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Operations Management - Overview


Operations management programs prepare people to run production or technical operations in firms. Students learn how to make production systems more efficient. For example, they learn to control for costs and quality. They also learn to manage people who work in the skilled trades.

A factory that produces automobiles or frozen pizzas can be an extremely complicated system. Various kinds of raw materials come in (sheet metal, flour). Some finished parts also come in (headlights, pepperoni). Add to that electric power, water, and gas. Then there are workers who must be hired and managed. Money from sales must be used to pay for all of the above. How can all of these diverse factors be used with the greatest efficiency?

That is your task as an operations manager. You develop the plans and schedules. You decide what to measure as indicators of efficiency. Then you monitor these indicators and change plans and schedules as needed. To do this job well you need an understanding of the economic environment where your business operates. You also need to be familiar with the technologies used in the production process.

Service-providing businesses also need to run efficiently. Universities, hospitals, restaurants, and government agencies all have inputs, workers, budgets, and outputs. Thus you might also work as an operations manager in those kinds of settings.

You can study operations management at a variety of educational levels. Usually you need at least a bachelor's degree. This represents four years of education beyond high school. In the first few years the course work is much like that of other business programs. But you also take advanced courses in mathematical methods. You learn how to develop and refine complex production plans. About 95 schools offer the bachelor's degree in this field.

You can improve your job prospects by getting a master's degree in this field. One route is to get a master's in business administration (MBA). Several business schools offer an MBA program that specializes in operations management. The MBA usually takes two years, in addition to an internship between the first and second years.

Other graduate degrees to consider are the master of science or master of operations management. These degrees tend to specialize more and require fewer courses in other business subjects. Programs such as these are sometimes offered through engineering departments. This advanced degree takes one or two years.

Below is a list of high school courses that will help prepare you for this program of study:

• Computer Science and Programming
• English Composition
• Physics
• Pre-Calculus
• Probability and Statistics
• Economics

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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