How to Become an
Operations Manager

Two businesswomen working with a laptop at a desk

Does a job as an Operations Manager sound like it’s right up your alley? If so, keep reading this guide for helpful information you need to know about becoming an Operations Manager, including necessary experience, training and more.

What Does a Operations Manager Do?

Operations Managers oversee the production of goods and services in a company and does whatever possible to increase efficiency. In addition, they hire and supervise employees. Operations Managers ensure organizations operate smoothly to fulfill the product and service needs of customers and clients.  In that capacity, Operations Managers also troubleshoot as issues arise.

The duties of an Operations Manager vary depending on the organization, but generally include: managing quality assurance programs, supervising, hiring, and training employees (or overseeing those processes), monitoring existing processes and analyzing their effectiveness and creating strategies to improve productivity and efficiency.

Operations Manager Skills

Operations managers have to do a lot of liaising with other team members, including interacting with managers in different areas of the organization. They also present findings to higher management. In addition, they train and supervise new employees. This means Operation Managers need to have good communication skills, especially if they need to communicate to people at every level.

The Operations Manager wears many hats. At one moment in the day, he or she might have to manage support services such HR, IT and Finance.  The Operations Manager might be pulled from that assignment in order to interpret financial data and perform cost-benefit analysis on internal programs for budgetary concerns. Since the Operations Manager multi-tasks, he or she needs to know how to manage stress in a fast-pace environment.

Other key Operations Manager skills include:

  • Proficiency with computer programs, in particular business planning software

  • Ability to know how to motivate employees

  • The know-how to review budgetary information, financial data, and expense reports

How Do You Become an Operations Manager?

Education and Training

According to our analysis of online job postings, employers are looking for Operations Manager candidates who have at least some form of college education. Most job posting listings require an associate’s degree, although a bachelor’s degree or higher in business or some aspect of logistics is often preferred.

The career path for an operations manager is very similar to any other managerial position. Usually, one would start as a Junior Manager in order to gain deep functional experience on a specific area. The next position up would be Senior Manager, which is followed by Team Leader. The position that tops them all would be Head of Operations.

Finding a Job

Demand for Operations Managers is increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 7 percent growth for the position through 2024, amounting to a total of 68,880 openings for Operations Managers during that period. Given this projected growth, aspiring Operations Managers are likely to find many job opportunities in the transportation or insurance industries, to name a few.

Any successful job search begins with crafting a high-quality resume that highlights your skills and experience. For guidance on creating a resume, take a look at JobHero’s library of Operations Managers resume samples.

Once your resume is complete, search online for job opportunities. As you look for Operations Manager openings, be sure to make the most of your professional network, including people you met while pursuing an associate’s degree or business undergraduate program.

When applying for jobs, write a cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you would bring to the role. Take a look at our  Operations Manager cover letter sample for help.

Insights from an Operations Manager

In order to get an inside look at how to become an Operations Manager, we talked to Jennifer Simons, an operations manager at Renovata Partners. Here’s what she had to tell us:

What is the common career path for an Operations Manager?

An Operations Manager needs to be able to get to grips with the inner workings of their company and understand how everything is interconnected. This can cover everything from financial systems, HR processes, KPIs (key performance indicators) and reporting, IT & Infrastructure and so on. Given the wide remit of operations there isn’t necessarily one career path but instead applicants should show curiosity about what the company does, how it operates and constantly seek to improve their knowledge in every functional area.

What should someone consider before becoming an Operations Manager?

Becoming an Operations Manager for the first time can be daunting as you will likely know some business areas better than others. Don’t just play to your strengths, have a plan in place for how to fill the gaps in your knowledge and find people in the business that can help you. Other functional leaders are great for this and may be willing to let you shadow or even contribute to their projects. This is a great way to learn.

What type of person excels in this job?

Problem solvers who have a real passion for making the business best in class and who refuse to become complacent with the standard business operations. Great can always be greater, our job is never done. There people will have a natural curiosity for understanding how things work and who enjoy a balance of process management and innovation in their workload.

What are some of the most important skills for Operations Managers to have?

Being able to take both a high and ground level view is key. At a high level you need to be able to look at all projects across the firm and identify and recommend priority projects / action items. At ground level you need to be talking to the team to understand their experience of the business processes in order to streamline, cost save and improve the overall process effectiveness.

Whether you’re working with others or on your own, the business is likely to face several challenges at once in addition to your day to day activities.  So the operations manager must develop a process for managing projects and ensuring you don’t let anything slip through the cracks. A great Operations Manager needs to communicate and influence well at all levels both internally and externally.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being an Operations Manager?

I find my role as an Operations Manager fascinating as I’m at the core of the business. I’m constantly learning new things, whether it’s developing reporting capabilities around KPIs or building the company brand into all client touch points so it’s difficult to be bored or run out of things to do.

When I first joined the company I couldn’t do a tenth of the activities that I do now. Just having the exposure to different areas of the business put me on a steep learning curve and has given me a great sense of personal achievement.

How Much Do Operations Managers Get Paid?

Operations Managers are typically paid an annual salary, with the median annual wage in the United States being $97,700, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest-paid Operations Manager makes about $44,200 per year, while the highest-paid can earn more than $187,200.

Top 10 States for Operations Manager Salary

Operations Managers in the following states make the highest median year wage in the U.S.

    New Jersey

    $140,800

    District of Columbia

    $134,700

    New York

    $120,600

    Delaware

    $120,400

    Rhode Island

    $117,900

    Virginia

    $117,500

    Connecticut

    $116,300

    Maryland

    $115,400

    Massachusetts

    $108,200

    Florida

    $107,900

    Operations Managers Resources

    We compiled this list of additional resources to help you continue exploring a career as an Operations Manager.

    Professional Groups

    The Association for Operations Management
    The premier professional association for supply chain management keeps members up-to-date on current news and events and enhances their operations and supply chain management skills, to name a few.

    Production and Operations Management Society
    Represents the interests of production and operations professionals from around the world.

    LinkedIn

    Manufacturing Operations Managers
    Come here to expand their network of people and ideas.

    Operations Management In Practice
    Here members discuss a wide variety of topics and gain new insight into how they can best put the newest practices and techniques to use in their company.

    Operations/Distribution Managers
    For professionals who are looking to share business leads and discuss relevant articles and news stories.

    Operations Managers “Alive”
    For professionals who are looking to discuss their concerns and gain insight in the field.

    Operations Managers books

    Manager’s Guide to Operations Management
    This book explains how to improve your production processes and manage supply chains and inventory to ensure a steady work flow.

    The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course: Operations Management
    This book bolsters and manages the effectiveness of an organization’s operations using exercises, self-tests, and an online final exam.