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Operations Manager Career Guide

What is an operations manager?

An operations manager oversees, directs, and coordinates the internal structure of an enterprise. These professionals are the driving force behind the scenes, making sure that the various parts of the organization work together effectively and efficiently. They primarily ensure that the company is productive, that operations are smooth, and that the business is generating profit.

These managers contribute significantly to a company’s success by defining and implementing operational procedures, monitoring key performance indicators, and setting strategic goals. They liaise between upper management and frontline employees, ensuring communication and alignment across different levels. Essentially, they serve as the operational backbone, aiding decision-making processes and helping steer the company toward its mission and goals.

Duties and responsibilities

Operations managers play a versatile role encompassing a wide range of duties and responsibilities. They are responsible for planning and managing daily operations, improving performance, and ensuring high productivity. This often includes developing operational policies, overseeing budgeting and resource allocation, and managing operational costs to enhance profitability.

A key part of their role is to analyze processes and strategies and then propose and implement improvements. They often monitor and analyze the efficiency of workflows and use that analysis to devise plans for improvement. They also play a role in risk management, identifying potential problems before they occur and implementing solutions to mitigate them.

In many organizations, these professionals are also involved in staff management. They may supervise staff, conduct performance reviews, and participate in hiring and training. They often work closely with the human resources department to ensure the company has the right workforce to achieve its operational goals.

Work environment

Operations managers typically work in an office environment within various industries, including manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and logistics. However, depending on the nature of the organization, they may sometimes need to visit other settings, such as warehouses, production areas, or service centers.

The role often involves coordinating with different departments, such as sales, HR, and finance, which may require them to be mobile and flexible within their working environment. The job can be stressful at times, as it requires balancing many elements and dealing with unforeseen problems. Hence, strong problem-solving skills, decision-making ability, and resilience are key for this position.

Typical work hours

The work hours for an operations manager generally conform to regular business hours, typically 40 hours per week from Monday to Friday. However, due to the nature of their role and responsibilities, they may often need to put in extra hours or be on call to deal with emergencies or critical issues. The job may sometimes require working on weekends or evenings, especially when close supervision of specific projects or operations is required.

How to become an operations manager

This career guide section outlines the process of becoming an operations manager. The path to this job typically involves a combination of education, experience, and the development of key skills.

Step 1: Receive a bachelor’s degree

The educational foundation typically begins with a bachelor’s degree. Although the field of study can vary, degrees in business administration, finance, or operations management are often preferred by employers. Over the course of a four-year program, students will learn about management principles, basic finance, marketing, and other aspects of business that are critical to this managerial role.

Step 2: Gain work experience

After completing a bachelor’s degree, it’s important to gain work experience. Entry-level positions in fields like business, finance, or operations will provide hands-on experience and insight into the day-to-day operations of a business. Over several years, this experience should enable you to develop strong leadership abilities, an understanding of business activities and operations, and a mastery of problem-solving strategies.

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

Some professionals choose to further their education by earning a master’s degree, usually an MBA. While it’s not always required, a graduate degree can offer advanced training in business strategy, management, accounting, and other areas that could be beneficial. Additionally, having a master’s degree may make you a more attractive candidate for promotion or more competitive positions.

Step 4: Obtain certifications

While it’s not a strict requirement, obtaining professional certification can enhance your credentials and demonstrate expertise in operations management. Credentials like Certified Operations Manager (COM), Certified Manager (CM), or Project Management Professional (PMP) are some of the certifications that can further boost your career prospects.

Step 5: Apply for operations manager positions

After verifying that you meet the minimum educational and experience requirements and optional certifications, you can start applying for jobs. Make sure to tailor your resume to the specific role and company, highlighting your relevant degrees, experience, and skills. Prepare for your interviews by familiarizing yourself with common interview questions and expectations in this field.

How much do operations managers make?

Operations manager salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. The industry in which they work plays a significant role in determining the salary, as does the size and profitability of the organization.

Highest paying industries

  • Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing: $130,000
  • Securities and Commodity Contracts: $125,000
  • Oil and Gas Extraction: $120,000
  • Cable and Other Subscription Programming: $115,000
  • Information Services: $110,000

Highest paying states

  • New Jersey: $125,000
  • California: $120,000
  • New York: $115,000
  • Virginia: $110,000
  • Colorado: $108,000

Browse operations manager salary data by market

Types of operations managers

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for operations managers. This section will guide you through the wide variety of roles in this field.

General operations manager

A general operations manager oversees all aspects of a company’s daily operations. They are typically responsible for managing teams, setting goals and strategies, and ensuring all tasks are completed on time and within budget. They also manage resources and liaise with different departments. Having excellent communication and leadership skills are key aspects of this role.

Supply chain operations manager

Focusing on the supply chain, this role entails overseeing the entire process of producing and delivering products or services. Their tasks may include managing relationships with suppliers, coordinating with production teams, and ensuring efficient and cost-effective logistics operations. The supply chain operations manager must possess excellent analytical and problem-solving skills.

Manufacturing operations manager

In manufacturing, the operations manager oversees the production process. This includes ensuring efficient use of resources, maintaining safety standards, optimizing production methods, and coordinating teams. A deep understanding of the manufacturing process and a firm grasp of lean methodologies are necessary for this role.

Retail operations manager

Regarding retail, the operations manager ensures that all stores function optimally. Their duties range from coordinating with store managers, tracking inventory, and leading employee training programs to overseeing sales strategies. A strong understanding of the retail industry and exemplary customer service skills are vital for this role.

IT operations manager

The focus of an IT operations manager includes managing and supervising the company’s technology infrastructure. This can include managing IT staff, addressing tech-related issues, improving IT systems, and more. This role requires a deep knowledge of IT systems and excellent technical skills.

Top skills for operations managers

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as an operations manager.

Strategic planning and forecasting

You must be adept at conducting strategic planning and forecasting, which involves developing detailed operational plans based on company goals. Additionally, you’ll need to know how to predict future market trends to provide accurate forecasts which will aid in decision-making processes.

Leadership abilities

Handling a team, fostering a comfortable work environment, and creating a steady workflow requires strong leadership abilities. The ability to motivate, mentor, and direct a team to achieve operational goals is fundamental in this role.

Problem-solving skills

In the operations field, unexpected obstacles can often arise. Your ability to come up with effective and efficient solutions at such times reflects your problem-solving skills. These are vital for ensuring that operations remain uninterrupted and that all issues are promptly addressed.

Budget management

Operations often come with a budget you must manage. Understanding financial statements, keeping track of expenses, and making necessary adjustments to stay within budget are all important aspects of a good operations manager.

Communication and interpersonal skills

To effectively handle a team and manage operations, good communication and interpersonal skills are a must. This involves not only conveying information clearly but also actively listening to team members, stakeholders, and customers.

Understanding of process improvement methodologies

Being familiar with methods for improving business processes, such as Lean or Six Sigma, is integral to this role. With this skill, you can regularly evaluate and optimize operational processes to increase efficiency and productivity, a key goal for any operations manager.

Operations manager career path options

An operations manager carries the role with an expansive set of possibilities regarding career advancements. With versatile skills, they have many paths to ascend their professional ladder.

These professionals are often seen climbing toward the role of a regional or area operations manager. This role puts them in charge of multiple locations within a specified region, providing them with wider reach and control. Their scope of work covers an entire region, thus demonstrating their ability to manage larger operations.

Eventually, after gaining requisite experience and demonstrating the ability to handle large-scale operations, they stand a chance to step into the shoes of a director of operations. A director of operations oversees operations nationwide or on an even larger scale. They manage different regional operations managers, create consistency across the company, and set guidelines and procedures to meet the organization’s goals.

Another possible path can lead toward the coveted position of chief operations officer (COO), a high-level executive role. COOs are tasked with managing a business’s day-to-day administrative and operational functions. They work directly under the chief executive officer (CEO) and are viewed as a potential successor for the CEO role.

Managers with expertise in handling processes are also well-suited for transition to related roles. For instance, they can move to project management, where their skills in overseeing various operations can prove useful. They might also transition into consultancy roles where they share their knowledge of efficient operations with other businesses.

Business development is another field where these professionals can shine. By applying their understanding of the company’s internal operations, they can help create strategies for expansion, identifying opportunities for growth and improvement.

The role of an operations manager has been expanding and will likely continue to do so in the near future. The demand for these professionals is driven by technological advancement, globalization, and the need for organizations to innovate quickly. Digital technology, in particular, has brought tremendous changes to the operational strategies of organizations. Managers are now expected to have competence in implementing and managing digital systems and processes.

On top of technological trends, environmental sustainability has also entered the arena of operations management. Professionals in this field are increasingly expected to integrate sustainable practices into their operations strategy. They play a vital role in reducing waste and promoting green practices in different areas of business operations.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of operations managers is projected to grow 6 percent through 2031. As organizations seek ways to improve efficiency and control costs, demand for these professionals will likely continue.

Operations manager career tips

Understand the industry specifics

In this role, you will work closely with different departments and must understand your industry’s dynamics. By becoming familiar with the regulations, best practices, and current trends specific to your sector, you will make more informed decisions and enhance operational efficiency.

Master project management

You’ll often oversee several initiatives simultaneously, so understanding how to manage resources, timelines, and team members effectively is integral to your role. Learning different project management methodologies can help streamline your processes and improve your productivity.

Analyze and leverage data

Data analysis plays a major role in operational success. Leveraging data can help you predict market trends, make strategic decisions, and improve operations. Skills in statistical analysis, data interpretation, and relevant software can be beneficial in better managing the company’s operations.

Embrace continuous learning

You’ll want to stay updated with this role’s latest business management theories and techniques. Continuous learning is fundamental to keeping pace with the changing business environment. Take advantage of:

  • Online courses: Platforms such as Coursera and Udemy offer many courses in operations management
  • Certifications: Consider certificates like Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)
  • Workshops and seminars: Attend these events to learn from experienced professionals within the field

Build a professional network

Effective networking can provide numerous opportunities for career advancement, personal growth, and enhanced productivity. Consider joining these professional associations:

  • The Association for Operations Management (APICS)
  • Operations Management Association (OMA)
  • Production and Operations Management Society (POMS)
  • American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS)

Where the operations manager jobs are

Top employers

  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • Apple Inc.
  • Google
  • Facebook Inc

Top states

  • California
  • Washington
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Georgia

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • CareerBuilder


What kind of work environment does an operations manager typically work in?

They work in various sectors, including manufacturing, retail, logistics, health care, and education. The work environment varies according to the organization but is often office-based. The job can be quite demanding and occasionally stressful due to the volume of responsibilities and the need to meet deadlines, ensure quality, and manage resources effectively.

What skills are beneficial for an operations manager?

They benefit greatly from excellent leadership abilities, analytical thinking, and strong communication skills. It is also necessary to have a sound understanding of business operations, including financial management, supply chain management, and quality assurance. Finally, a problem-solving mindset and the ability to multi-task effectively are crucial.

Are there any certifications that can give me a competitive edge as an operations manager?

Yes, numerous certifications in operations management could strengthen your profile. These include Certified Supply Chain Professional, Certified in Production and Inventory Management, and Project Management Professional certifications. These certifications affirm your expertise in supply chain management and project management, which are integral to this role.

What is the role of technology in the field of operations management?

Technology plays a significant role in operations management. It helps to streamline processes, improve efficiency, and enhance productivity. Software such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can manage diverse operations from a single platform. Digital technology aids in everything from inventory management to data analysis, which is central to decision-making in operations management.

What are the primary duties for an operations manager?

Their responsibilities encompass all aspects of a company’s operations. This could include overseeing the production process, managing supplier relationships, and ensuring customer satisfaction. They monitor performance against goals, identify areas for improvement, and implement strategies to increase efficiency and productivity.

Is prior experience in a leadership role important for an operations manager?

Prior experience in a leadership role can be highly beneficial for this job. Since they are responsible for overseeing employees and coordinating operations, experience in a leadership or supervisory role can aid in effectively managing a team and understanding the dynamics of human resources.

What are the challenges faced by an operations manager?

They might face various challenges, such as maintaining quality while increasing productivity, managing a diverse team, and making strategic decisions that align with the company’s goals. Navigating the complex terrain of supply-chain relationships can also be quite challenging. Keeping up with the constant technological changes that affect operations is another significant aspect.

What can be done to stay updated in operations management?

Keeping up with the latest trends in operations management is essential. This can be accomplished by consistently engaging in professional development activities such as attending relevant workshops and seminars, subscribing to industry-relevant publications, participating in webinars, and being a part of professional bodies. Updating tech skills that help in various operations like data analysis, finance, and supply chain is also crucial.

What kind of educational qualifications do operations managers need?

Most positions ask for a bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement, often in business, management, or a related field. However, advanced positions may require a master’s degree, often an MBA. Courses in operations management, finance, and supply chain management provide useful knowledge for this role. In addition, relevant experience is highly valued.