General Management Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a general management career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a general manager is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in General Management

A general manager typically oversees and organizes entire companies, organizations or regional departments. A few common general management careers are general and operations manager, chief executive officer and chief financial officer. Here is some basic information about each of these career options:

General and operations manager Chief executive officer Chief financial officer
Career Overview General and operations managers oversee a wide variety of operations in many different industries. Chief executive officers manage and direct organizations, companies, businesses and corporations. Chief financial officers are in charge of an organization or company's budget and financial reports.
Education Requirements Varies, but often a bachelor's or master's degree Varies, but often a bachelor's or master's degree Varies, but often a bachelor's or master's degree
Program Length About 4 years for a bachelor's degree in business or a related field and 2 years more for a master's degree, such as Master of Business Administration About 4 years for a bachelor's degree in business or a related field and 2 years more for a master's degree, such as Master of Business Administration About 4 years for a bachelor's degree in business or a related field and 2 years more for a master's degree, such as Master of Business Administration
Certification and Licensing Certification is available but rarely mandatory Certification is available but rarely mandatory Certification is often preferred
Work Experience Varies widely, but usually several years Varies widely, but usually several years Varies widely, but usually several years
Job Outlook for 2012-22 Average growth (12%) compared to all occupations* Slower-than-average growth (5%) compared to all occupations * Slower-than-average growth (5%) compared to all occupations*
Mean Salary (2014) Roughly $117,200* Roughly $180,700* Roughly $234,760*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

General and Operations Manager

General and operations management is a diverse field of employment. As an operations manager, you could potentially be in charge of a number of tasks, such as hiring and firing, designing policies, assigning work, administrating day-to-day operations, setting schedules and dealing with budgets and finances. In some cases, you'll report to higher administrators like a chief executive officer while in others, you may simply be in charge. Your job duties will often have some overlap with other administrators like presidents, vice presidents, superintendents, city managers and more.

Requirements

Because jobs in this field tend to vary a great deal, so does the education that you'll need to acquire. Often, you'll need to earn a bachelor's or master's degree in business, business management, business administration or a related field. Several years of administrative experience are often required and may substitute for education. Often, this will need to be in the industry in which you wish to work.

The following are a few general and operations manager positions listed on the Internet in November 2012:

  • In Atlanta, GA, a mail, print, document, facilities and imaging management company was seeking a general operations manager with 7-10 years of experience and a bachelor's degree in management, business or a related discipline.
  • A national pest control company in Las Vegas, NV, was searching for a general operations manager with a high school diploma and at least five years of experience in information technology. The job required strong interpersonal and skills and the ability to be a team leader.
  • A Philadelphia, PA, real estate firm sought a regional operations manager. Requirements included a BA/BS, 5-7 years experience and the ability to oversee several different apartment complexes at the same time.

Standing Out

There are a number of ways to stand out as a general or operations manager. One way is to become a Certified Manager (CM) through the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM). You can earn this certification whether you are currently working in management or simply have plans to. Certification consists of completing three distinct course modules covering management foundations, organizational planning and leadership. You'll become an official CM once you pass the exam for each module.

Chief Executive Officer

Chief executive officers (CEOs) typically oversee all day-to-day activities to ensure that a company, institution or organization is running smoothly. As a CEO, you may also be referred to as a vice president, president or executive director. Generally, you'll be in charge of the daily operations and overall direction of an organization, company or corporation. Most often, you'll be held responsible for the success of a business and answer to a board of directors.

Requirements

It usually takes many years of education, training and work experience to become a CEO. Although some positions will accept candidates with a bachelor's degree, a master's degree in business administration or a related field is usually preferred or required. You'll often need to gain several years of experience in the industry in which you plan on having your executive career. For example, if you want to become the CEO of a pharmaceutical company, gaining administrative experience in the health care industry is often the way to go.

Here are a handful of CEO employment listings from the fall of 2012:

  • In Georgia, a nonprofit health care organization was looking for a regional CEO. Although requirements included a bachelor's degree, a master's degree was preferable. In addition to this, candidates would need at least 10 years of experience as a multi-task administrative coordinator, preferably in the health care industry.
  • A health care group in Dallas, TX, was seeking a CEO in charge of managing and improving a group of hospitals. For this position, a bachelor's or master's degree in a health care-related discipline was preferred, as well as five years of experience in health care senior management.
  • An electric company in Anchorage, AK, was looking for a CEO with a bachelor's or advanced degree and management experience in the electrical utility field.

Standing Out

With the highly competitive nature of this field, standing out from other candidates can be absolutely necessary when applying for jobs. One way to do so is by keeping up-to-date with the most current technologies of the industry in which you intend to work. Strong computer literacy and knowledge of software relating to your chosen industry can also be helpful. It's generally a good idea to be adept at using graphical, word processing, database and spreadsheet software applications used in many modern office settings.

Chief Financial Officer

Another type of executive officer many companies and organizations are in need of is a chief financial officer (CFO). CFOs are most often in charge of a company or organization's budget and financial planning. As a CFO, your skills will be especially in demand by companies with stocks that are traded publicly. Common job duties include setting financial strategies, overseeing daily budget activities, balancing the budget, creating accurate financial reports and maintaining compliance with state and federal laws and regulations.

Requirements

A substantial amount of education and experience are most often necessary to become a CFO. Again, although a bachelor's degree is sometimes accepted, you'll typically need to earn a master's degree in business administration, accounting, finance or a similar discipline. The number of years of experience you'll need varies but is typically several years.

In November of 2012, employers posted the following online CFO job listings:

  • A national nonprofit organization in New York City that trains over 800 teachers and leaders for high-need schools was hiring a CFO. Although a bachelor's degree was accepted, a master's was preferable. A passion for education along with knowledge of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which is the set of accounting rules that applies to different jurisdictions, was also a requirement.
  • In Brooklyn, New York, a company that created 10-12 mile obstacle courses needed a CFO with an MBA and 10-12 years of finance experience. At least three of these years were required to be as a CFO, Senior Managing Director (SMD) or a Chief Operating Officer (COO).
  • Candidates were required to have a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration, accounting, finance or a related field to apply for a CFO position with a utilities company in Washington, DC.

Standing Out

Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can not only be a solid way to stand out from other CFO job applicants, but it can be mandatory for certain positions. You can earn this designation by passing the exam offered by the American Institute of CPAs. Their website offers a number of options to help you prepare for the Uniform CPA Exam, including sample tests, tutorials and content outlines.

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Kaplan University

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George Mason University

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Northcentral University

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American University

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Georgetown University

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Grand Canyon University

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Johns Hopkins University

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Colorado State University Global

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