
  • Industrial production manager: This is a very common type of operations manager in manufacturing facilities. The manager coordinates all of the production departments, and handles production scheduling, QC, inventory control, maintenance and staffing.
  • Logistics manager: This is the supply chain manager of the service or product. The goal is to boost the efficiency of shipping and receiving the various goods.

Training and Certifications

Operations managers may want to consider earning a certification that is administered by APICS, or the American Production and Inventory Control Society. These certifications include the following:

  • CPIM: Certification in Production and Inventory Management
  • CSCP: Certified Supply Chain Professional
  • SCOR-P: SCOR (Supply Chain Operations Reference) Professional
  • CLTD: Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution

References

Henry Steele
Henry Steele
Henry is Editor-in-Chief of Business Student.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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