Operations Management Degree and Career Guide
What is Operations Management?
Operations management is a multidisciplinary process concerned with managing all aspects of an organization’s business operation and implementing its business strategy. It involves planning, organizing, managing, controlling and supervising the production and manufacturing processes of goods as well as services delivery. It focuses on the day-to-day process of converting inputs such as raw materials, labor, and energy into outputs whether these are goods or services; with the aim of improving overall productivity, which requires utilizing the available resources in the most efficient and effective ways to ensure customer satisfaction and maximum profits.
Operation management encompasses operation strategy, product design, process design, quality management, capacity, facilities planning such as the size and location of manufacturing plants, production planning, communication network structure, inventory control like management of inventory levels, materials handling and maintenance policies. It is also closely concerned with supply chain management and logistics functions as they concentrate on the procurement and transportation of the inputs and outputs of the production system.
The Difference between Operations Management and Supply Chain Management (SCM)
Operations management and supply chain management are intertwined as their functions often overlap and the same education and degrees could lead to roles in both areas.
According to the Business Dictionary, operations management is: The design, execution, and control of operations that convert resources into desired goods and services, and implement a company’s business strategy.
While the definition of supply chain management, according to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), is: Supply chain management encompasses the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics management activities. Importantly, it also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, which can be suppliers, intermediaries, third-party service providers, and customers. In essence, supply chain management integrates supply and demand management within and across companies.
Most notably, operations management focuses on the internal functions of the production process which include turning resources such as raw materials into products and services; while supply chain management is concerned with the external processes of acquiring materials and delivering products, which is inter-related with inventory management and affects inventory levels.
Successful operations management depends hugely on efficient supply chain management. That’s why in most organizations, supply chain management is part of operations management.
Career Options for a Degree in Operations Management
Operations management roles are not specific to certain fields as they are essential to almost all industries, regardless of the type or size of the business. Operation managers can work for the public sector, the private sector, non-profit organizations or the government. They are responsible for the management of enterprises and organizations like hospitals, insurance companies, airline and retail businesses, distribution centers, transportation and manufacturing companies, even tech companies offering any kind of services.
Operations management is considered an interdisciplinary field between business and management. US News included Business Operations Manager as number 8 on its Best Business Jobs list for 2019 and number 37 in the 100 Best Jobs list.
Operations managers, sometimes also called general managers, plan, direct, or coordinate the operations of public or private sector organizations, and oversee operations that are too diverse and general to be classified into one area of management or administration, as stated by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They are considered top executives and their duties include:
- Formulating policies and business strategies
- Managing capital and establishing budgets
- Coordinating the activities of different departments
- Managing daily operations and processes
- Planning the use of materials and human resources
- Allocating resources and overseeing products, services, and supply chain
- Making staff schedules and assigning work
- Ensuring projects’ completion
Other responsibilities may include directing merchandise purchase, determining products to be sold and setting price points for these products, planning sales promotions and marketing campaigns, and reviewing financial statements. Sometimes, the tasks of operations managers overlap with those of chief executive officers (CEOs).
More responsibilities could be assigned to operations managers, depending on the industry and the nature of the business they are managing. According to the BLS, industries with the highest levels of employment for operations managers are:
- Management of Companies and Enterprises
- Restaurants and Other Eating Places
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
- Computer Systems Design and Related Services
- Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals (OES Designation)
Also, the industries with the highest concentration of employment are:
- Lessors of Nonfinancial Intangible Assets (except Copyrighted Works)
- Grantmaking and Giving Services
- Business, Professional, Labor, Political, and Similar Organizations
- Office Administrative Services
- Land Subdivision
Reaching an operation management level requires a master’s degree or relevant work experience after acquiring a bachelor’s degree. Entry-level jobs that could lead to an operations manager position could be:
- Team Supervisor
- Sales Associate
- Marketing Associate
- Corporate Accountant
- Account Executive
- Labor Relations Officer
- Inventory Systems Analyst
- Operations Research Analyst
- Management Analyst
- Production Supervisor
- Quality Control Manager
More advanced leadership positions which require a master’s degree or a Ph.D. could be:
- Operations Manager
- General Manager
- Logistics Manager
- Supply Chain Manager
- Sales Manager
- Marketing Manager
- Inventory Control Manager
- Industrial Production Manager
Extensive experience in operations management jobs might even lead to positions like an executive director and chief executive officer. It could also lead to a job as a management consultant, either working for a specific organization, working for a consultancy firm, or even being an independent consultant.
Logistics Managers coordinate with the departments of purchasing, marketing and manufacturing to manage supply chains. They manage the imports and exports in a cost-effective way, and work on distribution strategies as well as maintaining contact with logistics personnel. They also check that foreign goods adhere to international export and import laws.
Supply Chain Managers, also called purchasing agents, buyers or purchasing managers, are responsible for the purchase of needed goods and services with the best quality and a minimum budget. They coordinate with domestic and foreign suppliers and have particular knowledge about the required supply materials and preferences of customers.
Inventory Control Managers formulate and optimize strategies to minimize the costs of inventory management while meeting customers’ demands and maintaining customers’ satisfaction. They manage inventory activities and processes and coordinate inventory flow. They are responsible for the quality control of inventory.
Industrial Production Managers coordinate manufacturing elements, such as equipment layout, production methods, workflows, and staffing, with the goal of maximizing efficiency. They manage operations processes and make strategies and changes to meet production, quality, safety, and budget requirements. They also modify production operations through efficiency models, such as lean manufacturing methods and Six Sigma. Their duties include managing floor operations as well as office work. They coordinate with other managers, including budget managers, sales managers, and supply chain managers.
Management Consultants help businesses maximize their efficiency. They work towards achieving the goals of the organization through studying current practices and then providing recommendations based on their analyses in order to improve the operations processes. They concentrate on improving production methods and business strategies. They also work on optimizing logistics operations and supply chain. They make use of information technologies and strategic planning methods.
Having management background, operations managers could also fill other management positions such as human resources managers, administrative managers, project managers, sales managers or advertising managers.
How Much Do Operations Managers Earn?
According to BLS, the median annual wage for general and operations managers was $100,410 in May 2017 with an hourly wage of $48.27. The salary ranges from $44,510 for the lowest 10% and more than $208,000 for the highest 10%.
The highest median annual wage for operations managers in May 2017 was in professional, scientific, and technical services at $137,950, followed by manufacturing at $114,330, wholesale trade at $108,960, construction at $101,200, and retail trade at $73,760.
Early career jobs like an accountant or a management analyst earned an average of $77,920 and $93,440 respectively in 2017, while more experienced roles like business operations managers made $123,460, which is among the top compared to other management positions along with financial managers who made $143,530 and marketing managers who made $145,620.
Top operations management positions could lead to top executive positions like CEO which are among the highest paid jobs in the US, with a median annual wage of $183,270 in May 2017.
All these numbers are estimates and vary among industries according to the duties and responsibilities of the position, as well as the sizes of the corporations. For instance, a top manager in a large company could earn more than the mayor of a small town.
The employment growth projected for operations management positions is 9% from 2016 to 2026, which is 2% higher than the average for all occupations. The total employment in 2016 was 2,263,100. The projected number is 2,468,300 in 2026, which is 205,200 more than in 2016. On the other hand, the projected employment for chief executive positions is projected to decline as its growth is -4%, due to improved office technology, changing organizational structures and a slower rate of new firm creation.
Private enterprises usually offer operations managers and top executives more incentives like stock options and performance bonuses, as well as the use of the company’s aircraft and cars and memberships to exclusive clubs, among other benefits.
Other than the salary, working as an operations manager is a prestigious accolade, being in a leadership position and having the chance to meet with and build a network with a lot of influential people in top positions. Moreover, the skills and experience gained are entirely transferable between industries and could even help you start and grow your own business.
Levels of Operations Management Degrees
Working in operations management certainly requires some kind of degree. A 4-year bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for landing an entry-level job but most positions require a master’s degree. Higher positions could even require a doctorate and longtime experience in a specific industry. Although uncommon, an associate’s degree in addition to some training could be enough for an entry-level position in some cases.
To start your career, you are required to hold a degree in business administration, business management, or accounting major with an operations management concentration. Graduate studies might also include specific classes geared towards certain industries.
Bachelor’s Degree in Operations Management
A bachelor’s degree in operations management is very beneficial as a preparation for entry-level positions. These are 4-year programs provided by universities through traditional on-campus classroom settings as well as online classes. The curriculum consists of two sets of core courses: business courses and operations management courses. It also includes a number of liberal arts and humanities electives. The programs provide the students with the necessary knowledge to be able to manage different operations processes including analyzing costs, quality control as well as overseeing materials, staffing, and equipment. They will also learn how to deliver products to the widest range of customers in the most efficient and profitable way. Core operations management courses include:
- Material Distribution
- Quantitative Analysis
- Operation Design and Control
- Strategic Management
Admission requirements include favorable high school GPA and ACT or SAT tests with relatively high scores. Some programs prefer students with leadership experience in high school. Good high school courses to take to prepare for this degree include business law, computer science or communications.
Master’s Degree in Operations Management
A master’s degree in operations management is required to pursue senior and executive positions in business and management. These programs usually take 2 to 3 years to complete and offer a Master of Science (MS) degree, but some also offer a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. They usually provide evening, weekend, and online classes to accommodate the schedules of working professionals. The program covers the knowledge needed to design and implement efficient and effective business operations by using various methods as well as quantitative and qualitative tools. Some programs are specifically catered toward certain industries like tech, telecommunication, military, or healthcare, and they offer specific courses on business and operations management procedures in these particular industries. These programs are content specific with few or no other elective requirements. Core curriculum courses include:
- Business Law and Ethics
- Supply Chain and Materials Management
- Human Resources Management
- Operational Logistics
- Product Research and Development
- Human Behavior
- Quality Management
- Cost Analysis
- Ethics in Leadership
- Project Planning
- Decision-Making Principles
Admission requirements include the completion of a bachelor’s degree. There is usually no specific major required for the undergraduate degree but some programs may require non-business majors to take supplemental coursework before enrolling in the operations management program. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) may also be required
MBA in Operations Management
As mentioned above, instead of a Master of Science you might consider pursuing a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in operations management. The program concentrates more on the skills needed for managerial and leadership positions in business with an emphasis on global business and industry trends, financial regulations, political uncertainties, risk management, and strategic thinking. Courses include:
- Supply Chain Management
- Manufacturing Systems
- Information Management
- Quality Control
- Project Management
Doctorate Degree in Operations Management
Obtaining a doctorate in operations management can lead to one of two paths: working in the academic field or holding top executive positions in the industry. Two types of doctorate degrees are available: a research degree like a Ph.D. which will lead to the first path or professional degree like a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) which will lead to the second path.
Ph.D. programs in information and operations management concentrate on the research to help solve current and future global business problems and challenges. Earning a Ph.D. will lead to a position as a business professor teaching and working in academia and research.
DBA programs prepare business professionals to assume top executive positions in the industry, working as general managers and CEOs, putting business theories to practice in a professional business environment and taking critical decisions.
Operations Management Certifications
Certifications are not required by most employers but they are a good way to be more competitive. Several certificates are available from different organizations and associations.
Certified Manager (CM) – This credential is offered by the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM) and it gives its holder more advantage in the job market. Taking the exam requires having enough points determined based on education and experience. Maintaining the certification requires continuing education through participation in ICPM approved activities like webinars and mentorships.
APICS Certifications – The Association for Operations Management (APICS) offers several certifications to provide evidence of knowledge and experience as well as continuing education courses. Certifications include supply chain management, supply chain operations, and production and inventory management. These certifications vary in level and qualification requirements.
Different Types of Bachelor Operations Management Degrees
Bachelor of Science in Operations Management
A Bachelor of Science (BS) degree consists of 120 to 180 credit hours. It covers the design and management of manufacturing processes. Students study business tools, such as microcomputers and business software. They learn how to implement management strategies and take quality control measure. Coursework often includes lab experiences or internships with local businesses. The curriculum includes topics like:
- Management of Inventory
- Occupational Safety and Health
- Environmental Chemistry
- Spreadsheet Software Lab
- Service Management
- Relational Databases
Admission requires a high school diploma or its GED equivalent.
Bachelor of Applied Science in Operations Management
A Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degree covers how to develop solutions for management problems using critical thinking, practical knowledge, and business fundamentals. Students develop managerial and supervisory skills through training in planning and design, purchasing and supply chain logistics, human behavior and resource management, supervision and leadership strategies. The programs also concentrate on effective management of resources, workforce motivation, workplace organization and talent acquisition. The curriculum also includes topics like business ethics, human resources management, technology, and organizational behavior. Many of these programs include a capstone project. An internship or field experience in the second half of the program might also be a requirement or a substitute for the project. Courses include:
- Occupational Safety and Ergonomics
- Quality Assurance
- Customer Relations
- Technology Ethics
Admission requires either an associate’s degree or a two-year technical degree.
Bachelor of Business Administration in Operations Management
A Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) consists of 120 credit hours. The program prepares students to become leading business professionals who are able to run production or technical operations. It concentrates on the decision-making aspect of business. The curriculum includes core business subjects like marketing, finance and management. It also includes topics like project management, quality control, planning, and inventory analysis. The operation management concentration core focuses on mathematical methods of operations processes and the development of complex production plans. It also covers materials management and information technology. A capstone project might be required at the end of the program. Courses include:
- Quantitative Methods
- Supply Chain Management
- Human Resources Management
- Management of Information Systems
- Quality Management Microeconomics
Admission requires a high school diploma or GED.
Other degrees that help lead to a job in operations management include:
- Bachelor in Business Management
- Bachelor of Arts in Operations Management and Analysis
- Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration
Operations Management Degree Requirements
All operations management degrees require a high school diploma. Some programs will require a competitive high school GPA in order to be considered. Bachelor’s degree admission mostly includes an application, recommendation letters, and a letter of motivation. It also requires high SAT or ACT scores and the admission process might include an interview. Some programs might also require taking high school courses related to business and accounting. Master’s degree admission requires the completion of undergraduate studies, although not necessarily a business major.