The sheer complexity of the behind-the-scenes operations of any business that delivers material goods to customers is enough to make the average person's head spin, but training in operations management can give you the skills you need to make it all run smoothly.
Business administration programs may touch on things like supply chain and logistics, but dedicated operations management degree programs go into far greater detail and provide a solid foundation for the day-to-day challenges of interacting with buyers and suppliers in the U.S. and abroad. Most bachelor's degrees in the field also provide a general business core, and some allow you to specialize your study to best fit your career goals.
Online degrees for operations management students can be a great option if you have other responsibilities that make it difficult to schedule a traditional degree program. If you're short on time or money for college but want to enhance your education, look into online operations management degrees.
Best Colleges for Operations Management Degree Programs 2018-19
Aspiring operations managers have dozens and dozens of potential schools to choose from, so we dug into some National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data to try and separate the winners from the also-rans. Tap the methodology button below to see how we came up with the scores, and read on for our list of the 2018 ten best colleges for operations management degree programs.
Despite its name, American Public University System is a for-profit family of schools owned by a private-sector company called American Public Education, Inc. Students seeking online operations management degrees will definitely find them here -- all degrees offered at the system's two schools, American Public University and American Military University, are delivered in the virtual classroom.
Two Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degrees for operations managers can be earned at APUS schools: transportation and logistics management, which focuses mainly on bringing goods and materials in, and reverse logistics management, which concerns itself with responsibly managing waste and other byproducts of delivering finished products to customers. Degrees from APUS schools ranked third in affordability among schools that made our list.
National American University -- another private, for-profit school -- took the No. 1 spot in the affordability category, charging its students just over $6,000 for the full year of instruction in 2015-16. It has an open admission policy as well, so standardized test scores and past academic performance won't affect your chances of enrollment. It was also the smallest school by far to make our list, awarding just 26 degrees total in 2015.
NAU offers campus-based and online degrees for operations management undergraduates at the associate and bachelor's levels. The Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in business logistics gives you a thorough introduction to the discipline, while the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in business administration with a supply chain management emphasis dives deep into the details.
Just three other institutions on our list charged a lower average cost for tuition and fees in 2015 than Iowa State University, and its school-wide graduation rate ranked No. 4 among schools that made our top ten. It also demonstrates its commitment to student success by setting aside our list's largest portion of its budget for academic support expenses like student advising and career counseling.
The supply chain management major at Iowa State University has two concentrations to choose from. The operations concentration focuses on analysis, design, control and improvement of manufacturing and service processes, while the logistics concentration addresses packaging, warehousing, transportation and distribution of materials and commodity goods.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville placed third among schools on our list in the student-faculty ratio category, which can be an upside for students who thrive when given the chance to get one-on-one help from professors and staff. This medium-large institution is also a prospective destination for students seeking partially online operations management degrees, thanks to its robust catalog of online and hybrid business courses.
Degrees for operations management undergraduates at UT Knoxville are highly customizable, thanks to the ability to choose both a major subject and a secondary concentration within your business administration B.S. program. Optional subject pairings with a supply chain management degree include business analytics, information management, international business, marketing and an integrated business and engineering program.
Affordability and flexibility were bright spots for Central Washington University, which ranked No. 5 among our top ten schools in the tuition and fees category and took the No. 3 spot for distance education enrollment. The general business administration program here can be delivered entirely via distance education, so partially online degrees for operations management students should be available.
The supply chain management specialty in the on-campus business administration degree covers supply chain strategy, procurement and global supply management, along with a 38-40 credit business core that includes marketing, management and macroeconomics. CWU students can also take advantage of a student association for supply chain management that reaches more than 500 students and alumni through its social media channel.
This central Pennsylvania school earned the No. 6 ranking on our list in both affordability and graduation rate and featured the highest admission rate of any school in our top ten without an open admission policy. Student success is a high administrative priority here, as well, as shown by the 65 percent of its yearly budget set aside for instructional and academic support expenses like course development and student advising services.
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania offers a B.S. program in supply chain management with an optional concentration in logistics. If you're looking to add some real-world experience to your degree plan, a semester-long business internship that awards one college credit per 40-hour work week is available in the upper-division years of the program.
Only one other school on our list charged a lower rate for tuition and fees than Georgia Southern University, where students paid an average of $6,273 for the full academic year in 2015-16. The NCES reports that 28 percent of students here took at least some distance education courses in 2015, so students pursuing partially online operations management degrees won't be alone in the virtual classroom.
Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) degrees for operations managers at Georgia Southern come in two forms: a major in logistics and intermodal transportation or a major in management with an operations management emphasis. The Statesboro, Georgia, school also offers a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in logistics and supply chain management for highly advanced students.
This Alabama institution ranked No. 3 among our top ten schools for its graduation rate in 2015 and spent our list's third-largest raw dollar amount per full-time student on instructional expenses like classroom technology and course development. Auburn University also features alternative tuition payment plans for students who need a little extra financial flexibility.
Internships are required for students in the undergraduate supply chain management program at Auburn, where the junior and senior years of the curriculum focus intensively on operations management coursework. Students also must join the Auburn Supply Chain Management Association (ASCMA), a student-led professional development group that provides employer panels, guest speakers, site visits and leadership opportunities for its members.
The highest graduation rate on our list belongs to Bryant University, which also took the No. 2 spot nationwide for the percentage of operations management students among its 2015 graduating class. Campus-based flexibility measures were a high point here as well, with entire degree programs that can be completed through weekend and evening courses and available placement services for successful graduates.
The global supply chain management program at this Smithfield, Rhode Island, school takes an interdisciplinary approach, pairing its business core and supply chain focus with a liberal arts minor that can add depth to your understanding of the worldwide marketplace. Career-focused extracurricular opportunities abound, as well, including an annual night of networking with dozens of industry professionals.
Our No. 10 school is Michigan's largest -- more than 50,000 students were enrolled in Fall 2017 -- so this could be the place for you if you enjoy the hustle and bustle of a busy campus. Only one other entry on our list had a higher 2015 graduation rate than this East Lansing institution, and its student-faculty ratio tied for the No. 3 spot among schools in our top ten.
Michigan State University offers programs for operations managers at all levels, from a standard undergraduate plan to a Master of Science (M.S.) program in supply chain management and doctorates in logistics and operations management. A three-course certificate in supply chain management and logistics is available as well, for working operations managers looking to sharpen their expertise.
Operations Management Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Most operations management positions require candidates to have at least an undergraduate degree, with certain upper-level jobs preferring a master's degree or higher. We'll focus on job titles available to operations management graduates with a bachelor's degree and pass on some general information about undergraduate programs in the field.
Career Outlook for Operations Management Majors
Aspiring operations managers who know the lay of the land when it comes to the career market may be able to better position themselves for desirable jobs in the post-graduation period and beyond. Here's a rundown of the most recent employment projections produced by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Operations Specialties Managers
|Business Operations Specialists
|General and Operations Managers
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Operations Management
Some nationally available financial aid awards exist for future operations managers, like the Terry L. Priest Educational Scholarship for supply chain or logistics students with a 3.0 or better GPA, but most subject-specific student aid programs are offered at the regional or institutional level. Here's a quick list of operations management scholarships to check out.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015