Career Information for a Degree in Operations Management

Operations management is the use of business practices to convert material and labor into products or services as efficiently as possible. A degree in operations management may prepare students for careers as operations managers, industrial production managers and management consultants.

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Degree in Operations Management

Operations management uses an array of concepts and methods to maximize an organization's efficiency. Those pursuing careers in this field prepare themselves by enrolling in degree programs that teach these concepts and methods. There are, for example, bachelor's degree programs in operations management that include courses in such topics as project management, manufacturing planning, supply-chain management and quality control. Some employers require candidates to have advanced degrees, such as a master's degree in operations management. This degree program may include advanced coursework in statistical methods, strategic management and financial management.

In addition to formal education, some positions, such as management consultant, require considerable experience. Some employers require applicants to have experience in a particular industry or area of expertise, like manufacturing or healthcare. Operations management professionals may also seek professional certification. For example, an industrial-production manager may obtain the Certified Technology Manager designation, which is offered by the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (www.atmae.org).

Operations Management Career Options

Operations Manager

Operations managers coordinate the activities of business organizations. Specifically, they direct the production, pricing, sales and distribution of product or services and are responsible for overall operations improvement. Day-to-day duties may include setting hiring and training standards, establishing production and budget objectives, forecasting customer demand and meeting with managers from other departments.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of operations managers was expected to grow slowly from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). Additionally, competition will be keen due to the substantial earnings and desirability of these positions. The median annual salary for operations managers was $95,440, according to a May 2012 BLS report.

Industrial Production Manager

Industrial production managers coordinate manufacturing elements, such as equipment layout, production methods, workflows and staffing, to maximize the efficiency of production-oriented businesses. They manage these operational elements and make adjustments to them to meet production, quality, safety and budget requirements. These managers modify production operations by introducing efficiency models, such as lean manufacturing methods and Six Sigma. Their time may be split between working on the production floor and in an office. They often coordinate with other managers, including budget managers, sales managers and supply-chain managers.

The BLS reports that, from 2010-2020, employment was expected to grow nine percent for industrial production managers. However, this is an average rate of growth, as employment in particular sectors is expected to grow fairly fast, while others are expected to decline. For example, in fabricated metal project manufacturing, jobs are expected to see growth of 19%, while jobs in computer and electronics manufacturing are expected to decline six percent. In May 2012, the median annual salary for professionals in this field was $89,190.

Management Consultant

Management consultants advise businesses on how to maximize their efficiency. They accomplish this by understanding their clients' goals and identifying impediments to achieving those goals. Management consultants begin this process by immersing themselves in the clients' businesses and becoming familiar with their current practices. They then make recommendations to clients based on their analyses. Consultants might, for example, recommend that companies implement improved production methods or make strategic changes, such as selling off an unnecessary or under-performing business division.

The BLS reports that employment in this field was expected to increase by 22% from 2010-2020. May 2012 findings from the BLS showed that most management analysts, a group which includes management consultants, earned between $44,370 and $142,580, with the median annual salary coming in at $78,600.

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