Study Operations Management: MBA, PhD & Online Course Info

About this article
What kind of job can you get with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree or doctoral degree in operations management? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses.
View available schools

Operations Management MBAs and PhDs: Degrees at a Glance

Operations managers drive the logistics and production of large multinational corporations by using statistical modeling to test and maintain efficient and qualitative production streams. They may work with a corporation's supply chain to ensure sourcing efficiencies or within the manufacturing sector to minimize production-level defects. Practitioners weigh the company's goals against production methods, constantly engaging in a cost-benefit analysis of certain strategic actions. Many operations managers write reports, prepare presentations and consult on limited-term projects.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for top executives, such as general and operations managers, could grow slower than average during the 2010-2020 decade, and open positions could be very competitive (www.bls.gov). MBA holders are typically qualified for lower-level management positions, like management analyst positions where 22% growth from 2010 through 2020 was expected. Doctoral-degree holders could work as operations research analysts, a field the BLS expected 15% growth during that same period.

MBA Ph.D.
Who is this degree for? Business students who wish to specialize in operations management Students who seek to engage in business operations research
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual median salary) - Operations manager ($95,000)*
- Management analyst ($78,000)*
- Business professor, post-secondary ($75,000)*
- Operations research analyst ($72,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 3-6 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 12-18 courses
- Internship
- 4-6 graduate-level fundamentals classes
- 2-4 specialization classes
- Research paper
- Dissertation
- Comprehensive examinations
- Weekly seminars
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Bachelor's or master's degree
Online Availability Yes Rare

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

Master of Business Administration in Operations Management

MBA programs provide you with a general background in business fundamentals. In this program you learn about accounting, finance, marketing, human resource management, business ethics and negotiations. Most programs allow you to specialization in areas like operations management, in which you learn the best practices of managing a supply chain and the general support logistics for major global companies. You also train in operations strategies for improving manufacturing and corporate efficiency. Typically, an operations management specialization includes additional courses in management of human resources.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Shorter completion time than for a Ph.D.
  • An MBA with a specialty in operations management provides you with a more well-rounded business background than a master's degree in operations
  • Internships are typically a part of MBA program requirements, providing you with essential professional experience

Cons

  • Operations management master's degree programs may take less time to complete than an MBA degree program
  • Job applicants may compete for positions with bachelor's degree holders
  • Although job growth was predicted in certain sectors, a large number of MBA graduates may make competition fierce for job candidates

Courses and Requirements

MBA programs typically include 12-18 foundation courses and 4-8 electives in your chosen specialty. Internships are an integral part of most programs, providing you with an opportunity to obtain hands-on work experience in the field. Many programs also offer graduate assistantships, in which you work closely with a professor or particular department on research projects. Many programs offer opportunities to participate in case competitions against other schools in which student teams work on real-world business issues.

Examples of courses you might take at the master's level:

  • Global operations management
  • Supply chain management
  • Operations strategy
  • Service operations management

Lastly, many programs have begun to incorporate lean six-sigma training courses into their curriculum. Six-Sigma is a quality improvement mechanism that first originated with Motorola in the form of a manufacturing efficiency strategy. It has now become a process for organizational improvement and an essential skill for operations managers.

Online Degree Options

Online MBA programs are available. Typically, these programs are geared towards working professionals who seek to attend school on a part-time basis. Because of this, these programs may take longer than two years to complete. Hybrid programs composed of on-campus and online course options are also available. Some online programs offer specialization in operations management, and their curriculum tends to be similar to that of in-person programs. However, in these programs internships are typically not required and career counseling may also not be an option. Therefore, career changers may find it more beneficial to attend a traditional MBA program to obtain access to these benefits.

Stand Out with This Degree

With competition from other graduate degree holders, it is imperative that you find ways to edge out those who are competing for similar positions. Ways to stand out include:

  • Interning within the industry within which you aim to work after graduation.
  • Seeking out school case competitions, wherein you will compete with other schools' teams solving real world business problems.
  • Attending MBA conferences and networking fairs, such as those operated by the National Black MBA Association or the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.

Doctorate in Operations Management

Doctoral programs in operations management involve research in processes utilizing advanced technical statistical methods. Candidates in these programs study complex mathematics, logistics theories and systems analyses. Research topics include transportation systems, optimization techniques and advanced economics. Most candidates begin a career in academia after graduation. However, some Ph.D. recipients seek positions in management consulting, wherein they advise corporations about quality improvement strategies.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Employers seek upper-level managers with advanced degrees, such as a Ph.D.
  • Programs train you how to conduct operations and logistics management research, which could translate into lucrative consulting positions
  • Theoretical operations management research has many real-world applications

Cons

  • May compete with master's degree holders for positions
  • Extra years of study do not necessarily translate into greater earning potential than those who hold master's degrees
  • Admission to doctoral programs is highly selective

Courses and Requirements

Doctoral programs generally commence with a first year of eight graduate-level classes that mimic the master's-level equivalent of the same degree field. After finishing these courses, Ph.D. candidates take qualifying examinations to continue into the second year of the program. At that time, they choose an area of specialization and begin research on their dissertation. Students work with professor-mentors during their research.

Online Degree Options

Online doctoral programs in operations management are rare. Further, accreditation may be an issue for those programs that are available online. You may encounter difficulties completing the essential research for your dissertation in an online program, and you will not have the ability to work with a professor-mentor. Similarly, if you plan to work as a post-secondary teacher after graduation, you will not be afforded the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant - which can be invaluable professional teaching experience - if you choose to attend an online program.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Choosing a research specialization in a technological field, such as transportation systems, may be a way to stand out in this field. Being knowledgeable about a technological field may make you more attractive to employers. Therefore, consider selecting a research topic that involves the operations management of a technological product or service.

Additionally, corporate social responsibility initiatives have recently created a need for responsible sourcing. This is a highly technical and specialized field, and engaging in game theory, advanced modeling and statistical methods like data mining might assist you in enhancing your marketability. Doctoral candidates who specialize in supply chain management may have more employment opportunities.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. South University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Business Administration (DBA)
      • Business Administration (MBA)
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Project Management
      • Master: Management/Project Mgmt
      • M.S. in Management
      • Master : Business Admin
      • MBA: Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Management
      • MS - Organizational Leadership
      • Master of Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Project Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
      • Master of Professional Studies in Sports Industry Management
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA and MS in Leadership (Dual Degree)
      • MBA: Leadership
      • MS in Leadership
      • M.B.A. with an Emphasis in Project Management
      • Master of Science in Business Analytics
      • MBA
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
  • Online Programs Available
    8. City University of Seattle

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. Project Management
      • M.B.A.
  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
      • M.S. - Internet Marketing
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Agile Project Management
      • Master of Science in Measurement and Evaluation

Featured Schools

South University

  • Business Administration (DBA)
  • Business Administration (MBA)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Kaplan University

  • MBA: Project Management
  • Master: Management/Project Mgmt
  • M.S. in Management

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Management
  • MS - Organizational Leadership
  • Master of Project Management

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Project Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Management

Are you a US citizen?

Georgetown University

  • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
  • Master of Professional Studies in Sports Industry Management
  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • MBA and MS in Leadership (Dual Degree)
  • MBA: Leadership
  • MS in Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Saint John's University

  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

What is your highest level of education?

City University of Seattle

  • M.S. Project Management
  • M.B.A.

What is your highest level of education completed?