Becoming an Operations Executive: Job Description & Salary

About this article
Get the truth about an operations executive's salary, education requirements and career prospects. Read the job duties and see the pros and cons of becoming an operations executive.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of an Operations Executive Career

Despite not having a significant rate of employment growth during this decade, a job as an operations executive can offer business-minded people a good annual wage. An operations executive manages companies and guides them to meet the pre-determined operational goals.

Consider these pros and cons to determine if this career is a good fit for you.

PROS of an Operations Executive Career
High salaries for higher level operations managers (average of $117,200 in 2014)*
Large amount of influence over the direction a company might take**
Some executives are able to set their own schedules*
High prestige associated with executive positions*

CONS of an Operations Executive Career
Jobs in this field can present high levels of stress (e.g., working long hours, pressure to succeed, poor financial performance)**
Most executives are preferred to have at least a graduate degree**
Very strong competition for executive jobs*
Lengthy job experience required for most executive positions*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

'Operations executive' is a relatively broad career title and can refer to many different positions where your specific duties may vary. Generally, operations executives plan and direct the day-to-day and long-term operations of companies and businesses. They are responsible for many things in a company, ranging from creating new workplace policies to negotiating new contracts with another company. They also go over financial statements and sales reports of the company, establishing new goals for a company's departments and identify areas within the company that need improvement and where to cut costs.

Since companies might classify these positions differently, operations executive positions could have different titles, such as 'director of operations' or 'operations manager'. Upper-level management positions like these can have more hands-on duties, such as forming policies and managing daily operations, as well as directing the use of personnel and company resources. Some operations executive positions are even higher up in the company. For example, you could become a chief operating officer (COO), a position in which you would oversee other executives at your company, such as those heading up the human resources department or sales department.

Salary and Outlook Information

Operations executives' salaries can depend simply on what type of position you hold, such as one in upper-level management. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that general and operations managers made a median salary of about $117,000 as of 2014 (www.bls.gov). If you got a job as a COO, you could stand to make even more money than a general operations executive or manager. According to Salary.com, COOs made a median annual salary of about $420,000 as of July 2015.

You should expect an average growth in executive positions during the 2012-2022 decade. The BLS reported that top executives can expect 12% percent employment growth during this time. It was noted that employment growth could be affected by other factors such as mergers between companies, which would decrease employment of managers and executives. However, it was also noted that employment of executives and managers could grow with the formation of new companies and organizations.

What are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

Operations executive positions typically require on-the-job experience in related positions and at least a bachelor's degree in business or a field related to the actual job. Colleges and universities usually offer degrees such as a Bachelor of Science in Business Management or a Bachelor of Business Administration. Programs like these typically offer courses in operations management, but also will require completion of coursework in macroeconomics, marketing strategy, business communication and computer analysis. Some programs may require you to take part in an internship with an outside company for some more hands-on experience. These programs also require you to maintain a good cumulative GPA throughout your time in school, especially if you wish to continue your studies in a business master's program.

Additional Requirements

In order to get a job as an operations executive, you'll also be expected to have certain skills. These can include problem-solving and decision-making skills, which are integral in recognizing problems within a company and having the ability to assess the possible courses of action and choosing the best one. You should also have strong communication and leadership skills since you'll be trying to effectively persuade others on business matters.

Finally, you should have good time-management skills, since you'll be responsible for many duties at the same time, all with their own deadlines. You'll also be expected to develop leadership experience through lower-level supervisory or management positions. Keep in mind that you'll have to build leadership experience for several years - usually five or more - to qualify for an executive position.

What Employers Are Looking For

Above all else, employers are looking for leadership qualities in operations executives, including self-driven initiative, motivation abilities, great communication skills and a lot of previous experience. Below are some examples of job postings opened in March 2012:

  • A healthcare company in New York is looking for an executive director with exceptional problem-solving and decision-making skills, leadership abilities and organizational skills, as well as knowledge of federal and state health regulations and experience with budget development and monitoring. While a bachelor's degree is required, a master's degree in business is preferred.
  • A travel, tourism and transportation company in Florida is looking for a director of operations (operations manager) with proven communication skills, people skills for customer relations and an ability to learn quickly. They're looking for someone with a bachelor's degree in business or transportation.
  • A nutritional supplement company in Florida is looking for a director of operations with a vested interest in the natural supplements industry with strong teaching and time management skills and ability to plan projects. The applicant should have five or more years of supervisory experience and a bachelor's degree (though a master's is preferred).

How to Maximize Your Skills

Continuing Education

While employers usually only require you to have a bachelor's degree to qualify as an operations executive, many prefer you to have an advanced degree in business. A master's degree in business is typically called a Master of Business Administration (MBA). You may be able to enroll in one of these programs on a full or part-time basis, depending on the school. When enrolled in an MBA program, you can usually choose areas of emphasis, which can include operations management. In addition to advanced business courses in operations management, organizational behavior, global operations management and quality control, some schools may even require you to take part in an international study abroad program or an operations management internship.

Get Certified

In addition to an MBA, there is little additional education you'd need to pursue. However, according to the BLS, you can still do a number of things to maximize your skills, such as in-house company training programs, executive development programs and certification. You can pursue Six Sigma certification, which some companies may also prefer. The program is designed to improve performance in business-related occupations by getting rid of errors in methods that weren't working. .

Another option is to pursue a Certified Manager (CM) credential through the Institute of Certified Professional Managers. Provided that you meet the education and experience requirements, you'll be required to pass three separate exams that assess your management knowledge by testing your analytical skills, knowledge and decision-making abilities. The BLS stated that having certification can highlight your competence in a management position and your potential as a leader.

Alternative Career Paths

Becoming an operations executive isn't necessarily for everybody. You can pursue other lower-level executive careers if you don't have the necessary experience for an upper-level management position.

Chief Information Officer

If you want to be an executive and also have an interest in information technology, you may be suited for a specialization as a chief information officer (CIO). Working as the CIO of a company, you would be responsible for a number of things, including determining what equipment the company should purchase and what kinds of training programs the employees need. Your pay as a CIO is comparable to that of a top operations executive. According to Salary.com, CIOs made a median annual salary of about $231,000 as of April 2012.

Chief Financial Officer

If you have a vested interest in the handling of finances, you could become a chief financial officer (CFO). As a CFO, you would be in charge of your company's investments and creating the long-term financial plans. You would also be in charge of any mergers and acquisitions that take place. With this responsibility comes higher pay, and according to Salary.com, CFOs made a median annual salary of about $331,000 as of April 2012.

Human Resources Manager

If you qualify for a lower-level executive position like an operations manager, but you'd rather oversee the hiring of new staff members, then you could become a human resources manager. While working as a human resources manager, you'd be responsible for a number of duties including the recruitment, interviewing and hiring of new employees. You would be working under higher-level executives like the chief operations officer, serving as the go-between for them and the rest of the employees, announcing any policy changes and handling issues among the staff. The pay is also comparable to that of an operations manager, as Salary.com reported that as of April 2012, human resource managers made a median salary of about $87,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. University of Saint Mary

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA General Management Concentration
      • MBA Leadership and Organizational Health Concentration
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Project Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Project Management
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Operations Management
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Government Analytics
    Certificate
      • Certificate in Nonprofit Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Project Management
      • Master: Management/Project Mgmt
      • M.S. in Management
      • Master : Business Admin
      • MBA: Health Care Management
    Bachelor's
      • BSBA - Supply Chain Management and Logistics
      • BBA: Project Management
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
    Associate's
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • AASBA in Small Business Management
      • AASBA in Health Club Operations
      • AASBA -Entrepreneurship
    Certificate
      • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    5. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Agile Project Management
      • Master of Science in Measurement and Evaluation
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Agile Project Management
      • Graduate Certificate in Project Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Project Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project/Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Management
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
  • Campus and Online Programs
    7. Judson University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration Online
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration - Entrepreneurship - Online
      • Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration Online
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Global Leadership (Executive Format)
      • Doctor of Management (DM) - General Concentration (Executive Format)
      • Doctorate: Management - Organizational Development and Change
      • Doctor of Management - Project Management
      • Doctor - Management - Nonprofit Leadership
    Master's
      • MBA: Operations Management
      • MBA: Project Management
      • Master: Management - Project Management
      • Master of Business Admin
      • Master: Management
      • Master of Business Admin - Entrepreneurship
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Project Management
      • BS - Business Administration - Management
      • BS - Business Administration - Project Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Business Development
      • BS - Business Administration - General
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Project Management
      • Master of Public Administration - Non-Profit Leadership
      • Master of Business Administration - Executive Management (Virtual Format)
      • Master of Business Administration - No Specialization
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Management - No Specialization
      • B.S. General Studies - Entrepreneurship
      • B.S. Business Administration - No Specialization
      • B.S. General Studies - Business
    Associate's
      • A.S. Business
      • A.S. General Studies - Business
      • A.S. General Studies - Entrepreneurship
  • Online Programs Available
    10. University of the Southwest

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Strategic Management
      • MBA - Self-Designed
      • MBA - Research Track

Featured Schools

University of Saint Mary

  • MBA General Management Concentration
  • MBA Leadership and Organizational Health Concentration
  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Project Management
  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration

Are you a US citizen?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Government Analytics
  • Certificate in Nonprofit Management

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • MBA: Project Management
  • BSBA - Supply Chain Management and Logistics
  • Associate: Business Admin.
  • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

American University

  • Master of Science in Agile Project Management
  • Master of Science in Measurement and Evaluation
  • Graduate Certificate in Agile Project Management
  • Graduate Certificate in Project Monitoring and Evaluation

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA
  • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Business Management

What is your highest level of education?

Judson University

  • Master of Business Administration Online
  • Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration - Entrepreneurship - Online
  • Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration Online

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Global Leadership (Executive Format)
  • MBA: Operations Management
  • Bachelor: Project Management
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

Are you a US citizen?