An operations manager holds a vital position in any business or organization. This is a coveted leadership role for business and finance professionals with significant responsibility for ensuring the efficient production of goods and services. An operations manager oversees multiple departments within his or her company, acting as the go-to person for directing and coordinating day-to-day operations.
In addition, the operations manager is responsible for ensuring that each department is on track for achieving its short- and long-term goals. A business administration student wondering how to become an operations manager will find that an in-depth education, applicable work experience, and high-level skills are necessary for attaining this challenging and rewarding position.
What Does an Operations Manager Do?
Of their many duties, operations managers are responsible for planning how resources and materials are distributed and used, managing budgets, negotiating contracts, and other administrative tasks. They work with multiple departments within an organization, from manufacturing and inventory management to customer relations and human resources. While the scope of this position may vary across different businesses and different industries, operations managers are the driving forces behind the successful completion of a jobs or projects.
Steps to Becoming an Operations Manager
Whether at a small business or a large corporation, a job candidate might face fierce competition when applying to become an operations manager. The following steps show the optimum path to a possible job opportunity as an operations manager.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
An operations manager position usually requires at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration or a related area of study. With a bachelor’s degree in business administration, students develop knowledge and marketable skills that they can build upon during their careers. Combined with on-the-job experience, a business administration degree curriculum prepares graduates to pursue a variety of career paths in different employment settings, including private companies, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and international organizations.
The following are key courses that are usually part of a business management degree curriculum:
- Business communication. This course stresses the importance of clear communication in today’s bustling business environment. Students learn how to enhance their ability to convey ideas in both oral and written formats. They can also gain an understanding of effective communication across a variety of methods and channels.
- Financial accounting. The financial accounting course is designed to give students a basic understanding of accounting theory and principles along with how these are important in business management. This class covers the preparation, analysis, and interpretation of financial statements and how this correlates to the decision-making process.
- Principles of management. In this course, students will be exposed to management concepts, such as ethics, motivation, group dynamics, organizational structure, planning, team building, and leadership.
Step 2: Build On-the-Job Experience
An important step on the path to becoming an operations manager entails building on-the-job skills and gaining work experience by starting out in an entry-level position. For example, operations managers may work first as operations supervisors. The job duties include administrative functions, planning and preparing budgets, and evaluating staff performance. While beginning at entry-level jobs helps employees gain knowledge and could lead to promotions and more responsibilities, the operations manager position is a senior role and often requires an undergraduate degree or higher. Operations manager candidates often must have previous management experience.
Step 3: Earn a Master’s Degree for Advancement (Optional)
Earning a master’s degree in business administration is an optional but advantageous next step toward pursuing an operations management position. There are several specialized graduate degree concentrations that students can choose from to give them an arsenal of skills and competitive advantages when seeking career advancement.
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) in project management program is designed to help graduates solidify their business knowledge and resource-planning skills. The in-depth curriculum helps students gain specific project management skills and learn from case studies of real organizations, which will give them better understanding of operations management functions. The following courses cover the skills that are useful in a career in operations management.
- Project management. This course offered in the project management concentration provides students with an in-depth examination of the project life cycle and the roles of project managers as they lead teams and accomplish tasks. Students benefit from case studies of real companies and the project management issues encountered, such as those concerning new products, technology implementation projects, and risk and change management. Other relevant topics include project initiation, resource planning and scheduling, teamwork, leadership, and project termination.
- Supply chain management. This course covers the integrated management of value-added activities. This includes all aspects of the supply chain, from development of products to distribution to the end customer. Organizational concepts are addressed, such as negotiation, purchasing, globalization, logistics, and the effects of emerging technologies.
- Business ethics. This course covers the moral and ethical issues encountered by business managers. It is important for operations managers to have a strong grasp of business ethics because personal values, beliefs, and behaviors can pose major challenges to employers and companies. The coursework provides students with an understanding of how to protect the rights of customers, employees, and fellow managers in a business environment.
What Skills Does an Operations Manager Need?
Being an operations manager is a complex job with many managerial responsibilities. One of the most important skills this position requires is leadership. It is essential for operations managers to know how to set goals, take responsibility, mentor and lead by example, and be able to guide teams toward completing projects and reaching goals with ease and efficiency. Operations managers should also be excellent written and oral communicators, because they must be able to effectively deliver feedback and instructions to individuals and departments.
Organizational skills are also necessary to be a successful operations manager, since they are responsible for overseeing multiple aspects of a business. Operations managers may be managing the workflow and budgets of several different departments at a time, so it is critical that they be organized and detail-oriented, so as not to confuse projects and goals. They should also be able to look at a business’s financial big picture to evaluate its progress and at the same time oversee each department’s daily operations to ensure they meet the organization’s goals for productivity and profitability.
Operations Manager Salaries and Job Outlook
Employment of operations managers is expected to grow. According to O*Net, operations management jobs are projected to increase 9 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is slightly faster than average occupations. Operations managers are also often well-compensated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for operations managers was $100,410 as of May 2017, but salaries for this position vary according to the industry.
The average annual wage for operations managers in restaurants was $77,970, while those who worked in local governments made an average of $102,180. Some of the highest-paid operations managers worked in computer systems design and related services, where they averaged an annual salary of $163,860.
Start Your Journey to Becoming an Operations Manager Today
Business professionals who are considering leadership positions in administration will discover that the role of an operations manager is both challenging and rewarding. Those determined to learn how to become an operations manager often find that by expanding education, sharpening skills, and building work experience, they have a competitive advantage when seeking jobs in this field. Learn more about how Maryville University’s online MBA in Project Management program can help prepare you to apply for positions as a business leader