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Director of Operations Career Guide

What is a director of operations?

A director of operations is a senior management professional who oversees operational activities to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. They play a pivotal role in strategic planning and decision-making, leading the implementation of business strategies, plans, and procedures. Their contributions are vital to achieving organizational goals and enhancing overall business performance.

They are the backbone of a company’s operational success, making sure that all departments are aligned and functioning optimally to meet business objectives. These directors are instrumental in streamlining operations, improving internal processes, and fostering a culture of operational excellence.

Duties and responsibilities

A director of operations manages the company’s day-to-day operations and coordinates with department heads to maximize operational efficiency. They develop and implement strategies and procedures that align with the company’s strategic goals. Initiatives include overseeing resource allocation, such as staff, budget, and materials, to achieve optimal productivity and cost efficiency.

Further, these professionals assess and manage risks, implement quality control measures, and troubleshoot operational issues while striving for continuous improvement. A critical aspect is monitoring key performance indicators and analyzing operational data to inform decision-making. They may also hire and train staff, establish performance standards, and promote a positive work environment.

Work environment

The work environment for a director of operations is typically a corporate setting but will vary by industry and individual employer. This leadership position involves regularly interacting with department heads and senior management members, with frequent meetings and strategic planning sessions.

The role may involve travel, especially in multi-site operations where visits to different company locations occur. It is not uncommon for these directors to work under pressure or handle complex problems that affect the entire organization.

Typical work hours

The typical work hours for a director of operations are generally full-time and often exceed the standard 40-hour work week due to the demanding nature of the role. Availability outside regular business hours may be needed for emergencies, important meetings, or to address significant operational issues.

Their work hours can be irregular, especially during critical business periods or the implementation of significant operational changes. Given the seniority of the position, they may need to devote additional time to fulfill responsibilities effectively.

How to become a director of operations

Becoming a director of operations requires formal education, extensive professional experience, and leadership skills. In this career guide section, we will cover the steps you need to follow: 

Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree

Begin your career journey by earning a bachelor’s degree. Typical fields of study include business administration, finance, operations management, or a related field. These programs offer a broad understanding of business principles, financial management, and strategic planning, forming a solid foundation for a career in operations.

Step 2: Gain relevant work experience

You need substantial work experience. Typically, this starts in entry-level positions within a chosen industry and then progresses through supervisory and managerial roles. Exposure to various operational processes and business functions is good preparation for the wide-ranging responsibilities of the position.

Step 3: Pursue a master’s degree (optional)

While not always required, consider obtaining a graduate degree in business administration (MBA) or a related field. These advanced programs dive deeper into strategic management, decision-making, and leadership, enhancing understanding of business operations and strategic planning.

Step 4: Develop leadership and interpersonal skills

You will lead teams and manage various business functions. Strong leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills are vital. Problem-solving capabilities are also needed to make crucial decisions under pressure. These skills can be developed and refined through managerial experience and coursework. 

Consider taking online courses to build and improve your skills. Here are some great options:

Step 5: Earn professional certifications (optional)

Professional certifications can enhance credibility and showcase competence in operations management. Options include the Certified Manager (CM) certification from the Institute of Certified Professional Managers, the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) from the Institute for Supply Management, or the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute.

Step 6: Apply for director of operations positions

Once you have a solid educational background, extensive experience in operations management, and leadership skills, you can apply for jobs. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight relevant experiences and accomplishments, and prepare to discuss them during interviews.

How much do director of operations make?

Several factors can influence directors of operations salaries, including the level of education. While many directors hold bachelor’s degrees in business or a related field, those with an MBA often command higher salaries. Experience is another major determinant, with seasoned professionals earning more than their less-experienced counterparts. 

The industry or sector of their employment is crucial. Technology, finance, and healthcare industries may pay more than retail or hospitality. Geographic location is also significant, with higher salaries typically seen in larger cities or states with an elevated cost of living. Lastly, the size and profitability of the company can significantly affect compensation. 

Highest paying industries

  • Technical Services – $163,200
  • Manufacturing – $159,570
  • Finance and Insurance – $157,480
  • Information Technology – $155,930
  • Healthcare – $154,300

Highest paying states

  • New Jersey – $167,500
  • New York – $165,200
  • California – $163,800
  • Virginia – $162,400
  • Massachusetts – $161,700

Browse director of operations salary data by market

Types of director of operations

A director of operations position can be highly specialized based on the industry, the size and scope of the company, and the specific responsibilities. In this career guide section, we will explore the types of directors, shedding light on their unique responsibilities and areas of focus. 

Manufacturing director of operations

A role in manufacturing often involves elements of supply chain management, production planning, and quality control. These directors manage the daily operations of manufacturing plants or companies, overseeing processes, personnel, and resources to ensure efficient and high-quality production. 

Healthcare director of operations

Healthcare directors handle hospital, clinic, or medical practice operational responsibilities. They may oversee staffing, compliance with healthcare regulations, patient services, and coordination between different departments or facilities.

Retail director of operations

Retail operations may include single stores or large retail chains with numerous locations. Their initiatives include handling inventory management, sales strategies, customer service, and store coordination.

Logistics director of operations

Logistics directors oversee the operations of logistics and transportation companies. Their responsibilities often involve supply chain management, including warehousing, transportation, and distribution activities. Focus is placed on storing and moving goods to meet customer delivery expectations.

IT director of operations

IT departments contain various systems and services, including networks, data centers, and user support. These directors manage daily operations to ensure the smooth functioning of all systems. They may also oversee IT project management and the implementation of new technologies.

Nonprofit director of operations

The role in nonprofits can be broad and include volunteer management, fundraising, program delivery, and compliance with nonprofit regulations.

Top skills for director of operations

This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success as a director of operations. The following descriptions provide insights into the abilities anyone aspiring to this role should focus on developing.

Strategic thinking

Operations directors must be able to see the big picture and align day-to-day operations with the organization’s overarching goals. This involves identifying bottlenecks, anticipating future challenges, and positioning the company for growth. Strategic thinking allows for effective decision-making that considers both immediate concerns and long-term objectives.

Leadership qualities

Leading diverse teams is an integral part of the role, making leadership skills crucial. An effective director inspires others to strive for excellence, sets a clear vision for the department or organization, and creates a conducive environment for productivity and innovation.

Financial expertise

Managing budgets, forecasting financial performance, and optimizing costs are essential responsibilities in this role. A strong understanding of financial principles allows these professionals to make informed decisions that align with the fiscal health and sustainability of the organization. This skill is particularly crucial when juggling multiple projects and priorities, directly impacting the organization’s bottom line.

Process optimization

Efficiency is the name of the game when overseeing operations. Skills in process optimization involve analyzing existing systems and workflows to identify areas for improvement. This could mean implementing new technologies, reorganizing teams, or revising procedures. The goal is always to do more with less—less time, fewer resources, and reduced costs—while maintaining or improving quality.

Communication skills

Clear, concise, and effective communication is essential, as they often serve as a liaison between senior management and staff. Whether it’s relaying executive decisions to lower-level managers or presenting strategic plans to the board, communicating effectively ensures that everyone is on the same page and working toward common goals.

Director of operations career path

Typically, your career may begin in entry-level positions within operations, project management, or a specialized area pertinent to the industry you’re interested in. Roles such as operations coordinator, project assistant, or similar titles offer foundational experience and skills in operational workflows and business processes.

With a few years of experience, a move up to a managerial position like operations manager or project manager becomes feasible. You’ll have more responsibilities in these roles, including managing teams, overseeing projects, and getting involved in strategic planning. Earning an MBA or other advanced degrees in business or a related field can be highly beneficial at this stage and can significantly accelerate your career growth.

After demonstrating success in managerial roles and accumulating broad experience, ascending to a director of operations position becomes likely. This role mandates you to lead various functional areas, ensuring alignment with overall business objectives. You’ll engage in high-level decision-making, budget management, and the development of long-term strategies.

Your long-term career progression might include higher-level executive roles like chief operating officer (COO) or even chief executive officer (CEO), depending on the size and structure of the organization. These positions demand a complex set of skills that include operations management and elements of finance, human resources, and corporate strategy.

Several directors also transition into consultancy roles later in their careers, offering their years of expertise to improve operational efficiencies across different organizations or industries.

The role continues to evolve with the complexities of the global business environment. Operations directors manage day-to-day operations and strategic planning, making them integral to any organization. There’s a growing demand for those who can lead digital transformations, leverage big data analytics for operational insights, and implement sustainability practices in business operations.

Soft skills like leadership, communication, and problem-solving are becoming even more critical. The trend toward remote work has also impacted the role, with a higher demand for directors who can effectively manage and coordinate remote teams.

Employment projections

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides data for “Top Executives,” which includes general and operations managers. Employment of top executives is projected to grow by 6% through 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven by the formation of new and expanding organizations, which will require more managers. The employment growth of specific executive positions, like a director of operations, varies by industry. 

Director of operations career tips

Foster cross-departmental collaboration

You will likely oversee various departments within an organization. Encourage collaboration and communication across these departments to ensure alignment with business goals. This will enhance efficiency, minimize divisions, and promote a more cohesive working environment.

Stay knowledgeable about your industry

Staying updated on industry trends and developments is critical. This knowledge can inform strategic decisions, keep operations competitive, and be used to anticipate changes that may impact the business.

Prioritize strategic planning

Strategic planning drives operational initiatives. Develop a strategic mindset that aligns with the company’s mission and goals. Set long-term operational objectives, identify key performance indicators (KPIs), and regularly review and adjust your strategy based on business performance.

Build a professional network

Networking is a powerful asset in any leadership role, leading to collaborative opportunities, providing learning experiences, and helping stay up-to-date with best practices. Consider these professional associations:

  • Association for Operations Management (APICS)
  • The American Society of Administrative Professionals (ASAP)
  • National Association of Business Operations (NABO)
  • LinkedIn Groups related to Business Operations

Continuous learning

Operations management is a multifaceted role that requires a wide range of skills. Continuous learning is essential to staying competitive. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Stay updated with industry trends: Follow relevant news sources, industry journals, and thought leaders in the field
  • Professional development courses: Consider courses in strategic planning, project management, leadership, and other relevant fields
  • Earn relevant certifications: Certifications like Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), or Six Sigma can boost your credentials and demonstrate commitment to the field

Focus on customer satisfaction

Business operations are geared toward satisfying customers. Keep the customer’s needs and experiences at the forefront of operational strategy. Regularly gather and analyze customer feedback to inform operational decisions and drive improvements.

Promote a culture of continuous improvement

An effective director does not maintain the status quo but instead fosters a culture of continuous improvement. Encourage your team to constantly seek ways to optimize processes, increase efficiency, and improve product or service quality.

Develop strong financial acumen

While it isn’t necessary to be a financial expert, understanding the financial implications of operational decisions is critical. Become familiar with fundamental concepts, learn how to analyze financial reports, and understand how decisions impact the company’s bottom line.

Work on your leadership skills

In this role, you’re not just managing operations but leading people. Skills like communication, empathy, and motivation can significantly enhance team performance and job satisfaction.

Master change management

In a dynamic business environment, change is inevitable. Being adept at change management can facilitate smooth transitions, supportive employees, and minimal business disruptions.

Where the director of operations jobs are

Top companies

  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Walmart
  • The Home Depot
  • Walmart

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor
  • SimplyHired
  • ZipRecruiter


What educational background is typically expected for a director of operations?

The role requires a bachelor’s degree in business administration, operations management, or a related field. Many also have an MBA or a similar advanced degree. These degrees provide a strong foundation in business principles, financial management, and organizational leadership, which are crucial in the role.

What are the key responsibilities of a director of operations?

They oversee the day-to-day operations, ensuring business processes run smoothly and efficiently. Responsibilities may include strategic planning, resource management, setting operational goals, managing procurement and logistics, monitoring performance metrics, and coordinating with other departments. They often play a role in hiring and staff management.

What skills are essential for a director of operations?

Strong leadership and management skills are crucial for inspiring and leading teams, managing resources effectively, and making strategic decisions. Communication skills are also necessary for liaising with different departments or levels. Other skills include problem-solving, critical thinking, and a good understanding of business operations and processes.

What role does a director of operations play in strategic planning?

Directors work with other senior leaders to set the strategic direction of the organization’s operations, aligning operational goals with the company’s broader objectives. They also play a role in developing and implementing strategies to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness.

How does a director of operations contribute to a company’s financial performance?

A director can significantly contribute to a company’s financial performance by improving operational efficiency, reducing costs, and managing resources effectively. They also play a role in financial planning, budgeting, and understanding the impact of operational decisions.

What role does a director of operations play in team management and leadership?

As senior leaders, they often oversee multiple teams or departments and hire, train, and manage staff. They must inspire and motivate teams, set performance expectations, provide feedback, and resolve issues or conflicts.

How does a director of operations coordinate with other departments?

Coordination may involve working with the sales department to forecast demand, collaborating with the finance department on budgeting and cost control, or partnering with the human resources department on hiring and training. Effective communication and collaboration skills are crucial for these initiatives. 

Is a director of operations involved in customer service?

While they may not be directly involved in customer service, directors are crucial in ensuring customer satisfaction. The position holds responsibility for delivering the company’s products or services to customers, and this process must be smooth and efficient. Operational issues that impact customer service must be handled immediately.

How does a director of operations handle risk management?

They identify potential operational risks, develop contingency plans, and implement mitigation strategies. This process may involve coordinating with other departments, such as finance or compliance, to manage financial, regulatory, or operational risks.

What is the relationship between a director of operations and the CEO or president of a company?

The position often reports directly to the CEO or president of a company. They provide updates on operational performance, contribute to strategic planning, and implement directives the CEO or president sets. Close work with leadership ensures alignment between operations and the company’s broader goals.