Operations Manager Qualifications & Skills

What Qualifications Are Needed to Be an Operations Manager?

An operations manager handles the company’s core business activities and processes. What this means differs from company to company and sector to sector. Yet, the role of an operations manager is pivotal in all cases. Most companies would only be able to operate with someone performing this role.

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An operations manager must possess in-depth knowledge of the company’s procedures. They are responsible for those procedures. The operations manager must also be a generalist who can execute dozens of general business tasks. They must do this while performing their duties.

Academic Qualifications

The academic requirements for operations managers vary. It depends on the specific role and industry. Here are some examples of the kinds of credentials required for various sectors.


An operations manager in a manufacturing company might be required to have an engineering degree in that specific field. Production engineering, electronics engineering, instrumentation engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, aeronautical engineering, etc., are some sector-specific engineering qualifications. Candidates with one of these degrees will significantly improve their chances of being selected for senior-level operations department positions.

Financial Services

The skillset required for financial operations would be completely different from manufacturing. An operations manager in financial services would need to know about accounting, software usage, financial management, banking products, etc.


The massive volumes require operations managers to focus on efficiencies and error reduction for online retail businesses. Business degrees would help here, including general operational management and operations research.

These few examples illustrate just how varied the academic requirements for an operations manager can be. Candidates can increase their chances of being selected for a particular niche by pursuing a specific qualification. However, those seeking a more general role in operations could do well by getting a standard business degree. An MBA would add value to any CV and increase the chances of being considered for more senior roles.

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There are dozens, if not hundreds, of certifications for operations managers. The certifications are specific to different sectors and roles. Mistakes in operations can have a disastrous effect on a business. Components come from dozens of sources in today’s complex supply chains. There is a certification for managing operations in the hospitality sector. Another certification exists for a similar role in the logistics sector. Some certifications are tailored to the financial services sector. Others are designed for software operations, the government sector, and more.

APICS offers several certifications for inventory management, operations, manufacturing, etc. These certifications offered by APICS generally have good acceptability across the world.

Regarding certifications, a Six Sigma qualification would add the most value to any candidate’s CV. Large companies usually have a Six Sigma programme, where this concept originated anyway. Yet, many institutes now offer various Six Sigma courses and certifications. For example, the International Association for Six Sigma Certification provides yellow, green, and black-belt Six Sigma certifications.

These certifications serve an essential secondary purpose as well. They prove a candidate’s theoretical knowledge. More importantly, they show their interest in operations. This is especially true for new candidates with little work experience. A relevant certification indicates that the candidate will put in the time and effort to succeed in that role.

Work Experience/Internships

Operations managers are usually mid-level executives who have a few years of experience under their belt. How much responsibility they have depends on the size and structure of the company. For example, an operations manager in a large company might have dozens of workers reporting to them. However, one operation manager may handle the entire department in a smaller setup.

The work experience requirements, therefore, differ based on these considerations. The amount of work experience mentioned in the job listing might indicate the seniority of the role. For example, one job listing may require two years of work experience for an operations manager role. Another listing may require ten years of experience or more.

What Skills Do Operations Managers Need?

Role-specific experience

Operations managers must possess a thorough understanding of the entire business process. This is the most critical skill they need. Operations managers must help their direct reports perform their duties. They also own every process in their departments.

A company could not operate without any hiccups or disruptions in the operations department. Operational managers do not support staff but are one of the corporate machine’s most important cogs. Because of this, experienced operations managers are highly sought-after. Company-specific operations can differ significantly. Thus, experience in a similar role is extremely valuable for operations managers.

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Operations managers usually lead large teams of workers. The teams are involved in the company’s daily operations. These roles can often be stressful, so operations managers must have the pulse of their direct reports. This leadership quality is especially important during crunch time, high stress, and a heavy workload. Leadership is also essential to keep the department motivated and focused on important things. Good leadership can directly impact things like defect rates and operational errors.

Efficiency Focus

Efficiency is vital for all business functions. The department directly impacts a company’s profitability through operations. An operations department with high throughput will immediately improve operational leverage. This will affect the operating margin. Therefore, a good operations manager always seeks ideas to remove inefficient bottlenecks. They also aim to enhance productivity.

Financial efficiency is also essential for operations managers. Achieving set goals within their pre-allocated budgets can be an art.

Zero Tolerance For Errors

All these components, whether physical goods or service inputs, must fit perfectly for the whole thing to work. Any errors can cause defects in the final product, making it unusable.

Operational errors can also trigger lawsuits and regulatory fines and damage your reputation. Operations managers, therefore, need to have a keen eye for detail and run a tight ship.

Planning, Designing, and Forecasting Skills 

Operations managers handle complex tasks and thus must spend much time planning the work distribution for weeks. This planning requires the ability to forecast resource availability in advance. It also requires the ability to design processes around those constraints.

General Administration Skills

The operations department is a mini-business setup. There are hundreds of moving parts: business processes, financial considerations, HR issues, stakeholder management, etc. Operations managers must possess the necessary skills to handle all these activities simultaneously.

Operations managers also must work with other departments and department heads. They also must manage staff. They may need to attend periodic meetings and provide updates about business operations.

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