Operations management is a vital part of any corporate entity. In fact, they are found in nearly all industries and organizations. There are organization managers in private, public, and non-profit organizations. They are also in high demand in government agencies, including the military. In fact, administrative managers in the military are even more likely to find an eager workplace once they return to civilian life. This page is dedicated to operations management. For those who are making their first venture into the world of business, this page is sure to provide needed information and insight. It will also be helpful for those seeking a mid-career change.
Steps to Become an Operations Manager
Operations managers often start their careers with the dream of navigating the choppy seas of the business world. Their first step towards this end might manifest as a love of efficiency, especially with their friends or classmates. A young operations manager might find themselves helping high school clubs organize various events such as car washes, rummage sales, or other activities.
Operations managers should also have strong mathematical and other analytical abilities, on top of a natural sense of leadership. These days, budding operations managers might be found playing puzzle games that feature high levels of complexity. They might also enjoy hobbies such as computer programming and designing systems of varying sorts. Lastly, nascent operations managers may love watching business news and reading the biographies of various business leaders.
Ultimately, operations managers come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. They all have individual strengths and weaknesses; they are not a homogeneous group. However, they all likely have a passion for business, efficiency, and doing their best no matter what the situation.
The second step for any future operations manager is to apply to a business school. Some might start with an associate degree in business. This route may seem somewhat unusual, since most upper-level management jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in business with a focus on operations and/or management. However, community colleges are frequently cheaper than four-year colleges and universities.
A two-year business degree can help launch a terrific career. If the business program is accredited by the AACSB, for instance, community businesses might be happy to hire those graduates into entry-level jobs. Barring that, two-year graduates can still dive into business and accrue valuable experience. They can even take that time to discover what specific avenues in business they would like to take. They can learn from their on-the-job mentors and bosses.
With a two-year degree in business and some experience, a future operations manager will have a real edge when they return to complete a full bachelor’s degree in business. Not only will they have completed half the work, but they will have lower, if any, debt, and they'll have clear, informed ideas about where they want to take their academic and professional careers.
Perhaps the most important step along the way to becoming an operations manager is a four-year bachelor’s degree in business. For those who are eager to work in operations, it's important to find a program that can cater to that specific desire. In fact, there are many online business degree programs that offer business operations as a major concentration. When considering either an online business degree or a traditional classroom education, there are a few things to take into consideration.
Not only do students need to find a program that offers a strong curriculum in operations or business administration, but that program must have solid accreditation credentials. Accrediting agencies such as AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE are considered the very best in the business community. In fact, students who work for companies that offer tuition reimbursement may find that their employers are more likely to provide aid when their business degree program holds accreditation from one of those agencies.
While some students opt to move directly from their undergraduate program into a master’s degree program, others opt to work for five or more years before returning for an MBA. No matter what the approach, all future operations managers should seriously consider this degree. This is especially imperative for those who wish to reach the C-suites of the largest corporations.
Alternatively, there are also accelerated undergraduate/MBA programs where students can combine their graduate and undergraduate work into a five-year program. These programs are very intensive, however, and leave most students with little time for extra-curricular activities. There is also the dual-MBA option, whereby students can combine their MBA degree with another graduate degree. For instance, some opt to pair a law degree with their business training. Another option to pair with the MBA is something like organizational psychology, which would inform a career in the operations manager role.
What is an Operations Manager?
An operations manager is a business professional who oversees a firm's day to day business practices. They review the entire workplace to ensure that all teams are working in sync with one another. They also oversee things such as labor contracts, manufacturing processes, and generally measure performance against management's goals and expectations. Ultimately, the job of an operations manager is to ensure that the firm maintains optimal efficiencies.
What Does an Operations Manager Do?
An operations manager spends much of their time reviewing reports from their firm's various departments. They may spend a good deal of time reviewing worker schedules versus productivity. They may then send down recommendations to department managers for amendments to the schedule. They may also spend a good deal of time in meetings with vendors, customers, and department heads. Operations managers might also conduct interviews with staff to better understand each department.
Thus, an operations management job is very hands-on. While they may be able to conduct some parts of their job from a remote location, most their days will be spent in their office or otherwise on-site. While a good deal of their weekly schedule will be comprised of meetings or phone calls, they will likely spend as much, or more, time on the computer. From time to time, they will need to aggregate all their activities into a presentation to the rest of the upper management.
Operations managers need to coordinate with their fellow top managers so that they continue to work in sync. For instance, they will need to discuss budgets with the financial team, computing needs with the technology officer, and long-term strategies with everyone, including the CEO. Ultimately, an operations manager may have a more hands-on role with the entire organization than any other executive.
Operations Manager Skills to Acquire
Operations managers are all highly organized. They must be in order to keep track of all the moving parts within their firm.
Without clear communication, an operations manager would be lost. They must be able to clearly illustrate what they need from the various departments and employees under their watch.
- Financial Analysis:
Financing is the lifeblood of any good operation and an operations manager must be able to balance budgets, maximize capital investments, and make best use of their best-paid employees.
Every effective operations manager Is able to motivate and inspire their teams. While this trait may come more naturally for some than others, everyone can develop their leadership abilities and be effective as operations managers.
Naturally, every operations manager will need to have expert managerial skills. This can include much of these other skills, but they may also need to manage payroll, oversee scheduling, and keep all projects on or under budget.
Since operations managers oversee so many parts of their firms, it's vital that they be able to delegate responsibilities to others. Thus, it's vital to have a full, working knowledge of everyone's skill level and ability to meet or exceed expectations.
There is no one right way to become an operations manager. There are no special licenses involved nor is a degree absolutely necessary. However, since most operations managers do have at least a bachelor’s degree in business operations or business administration, it's important to discuss alternative paths to this career.
One way to become an operations manager is to join a small or start-up company with an associate degree, or even just a high school diploma. Once in this entry-level position, it's vital to start studying as much about the business as possible. With a comprehensive knowledge of the firm, you can show your worth in various ways. Opportunities may arise to speak up at meetings or you can add your insights in various conversations.
It will be important to pick up certain important skills along the way, and it's hard to avoid academia for those. For instance, an operations manager should have good working knowledge of accounting, accounting software, and spreadsheets. These skills can be honed via online business education courses or through a local community college.
With hard work and dedication, it is possible to rise into an operations management position this way. However, the best success will likely come from starting out in a small but growing company where your skills and abilities will be appreciated and rewarded.
Operations Manager Career & Salary
Where Might You Work?
Every firm has operations. Thus, every firm will need an operations management team, or a single operations manager. This applies whether the organization is public, private, non-profit, or a government agency. The military also has many operations and logistical managers it relies on to deploy troops, respond to emergencies, and conduct daily operations in peacetime. Those in administrative military posts might even be ideal candidates for operation management roles in the civilian world.
Even the smallest teams need someone who is in charge of operations. Job descriptions such as office manager can even fall under the heading operations. Even if they are only in charge of keeping supplies stocked, they are a vital part of that team. As that venture grows, however, they will surely take on more responsibilities according to the needs of that company.
In larger organizations, there may be multiple business professionals who take on the operations role. There may be an overarching Director of Operations or Chief Operating Officer in the main headquarters, but others in operations management will report to them. A director of operations will surely have an MBA and at least ten years’ experience in operations management.
Since operations managers are so vital to every sort and size of firm, the long-term career outlook is rather favorable. After all, even in a down market, firms must continue to manufacture goods, complete projects, and otherwise function. Where many corporate jobs can be outsourced, operations management is something that surely requires a full-time, hands-on employee.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't specifically track employment data for operations managers, per se, they do track administrative services and facilities managers, who follow the same rubric. Their research shows that these professionals earn a median yearly salary of over $98,000. Keep in mind that the median salary is not the average, but the salary in the middle of the data set. Furthermore, these salary numbers don't reflect other forms of compensation, such as bonuses, insurance benefits, tuition reimbursement, etc.
As for the long-term growth of this employment sector, the BLS is rather optimistic. The BLS projects that jobs will grow by a rate of around 6% through 2029. This figure is characterized as being faster than average. Considering that some operations managers will peel off and become consultants or start their own firms, long-term prospects for these managers is quite rosy indeed.
Business administration or business operations majors have a wide range of possible jobs. Since their general knowledge and skills can apply to a wide range of jobs, students may want to complete internship programs to gain specific experience in their desired industry. Certain industries may require specific knowledge and skills. For instance, an operations manager in a software firm will need wholly different skills than a construction manager. Yet both will serve very similar functions in their respective firms.
- Construction Managers:
This job requires the ability to write and stick to budgets. A background in building trades will also help management understand what is required to get a job done right. Some in this field manage large projects, such as an office building, while others might manage smaller crews of plumbers or electricians, for example.
- Emergency Management Directors:
These managers often work for cities or other governmental agencies. They need to maintain close ties with all of their resources and be able to anticipate natural, or other, disasters. Not only will these professionals be vital in the case of a blizzard or flood, but also during heat waves and when infrastructures collapse.
- Lodging Managers:
A lot goes into running a hotel. These days, lodging managers might even help homeowners run their short-term rentals or lodging businesses on the Airbnb platform. From maintaining enough sheets, towels, and cleaning products to scheduling cleaning crews, this is a full-time managerial position.
- Training and Development Managers:
Every operations manager needs to oversee the training and development of the employees in their firm. Larger corporate entities will have their own training professionals to help develop their talent. Likely these professionals will report to an operations manager above them.
Advancing from Here
From operations management, there is still room to grow. Many will opt to earn an MBA and rise into a position such as a COO, or chief operating officer. There are also positions such as director of operations, which are similar. Still other operations professionals will venture off into the consulting world. This could be through a large consulting firm or as an independent entrepreneur. For those who love operations but desire a new challenge, it’s always possible to learn a new industry.
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