Business Operations Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a business operations degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Business Operations: Degrees at a Glance

Business operations tasks are critical to business profitability and the management of quality, costs and organizational efficiency. Professionals in the industry seek to improve or reengineer processes that efficiently manage resources and create an environment that promotes the smooth administration of product or service delivery. Many colleges and universities offer programs in operations management that prepare graduates for a broad range of careers in quality control, production supervision, logistics or purchasing.

Both programs provide an educational foundation in core business concepts, such as accounting and business law that further explore supply chain management, quality control and the production of goods and services. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that several opportunities, such as manufacturing sales representatives and purchasing agents, may only require a high school diploma. Many people enter the field with a post-secondary education due to employer preference or the technical nature of the work.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in obtaining entry-level operations positions or working in several business related occupations People who want to work as managers in several industries, such as retail, production, healthcare or government
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Farm products buyer or purchasing agent ($54,000)*
- Wholesale or manufacturing representative, non-technical and non-scientific ($54,000)*
- Business operations specialist ($64,000 median)*
- Purchasing manager ($97,000)*
- General and operations manager ($95,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time without associate's, 2 years full-time with associate's
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credits
- No other requirements beyond an associate's degree
Foreign language requirement
- Capstone project, internship or co-operative education experience
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Limited Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Operations Management

Associate's degree programs integrate a core curriculum in communications and basic business topics with courses in quality, process and supply chain management. The program will prepare you to apply analytical skills to operational processes, recommend financial strategies to managers and execute scheduling techniques to increase proficiency. Associate's degree programs may not offer as many opportunities for advancement as a bachelor's degree, but the program can prepare you for entry-level jobs in many industries.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Some opportunities, such as non-technical wholesale sales representative, offer competitive salaries
  • The flexible coursework will offer a wide range of business career opportunities available
  • You may enter some career paths, such as logistics, without advancing your education beyond this degree level

Cons

  • Slower than average job growth (7% for purchasing managers, buyers and purchasing agents) for some opportunities from 2010-2020*
  • Some management careers (purchasing manager, for example) require experience or a bachelor's degree, at minimum
  • Higher-paying positions ($71,000 median per year for logisticians, for example) require a minimum of 1-5 years of work experience and a bachelor's degree**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Common Courses and Requirements

Associate's degree curricula offer technical and non-technical coursework that provides a foundation in engineering and business concepts. The program will prepare you to improve and manage the human, material and equipment resources integral to business operations. Programs typically require the completion of roughly 60 credits, and you may need a passing grade in prerequisite coursework, such as a basic technology course. You may take the following common courses:

  • Project accounting
  • Project management
  • Quality management
  • Human resource management
  • Business statistics
  • Supply chain design
  • Logistics

Online Degree Options

Online associate's degree programs exist, but you may find more options in business management, specific areas or at the bachelor's degree level. For example, several colleges offer 2-year programs in a specialization, such as logistics management. You can most likely complete the program entirely online, because courses may not require extensive hands-on training.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

The use of technology in the national and global markets is fast advancing. For example, the use of wireless information systems has enhanced how product suppliers keep track of the inventory they ship. Focusing your studies in the technical aspects of operations management can set you apart. You might study the industrial applications of Radio Frequency Identification to enhance your technical knowledge and skills. In addition, if you can locate internships or programs that offer cooperative education opportunities in operations management or supervision, you can take a practical approach to applying your training.

Taking advantage of industry standard certification programs, such as the Certified Professional Manufacturers' Representative (conferred by the Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation) or the Certified Purchasing Professional (offered by the American Purchasing Society) proves to employers that you understand the functions and requirements of a specific role.

Bachelor's Degree in Operations Management

While the associate's degree offers a general education component, the bachelor's degree offers deeper training in decision-making and leadership skills. As a result, bachelor's degree programs can prepare you for a quicker transition into management opportunities, which typically pay higher starting salaries. Some programs offer courses that focus on the application of analysis to common operations problems.

You can expect to take courses that focus on the strategies, communications and management qualities required for the successful administration of complex operational tasks. In addition, some programs require a co-operative education experience and capstone project in business administration. Graduates may compete with applicants who have earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree for management positions.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • This program can prepare you for entry-level management careers with the appropriate experience
  • Most programs offer a practical component, such as an internship, to help you gain the experience employers want
  • Coursework in finance and business concepts can prepare you for opportunities in multiple industries

Cons

  • Logistics or purchasing opportunities may ultimately require a master's degree, depending on the employer
  • Some programs are competitive and require a professional admissions process
  • Online programs may require the completion of 60 credits through an associate's degree program

Common Courses and Requirements

Bachelor's degree programs require the completion of roughly 120 credits in the humanities, fine arts and operations management areas. Your program may be structured to offer courses in general business concepts during the first year. Courses in management and global business theories may follow during sophomore year. You will learn to allocate business resources and ensure the improvement of an organization's efficiency through courses in quality and operations management, business strategy, business analytics and supply chain management during the junior and senior years.

Online Degree Options

Several universities offer a bachelor's degree in operations management fully online. The program may require that you possess roughly 60 credits from an accepted program at a 2-year institution. Programs are designed for working professionals or those who cannot attend a campus-based program; the cost to attend may differ from that of a degree obtained on campus.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

The flow of raw data received during daily business operations requires professionals skilled at translating data into information a business can use. Selecting a major in operations and technology management or a minor in information systems can enhance your education and provide technical expertise. In addition, a minor in supply chain management can enrich your degree with related coursework and support your job search due to overlapping employment prospects.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. Business
      • A.S. General Studies - Business
      • A.S. General Studies - Entrepreneurship
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • AASBA in Small Business Management
      • AASBA in Health Club Operations
      • AASBA -Entrepreneurship
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Management
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
  • Campus and Online Programs
    4. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate's - Business Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Accounting
  • Highland Heights, KY

    Northern Kentucky University

  • Online Programs Available
    7. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts in Business Administration

Featured Schools

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. Business
  • A.S. General Studies - Business
  • A.S. General Studies - Entrepreneurship

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Associate: Business Admin.
  • AASBA in Small Business Management
  • AASBA in Health Club Operations

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Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Business Management
  • Associate of Science - Business Studies

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Virginia College

  • Associate's - Business Admin

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Keiser University

  • Associate of Arts - Accounting

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American InterContinental University

  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration

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