How to Become an Operations Manager: Job Description & Salary

Dec 18, 2020

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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Supervisor of Operations

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.

Find out how to become an operations manager with or without a degree

Career Requirements

Since many wonder about how to be a good operations manager, this table provides a breakdown of requirements for this field:

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 $100,780 (2019 median salary for general and operations managers)
Job Outlook 5-7% growth from 2019-2029

Sources: O*Net OnLine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 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 2018 data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for first-line supervisors of production and operating workers was $60,420.

How To Become a Supervisor

Step 1: Earn a Certificate or Associate's Degree

While not necessarily required for supervisors, 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 2: Consider 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.

Common Courses

Courses that you may encounter in a bachelor's degree in operations management include things like Business Law and Ethics. This will introduce you to the legal and ethical concerns that businesses need to be aware of in order to perform well and treat their employees and clients fairly. Managerial Accounting will give you the skills you need to pursue the financial aspects of working as an operations manager. Budgeting and financial planning are major responsibilities of operations supervisors. International Business is another important and common course option for this kind of degree. Many large companies and corporations must operate on the international stage in order to be competitive. As a result, understanding how to conduct business on an international scale, taking into account cultural differences, is an extremely valuable skill for prospective operations managers to learn. Other courses offered by these bachelor's degree programs may include independent research projects and capstone studies as well as courses in managing large numbers of personnel and working in supply chain management.

Step 3: Get Certified

A Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) Credential can help you succeed in the field. 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.

Non-Degree Option

You do not actually need to get an associate's or bachelor's degree in order to work as a supervisor. Here is an alternate way of getting into this job field:

Obtain a High School Diploma

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 for Operations Managers

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.

Operations Managers Job Description

Now that you understand how to become an operations manager, what exactly will this job entail? Operations managers usually work in office settings and tend to work regular full-time hours. They coordinate a wide variety of tasks, plans, meetings, and more for the benefit of a company. They need to know exactly what a company needs in order to manage operations at a high level. The exact job description of an operations manager will vary based on the company that they work for and the ways in which that company's needs change over time.

Operations Supervisor Duties and Responsibilities

Operations supervisor job duties are highly variable and will depend on the specific company they work for. However, these duties may include the following:

  • Communicating with employees about upcoming and ongoing projects
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Evaluating a company's needs and planning accordingly
  • Meeting with the heads of various departments in order to gain insight into things like finances, budget, and personnel issues
  • Formulating business policies and implementing them
  • Managing day to day operations within a company

Skills that operations supervisors benefit from while working include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Patience
  • Organizational skills
  • Facility with digital technology
  • Clarity of vision and purpose
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Strong mathematics skills

Job Outlook and Salary For Operations Managers

It is challenging to find the exact salary for operations managers in the U.S. because this job title encompasses a number of different specific kinds of management. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, general and operations managers made a median annual wage of $100,780 as of May, 2019. The highest-paying states for this profession, based on mean annual salary, were New Jersey ($164,090), Rhode Island ($157,720), Connecticut ($157,170) and New York ($155,640). The job outlook for operations managers is good, with a projected 5-7% increase in the job market between 2019 and 2029 according to O*Net OnLine. This is faster than the national average.

Career Path: What's Next?

Those who become operations managers may have the opportunity for further career advancement as they gain experience. Either moving up in their company to take on an executive role, potentially even as CEO, or else finding employment in a new company with greater responsibility and compensation. Operations managers should keep an eye out for different job opportunities that may arise; because of their facility with interpersonal negotiation, they may be uniquely well suited to obtaining new jobs.

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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