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Exploring operations management as a career

Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

Reviewed by Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

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An efficient business can meet deadlines, outpace competitors and deftly adapt to market changes. Many companies depend on operations management to foster the highest level of efficiency possible within an organization.

Operations management (OM) describes how organizations use business practices to foster maximum efficiency. At its core, OM is the conversion of materials and labor into goods and services to maximize an organization’s profits. It focuses on elements like the workforce, a company’s processes and the supply chains a company uses.

Whether you’re pursuing a business degree or scaling a company, find out more about how operations management helps enhance an organization’s productivity by satisfying customers, improving revenue and gaining an edge over other businesses.

Why is operations management important in business? 

Operations management is fundamental to achieving an organization’s strategic goals, operating profitably and delivering value to customers and stakeholders. It ensures all aspects of production or delivery work seamlessly and efficiently. Operations management involves more than supply chain management, although that’s a fundamental component.

“Operations management is about the coordination of people and processes for the effective delivery of products or services (i.e., the management of those functions that are necessary for meeting the day-to-day business needs of an organization),” according to Joseph Aranyosi, associate dean of the College of Business and Information Technology at University of Pheonix.

Without good operations management practices, a company might fall behind in production because its processes aren’t up to standards. Customer satisfaction might dip if deliveries are late or if product quality suffers. Brand reputation might suffer if, for example, the company fails to operate sustainably and harms the environment.

OM, in other words, touches many facets of a business with the opportunity to make a significant difference in either direction.

What does an operations manager do? 

Operations managers implement practices that can help companies innovate. As an operations manager, you will likely be responsible for developing and implementing processes that improve efficiency in your workplace.

The responsibilities of an operations manager can include the following:

  • Production
  • Quality assurance and process improvement
  • Legal compliance
  • Employee hiring and onboarding
  • Ongoing employee training
  • Customer service
  • Project management
  • Budget management
  • Warehouse and inventory management
  • Supply chain management

Skills needed for operations management 

Operations managers regularly depend on a variety of skills to help them streamline efficiency in the workplace. Strong communication and organization skills allow an operations manager to create, implement and optimize processes that improve a company’s workflows.

The ideal candidate for an operations management position might possess or develop the following skills:

  • Technological proficiency — You’ll use computers, phones, information dashboards and other technologies to optimize the efficiency of your organization’s operations.
  • Public speaking — You’ll frequently interact with employees, vendors, stakeholders, executives and other internal company representatives involved in business operations.
  • Performance management — You might need to teach company employees how they can improve daily habits in ways that bolster efficiency and productivity.
  • Data analysis and reporting — Whether it’s purchasing totals, costs, customer behavior metrics or other data, you’ll analyze metrics to identify ways your company can further improve operations.
  • Risk analysis — You’ll also assess the current state of your company’s operations, identifying potential risks or challenges the organization could face as a result of current procedures.
  • Problem-solving — You’ll regularly depend on problem-solving skills, countering market challenges with unique solutions that drive success and satisfy stakeholders.
  • Product optimization — You might inform product design, simplify workflows, oversee quality control or manage production budgets to optimize the way your organization creates and offers products or services.

As an aspiring operations manager, you might not possess all these skills. That’s perfectly fine. Over time, you can develop them through training and practice.

You can also build your operational manager skills through ongoing education, including earning a business degree. Many of the skills you’ll need as an operations manager are also in-demand skills among Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduates.

Where do operations managers work? 

Operations managers can work in a variety of industries. As a result, you might work in many different locations as an office manager. Your exact location will typically depend on the nature of your employment.

You might, for example, work in the following industries:

  • Warehousing and storage
  • International business
  • Construction
  • Technology
  • Healthcare
  • Government
  • Education

Many operations managers work on-site at their employer’s place of business. You might have an office in a warehouse or an office environment, where you can maintain proximity to other employees or team members. You might also work in a company’s human resources department, given HR’s involvement in new employee hiring and training.

In certain cases, you might be able to work remotely as an operations manager. As long as you have access to communication tools and a stable internet connection, you can draft and implement effective operations policies from a distance. However, even remote operations managers usually visit the office periodically to connect with team members and get a closer look at operations.

Operations manager salaries 

Your exact income as an operations manager will depend on a variety of factors. Your employer, employer’s size, years of experience, education and any industry certifications can all affect your overall salary.

As of May 2023, salaries of operations managers ranged between $46,340 and $232,110 (with a median wage of $101,280), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Region and industry can significantly influence pay and earning potential, as different fields and organizations have different needs and opportunities.

The salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

How to become an operations manager 

Becoming an operations manager is a process that can take time, effort and financial investment. To assume a role as an operations manager, you’ll likely need to fulfill the necessary education requirements in addition to any required certifications.

Education

Seeking degrees that can prepare you to become a operations manager is a fairly straightforward process, as many business programs include some elements of management in their curriculum.

You might take your first step toward an operations manager position by pursuing a business degree. You can strengthen your operations management education by obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Management, for example, or a degree in a closely related field.

Aspiring operations managers could also elect to pursue an industry-respected Bachelor of Science in Business  with an Operations Management Certificate.

Depending on your needs — and competition in the operations management market — you might want to continue your studies by obtaining a master’s degree. A Master of Management can educationally prepare you for opportunities as an operations manager and teaches skills in operations, strategic planning and leadership.

Alternatively, you could complete an online MBA program before you begin a career as a business manager, a financial analyst or an operations manager.

Although becoming an operations manager can take time, upon completion of your education, you’ll be able to put your MBA to work and improve your community, market or organization of choice.

Certifications and licensure 

In addition to the required education, you may need to obtain one or more third-party certifications before you can become an operations manager. Operations management certifications provide education in particular operations fields. They allow you to deepen your knowledge of inventory management, service operations and other fields. To become an operations manager, you may need to complete industry certifications.

Not sure where to start? Some programs offer an Operations Management Certificate that touches on many principles (like Lean Six Sigma and supply chain management) valued among operations management professionals.

These and other certifications may help polish your understanding of effective business and help to further qualify you for a professional operations management role.

Operations manager job outlook 

Operations managers are forecast to enjoy a positive job outlook over the next decade. According to BLS, demand for operations managers is projected to grow by 4% from 2022 to 2032.

As the American workforce matures and current employees retire, some operations manager positions are expected to become available. This trend will allow younger individuals to assume roles as operations managers.

BLS Occupational Employment Projections, 2022-2032 is published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data reflects BLS’ projections of national (not local) conditions. These data points are not specific to University of Phoenix students or graduates.

What are common challenges in operations management? 

Operations managers have a lot of responsibility, and that often leads to myriad challenges. Consider the following issues that may pop up during a workday:

  • Accuracy in forecasting demand
  • Supply chain disruptions
  • Technology integration
  • Environmental and sustainability concerns
  • Workforce management issues
  • Maintaining high-quality standards while controlling costs

Overcoming challenges requires strategic planning, flexibility and a focus on continuous improvement.

How does technology impact operations management practices? 

Technology’s profound impact on operations management practices has historically led to significant improvements in efficiency and quality.

Automation, for example, can streamline processes and reduce manual labor. Advanced data analytics tools can enable managers to make better forecasts and manage inventories. It also allows for improved supply chain transparency thanks to real-time tracking of goods and materials.

Finally, companies can use technology to improve the end product thanks to quality control measures, leading to better products and, hopefully, happier customers.

Is becoming an operations manager right for you?

After you obtain a business degree, you have many career paths to choose from. Finding the right career path isn’t always easy, particularly when you’re passionate about several different markets. Fortunately, it’s not a decision you need to make immediately.

Instead, you can first take steps toward your optimal career path when you choose a relevant college program. Find an educational institution that speaks to your interests and needs, one that focuses on helping you pursue your career goals. Look for programs taught by experienced industry professionals who offer the right combination of flexibility and accountability to encourage personal growth.

If you’re someone with a communicative skill set, and you want to help one or more organizations improve their output, the role of an operations manager may be an ideal fit for you.If a career in operations management interests you, you can learn relevant skills in programs such as a Bachelor of Science in Management or Bachelor of Science in Business with an Operations Management Certificate at University of Phoenix. If you’re already equipped with a bachelor’s degree, you might consider a Master of Business Administration or a Master of Management. Learn more about online business programs through UOPX.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its Writing Seminars program and winner of the Stephen A. Dixon Literary Prize, Michael Feder brings an eye for detail and a passion for research to every article he writes. His academic and professional background includes experience in marketing, content development, script writing and SEO. Today, he works as a multimedia specialist at University of Phoenix where he covers a variety of topics ranging from healthcare to IT.

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ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Currently Dean of the College of Business and Information Technology, Kathryn Uhles has served University of Phoenix in a variety of roles since 2006. Prior to joining University of Phoenix, Kathryn taught fifth grade to underprivileged youth in Phoenix.

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This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
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