How to Become an Operations Manager

Do you consider yourself a people person? Are you a well-organized professional with a knack for helping others in the workplace? A career as an operations manager may be in your future — enabling you to control production processes and ensure an organization is taking the proper steps to produce its goods and services.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into what defines the role of an operations manager, followed by the salary and job outlook, as well as the steps needed to pursue this career path.

What is an operations manager?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the role of an operations manager is defined as a professional who plans, directs, and coordinates the basic operations within a private or public organization. From creating policies and managing everyday tasks to assisting human resourcing and planning material usage, operations managers are responsible for overseeing the general operations in a business.

LinkedIn described some of the general responsibilities and objectives that come with the job in a typical operations manager role, such as:

  • Maintain communication with management staff members and other stakeholders, as well as vendors, to ensure smooth operations processes
  • Develop and maintain quality standards
  • Create new organizational processes and improve current structures to sustain the business
  • Pursue goals and company objectives with strategy
  • Streamline operations processes with an efficient schedule
  • Assist with staffing requirements by hiring and training employees
  • Become a team leader in a demanding and fast-paced work environment
  • Collect data to make operational decisions more efficient, such as by improving productivity numbers, eliminating human error, and providing the best possible customer service
  • Work directly with safety departments to meet compliance standards and regulations
  • Assist with inventory control and management
  • Report costs and budget variances to stakeholders

Today, operations managers may find themselves taking on bigger responsibilities and facing even more challenges in the workplace because of the pandemic.

“The crisis continues to impact market ecosystems and supply chains, upending processes, organizations, and long- and short-term strategic visions,” Jan Burian explained in Industry Week. “But the show must go on — there’s no time for inertia or indecision. Industrial organizations will continue to push forward, relying on operations managers to navigate an environment increasingly complicated by limited supplies, disrupted workforce availability, regulation, and fluctuating demand.”

Focusing on responsibilities related to cost management, technology, improved processes, and environmental sustainability will be a must for operations managers from now on.

It’s also important to note that an operations management position differs from a general management job. A general manager is typically responsible for overseeing all aspects of an organization (or an entity within it) and an operations manager is responsible for the production side of the business. General managers deal with strategy, human resourcing, and marketing for the company as a whole, while operational managers are responsible for the end result within their sector.

Salary and job outlook

Someone pursuing an operations manager position in the U.S. can expect to make a decent wage. According to Salary.com, the average salary of an operations manager as of October 2021 was $107,139, but wages can fall between $92,014 and $119,195 based on a variety of factors. Education, certifications, experience, and skills are among the determinants that can impact your salary as an operations manager. Bonuses and additional compensation and benefits may also come into play depending on your place of work.

According to the BLS, management occupations are expected to grow 9% between 2020 and 2030, which is about as fast as all other occupations. The expectation for growth across management occupations comes from the development of new organizations across the country, as well as the expansion of existing companies. With company growth comes the need for more management, specifically in operational departments.

Industrial production management is projected to grow about 5% during the same time frame, which is slower than the national average growth rate across all occupations. However, there are expected to be nearly 14,000 openings per year, generally replacing workers who have retired or exited the industry entirely.

Warehouse manager using clipboard.

How to become an operations manager

To become an operations manager, there are various standards you need to meet before getting the job. Skills, experience, and education requirements are among the most important aspects.

Skills and qualities required

To properly perform operations tasks and meet management expectations, operations managers need to hone the following skills that will help them be successful in the industry:

  1. Project management. The ability to delegate tasks and make strategic decisions regarding product development and risk management ensures each project runs smoothly. As an operations manager, it’s important to be able to command a strong team that can compete and collaborate on projects over time to meet deadlines.
  2. Flexibility and adaptability. Operations managers work in fast-paced environments. To be successful in the workforce, you must be flexible and adaptable to keep up with ongoing demands. It’s important to go into each work day with an open mind: Being flexible when an unexpected event occurs can help you navigate the changing waters and regroup with your team.
  3. Technical proficiency. In operational management, you’ll be expected to work in a tech-heavy environment. Data entry, budget tracking, and production automation are among the tasks you may be expected to complete on a day-to-day basis. Understanding technical applications early on will prepare you for the job; continuing education will give you the knowledge needed to transform as the industry — and technology in general — evolves.
  4. Data assessment. Collecting, entering, analyzing, and processing data is a regular part of operations management. You will be expected to track functions across the business to assist with supply chain management.
  5. Leadership. As with any management position, leadership is a critical skill to have. An effective leader motivates their team members and is excited to collaborate on projects, but should also be willing to sit down to share insight and gain feedback to make the workplace more efficient and productive.
  6. Interpersonal understanding. Much like leadership, interpersonal skills are important communication qualities to have in a management position. The ability to understand your employees from their working perspective and help them create a safe and friendly work environment is essential. Self-awareness, as well as awareness of others, is also critical, as it will help with conflict management and resolution development.
  7. Time management. When you’re face-to-face with production deadlines, you must work with your employees to ensure all projects are completed in a timely manner. Working with your team members to create a schedule that is possible shows you value their hard work and time.
  8. Problem-solving. A variety of issues can occur when you’re working as an operations manager — from staff conflict to challenges that arise when trying to meet a project deadline. Problem solving ability allows you to provide relevant information that forms solutions in the face of a problem.
  9. Strategic planning. Critical thinking and strategic planning allow you to future-proof processes against potential issues that may arise. Operations managers must understand cause and effect and have the ability to assess information that could impact the business down the line.
  10. Organization. Attention to detail can make a world of difference as a manager. Keeping track of employee paperwork, as well as project schedules, details, and data can give you peace of mind from a process standpoint. This can also help your employees stay organized and make their day-to-day workflows easier as well.

Experience needed

To become an operations manager, it’s expected that you’ll start your career as a production worker with the intention of gaining more skills and experience. Many organizations prefer that you showcase your production skills within the company before moving to a management position. Someone who goes to school to become an operations manager with the intention of becoming a manager right out of college may start as a supervisor, then move their way up to a manager.

Beyond your work experience and education, companies will expect that you’ve dedicated time to additional training and certifications to become familiar with general production and operations processes. If you get hired, the organization will likely put you through additional rigorous training to learn company policies, safety regulations, and other details necessary to successfully pursue the job.

Education requirements

Generally, an operations management position requires you to have at least your bachelor’s degree in business administration or a related field of study, such as management or accounting. The online Bachelor of Science in Management degree program from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business has a curriculum that’s built for those interested in pursuing a career in operations management. The included courses can help you expand your knowledge in this area of study and gain the necessary skills and expertise to succeed in the industry.

To get into this program, admission requirements focus mainly on grade point average and ACT or SAT scores. Additional requirements for transfer applicants and international students involve good previous academic standing and strong TOEFL and IELTS scores.

Some of the courses you can expect to take include:

Operations Management

Those with an interest in becoming operations managers can benefit greatly from this focused course of study. This three-credit class focuses on business processes within manufacturing and non-manufacturing enterprises. Some of the areas of study participants dive into include forecasting, inventory theory, scheduling, production control, facility layout, job design, and supporting functions.

Human Resource Management

With the many human resources responsibilities that come with a position in operations management, this general management course is a must. It involves learning about acquisition, training and development, employee motivation, compensation of human resources, labor relations, industrial health and safety, and wage and salary administration.

Supply Chain Management

Because operations managers are constantly dealing with production controls, understanding supply chain flow is essential. This course analyzes supply and demand regarding material and information flow from an operational perspective. By the end of this course, you will have a better idea of the strategic and operational issues and solutions involved in supply management.

Project Management

The project management class is a recommended elective for those involved with the back end of production management. Here, you will learn about project management principles, methods, techniques, and tools, such as planning, scheduling, budget, and performance objectives. You will also learn about the importance of building your team and how to assist them in the execution of projects.

Strategic Management Capstone Experience

By the end of the online Bachelor of Science in Management program, you will complete the General Management Capstone, a final seminar project dedicated to showcasing the skills and knowledge you’ve gained throughout your tenure. The capstone integrates the functional business fields of management and requires you to demonstrate your ability to write a proposal based on your area of study and expertise. This writing-intensive project will test your decision-making and ethical reasoning skills as they relate to contemporary business.

By the end of this program, you can expect to understand the theory and practice of management, enhance your leadership strategies, and be able to make better-informed decisions based on organizational dynamics.

Management professional working in warehouse setting.

Start your operations management career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Pursuing a degree in management can be your best way to take a step forward on your journey to becoming an operations manager. The Bachelor of Science in Management degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business is designed to help you develop specialized skills and management strategies to build your business management expertise and help you thrive throughout your career. By completing this program, you can feel more confident and capable of reaching your full management potential and providing successful service to an organization or clients.

Not only is the program 100% online, but it’s also led by award-winning, student-oriented faculty members who are excited about and dedicated to the curriculum, and to helping you gain the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed after graduation. There are scholarships available to qualified candidates and an array of collaborative networking opportunities to consider.

Additionally, UAB has been named one of the “Top 10 Universities in the United States for Diversity” for four consecutive years, and the Collat School of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. This designation sets the standard for quality improvement in the industry and ensures the school is focused on thought leadership, strategic management, and innovation to support learners, faculty, and staff. This seal of excellence is only awarded to 176 universities worldwide for undergraduate and graduate business degree programs.

Are you ready to take the next step in your career? The online Bachelor of Science in Management degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business can get you there. Download our brochure and contact one of our enrollment advisors today to learn more.

Recommended Readings:

What is Business Analytics?

The Benefits of Getting Your Master of Accounting Degree Online

Sources:

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business

UAB BS Suite, Online Bachelor’s Degree in Management

LinkedIn, Operations Manager Job Description

Bureau of Labor Statistics, General and Operations Managers

Industry Week, Operations Managers: Rising to the Challenges of 2021

Salary.com, Operations Manager

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Occupations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Industrial Production Managers

Indeed, 15 Essential Operational Management Skills

Get Smarter, What Skills Do Operations Managers Need?