Careers in Operations Management: What You Need to Know

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Operations managers in an auto warehouse.Most people didn’t think about the supply chain before the coronavirus pandemic — when they needed something, they stopped by a store and there it was, or they ordered it online and it showed up the next day. This changed when COVID-19 spread across the world, and things like pasta and toilet paper suddenly became scarce.

Logistics problems continue to dominate the headlines, from cargo ships stuck offshore to microchip shortages and rising food costs. This has brought attention to the importance of a consistent supply chain and demonstrated the need for skilled operations management to guide industries through disruptions as they work toward bringing consistency back to logistics.

For those considering focusing their MBA degree in operations management, the market provides a remarkable opportunity to make an impact in a field that won’t be taken for granted again for a long time. Careers in operations management go well beyond the notion of getting something from point A to point B, and it’s crucial to have a firm grasp of the field’s nuances.

What Is Operations Management?

Operations management is an administrative role that oversees the process of converting labor and materials into services and goods as efficiently as possible. Also known as logistics or supply chain management, the concept is built on several key components that are found at different phases of an operation. These components include tangible items, such as materials and equipment, as well as human elements, such as staff and vendor relations. They can also include factors that directly relate to other means of business operation, such as finance and budget.

Operations management is responsible for keeping a company’s goods and services consistent with consumer expectations or demands. When done effectively, this can help improve a company’s reputation and thus have a positive effect on its ability to reach its growth and stability goals.

Types of Operations Managers

Operations management includes a number of duties, which means operations managers usually end up doing a bit of everything. Simply put, operations managers do what businesses need to get done while maximizing efficiency every step of the way. Operations managers work to convert inputs, such as raw materials, into outputs, such as goods and services. They facilitate the journey from supplier to business and from business to customer.

Just about every business needs operations management, so these careers can be found in virtually all industries. The sectors with the most operations management professionals are retail, transportation, manufacturing, construction, and health care.

An operations manager’s salary will depend on their education and experience. For example, applicants who earn an MBA in operations management have significantly more upward mobility and earning potential than those with only a bachelor’s degree.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, operations managers earned a median annual salary of $103,650 in 2020.

Specific career opportunities in operations management include the following:

  • Supply chain manager
  • Logistics manager
  • Business operations manager
  • Supply chain/operations consultant
  • Inventory control manager
  • Supply chain analyst
  • Production planner
  • Commodity manager
  • Quality assurance manager
  • Materials or warehouse manager

Is Operations Management Right for You?

Many operations managers have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, logistics, supply chain management, or transportation management. However, those with engineering backgrounds — for example, someone with a degree in industrial engineering — may also be qualified for these positions. Most high-level operations management positions require an MBA and five to 10 years of experience. Earning certifications in the field may also help distinguish you — the Association for Operations Management offers several professional certificates.

Before pursuing the field, however, it’s crucial to take a step back and determine if the operations management field is a good fit. To do this, you should consider if the following points align with your interests:

You’re Always Looking for Ways to Improve

An operations manager plays the essential role of overseeing an aspect of a business, whether that involves producing goods or providing services. The more efficiently and cost-effectively this can be carried out the better business fares. Thus, it’s important that operations managers always look for ways to improve.

If you don’t like to rest on your laurels, and you’re always looking for new solutions to even common problems, you may succeed as an operations manager.

You Enjoy Taking the Lead, and You’re Good at It

Managing operations is a leadership role, and some people have the leadership abilities that make them a fit for taking the lead. If you can’t inspire others to do better, communicate effectively, and be proactive about setting a good example, perhaps a different career path is right for you.

What if you don’t feel like a born leader? Some aspects of leadership can be learned and mastered over time, especially while pursuing an online MBA. There are different styles of leadership, and you may find one that fits your personality. Practice leading at every opportunity, whether this is in class or at your current job.

You Can Manage High-Stress Situations

As with any senior-level job, being an operations manager will put you in some intense situations. When you’re exhausted and still have a lot of work to do, how do you manage? Do you panic, give up, or crash before a job is done? On the contrary, do you narrow your focus, put aside your discomforts and worries, and pour all your energy into the task at hand?

If you want to be an operations manager but worry about your ability to handle stress, you may be able to learn techniques that help you cope with tense situations.

Interpersonal situations can also cause stress, so you should hone your people skills and be able to interact with a range of different types of individuals.

You Have a Head for Numbers

The goal of any business is to minimize costs and maximize revenue, and operations managers are often on the front line of efforts to reach that goal. You should know how to spot a good deal and be able to weigh the costs of operations against the results.

Dealing with numbers as an operations manager isn’t simply about money. You should be able to set measurable goals. The goals could deal with your team members, with the products and services you provide, or with other aspects of your job. Such goals will give you information about your performance and will identify areas that need improvement.

Operations managers have exciting, interesting careers. If you’re forward-thinking, know how to take the lead, are good at managing stress, and are excellent at crunching numbers, you may want to look into becoming one.

Take a Logical Step Toward a Dynamic Career

Becoming an operations manager is more than a good career — it’s a meaningful one that can have a direct effect on how society functions. As the world has seen since the spread of the coronavirus, logistics is crucial to global stability. If you’re interested in a profession that makes a difference, operations management can be an ideal choice.

Ohio University’s Online MBA degree program includes a concentration in Operations and Supply Chain Management, which is designed to help you strengthen the knowledge and skills you need to excel in the field. Courses in the concentration focus on building customer relationships, quantitative skills necessary for financial markets and institutions, and sales leadership. Learn how our program can help you achieve your professional goals.

Recommended Readings

How to Navigate International Cultural Differences in Business

Online MBA Program Overview

Social Media Impact on Business


American Psychological Association, Coping With Stress at Work

CNBC, “Supply Chain Chaos Is Already Hitting Global Growth. And It’s About to Get Worse”

Houston Chronicle, “The Role of an Operations Manager”

Investopedia, “Operations Management (OM)”

Nature, Why the Pandemic Unleashed a Frenzy of Toilet-Paper Buying

The Guardian, “Backlog of Cargo Ships at Southern California Ports Reaches an All-Time High”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, General and Operations Managers