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How to Become an Operations Supervisor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Aug 14, 2018

Research the requirements to become an operations supervisor. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as an operations supervisor.

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Operations Supervisors

Operations supervisors might plan daily workloads, conduct employee performance reviews, manage staff, help with quality control, and direct work activities to ensure a safe work environment. The tasks these workers perform are similar to those the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) describes as normally assigned to first-line supervisors of production and operations workers.

Almost all operations supervisors and similarly categorized managers work full-time, though many log more than 40 hours a week as projects demand. Depending on the industry and employer, some evening or weekend hours may be required. Such managers may spend their time in an office setting, concentrating on administrative duties, or supervising their team in person on site. The work environment and presence of risk associated with this career depends largely on the field in which an operations supervisor works.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Varies, ranging from high school diploma to bachelor's degree
Degree Field Business administration, operations management, or related field
Certification Voluntary
Experience Varies: 1-5 years, can require experience in management as well as specific industry
Key Skills Knowledge of mechanics, production, processing, engineering, electronics, technology and management; critical thinking, time-management, judgment, and monitoring skills; able to use project management, time accounting, enterprise resource planning, and logistics/supply chain software programs
Salary $56,340 (2015 median salary for first-line supervisors of production and operating workers)

Sources: O*Net OnLine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monster.com job postings (October 2012), APICS, the Association for Operations Management, Various postsecondary education programs

Education varies in this field, with some operations supervisors holding a high school diploma and others having a bachelor's degree in business administration, operations management, or a related field. Certification is not required, but voluntary certification is available. Operations supervisors might need 1-5 years of experience in management as well as in the specific industry. Knowledge of mechanics, production, processing, engineering, electronics, technology, and management is needed. Additionally, critical thinking, time-management, judgment, and monitoring skills are necessary. Operations supervisors should be able to use project management, time accounting, enterprise resource planning, and logistics/supply chain software programs. According to 2015 data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for first-line supervisors of production and operating workers was $56,340.

Become an Operations Supervisor

Step 1: Graduate from High School and Begin Working in the Field

Only a high school diploma is required to work as an operations supervisor. However, the BLS, O*Net, and job postings demonstrate that most employers seek candidates with work experience in their particular field for supervisory positions, so working in a non-supervisory position in production or operations for 1-2 years will greatly increase your chance of being able to move into an operations supervisor position.

Success Tips

Aspiring operations supervisors should complete elective courses in technology, mathematics, production, and science. Taking these courses in high school can provide an introduction to knowledge operations supervisors will often need to perform their job tasks.

Additionally, operations supervisors should become certified in production and inventory management. The APICS offers its Certified in Production and Inventory Management credential to individuals with at least 2 years of work experience. This credential can prepare an individual for advancement in their field.

Step 2: Consider Earning a Certificate or Associate's Degree

Certificates are available through postsecondary education programs that can require about 19-25 credit hours of study. Courses can include construction drawing, facility operations management, organizational behavior dynamics, and human resources management.

Associate's degree programs are also available and can include courses in business law, supervision, business finance, and operations management. Some programs may require students to complete a portfolio or allow them to participate in an internship. Internships allow students to obtain hands-on experience working in the field. They also permit students to network, which may make finding a job after graduation easier.

Step 3: Consider Earning a Bachelor's Degree

Some employers seek operations supervisors who possess bachelor's degrees. Relevant programs include a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in operations management or a Bachelor of Science in Operations Management. Classes in these programs cover topics such as operations and lean management, decision support systems, managerial accounting, and business finance. Bachelor's degrees can prepare individuals for advanced positions.

Step 4: Earn the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) Credential

This APICS credential is available to supervisors who possess a bachelor's degree and have at least 5 years of work experience. This credential may make an individual eligible for higher-level or more job opportunities.

Operations supervisors need a high school diploma, though some employers prefer candidates with an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as a Bachelor of Business Administration in operations management.

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