Getting an MBA Job in Operations Management

Finding the right MBA job in operations management

More and more prospective MBA students want to specialize in operations management. According to the QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey 2014, the number of prospective MBA students interested in studying operations management has gone up 2.1% in the past two years from 21.7% in 2012 to 23.8% in 2014.

So, how do you make yourself stand out from the growing crowd of operations management MBAs during the post-graduation job search? You can start now by learning about Six Sigma and Lean methodologies, states Randall Lewis, executive director of the Professional Development Center at Purdue University's Krannert, which places 14th in the latest specialization rankings for operations management. In this interview, Lewis, whose 25-year corporate career includes finance and operations roles at GE and Wells Fargo, offers advice on what you can do before, during and after your program to land an MBA job in operations management.

What are the most common job roles for operations management MBA graduates? Which companies are hiring the most Krannert MBA graduates for operations management roles?

The most common roles for MBA graduates in operations are rotational programs focusing on either supply chain, procurement, logistics or other operations areas.  Companies hiring the most Krannert MBA graduates for operations include:

  • Amazon
  • Bank of America
  • Cummins
  • Caterpillar
  • Emerson
  • Shell
  • UTC

Is there anything you can do to prepare for an operations management career prior to entering your MBA program?

Having an education in a STEM field is a great start to a career in operations. Students can also prepare by seeking opportunities to strengthen their background in process improvement methodologies like Six Sigma and Lean, taking leadership roles in and completing a project management certification.

Are there any STEM subjects that are better for preparing students for a career in operations management?

STEM subjects in industrial, mechanical and electrical engineering are broad in terms of content and can be applied in almost all industries. Additionally, information/computer technology and data analytics are also great for preparing students for a career in operations management.

What type of coursework, projects and internships should MBAs do during their program in order to get an operations management job after graduation?

During the first year of an MBA, students focus primarily on core coursework and building a strong foundation of analytical and quantitative skills.  At Krannert, these skills are challenged with a variety of internship opportunities including: a traditional 8-12 week internship in an operations-related program, an intensive three-week internship with the TVS Motor Company in India (where recent projects included: Implementing an IT-based scheduling system and consumer feedback management), or an experiential learning assignment with a corporate partner.  Returning second-year students then further cement their functional knowledge with specific coursework and have an opportunity to participate in an experiential learning project as well.

What operations management skills are employers looking for and what can MBAs do to build these skills?

Knowledge and understanding of Six Sigma, Lean, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) methodologies, process evaluation, change management and enterprise software applications (ERP, CRM, etc.) are advantageous to students looking for operations careers.    Employers want candidates that are problem solvers, great communicators and work well with others.  Krannert MBAs have many opportunities to build these skills through: internships, club leadership and activities, case competitions, experiential learning, certifications, etc.

How does the operations management job search differ from the search for other types of MBA jobs?

A job search in operations is different than other areas because the field is so broad.  Operations in one company may mean something entirely different to another company.  Students must be well-prepared and knowledgeable about the company they are interviewing.  Is supply chain a competitive advantage of the company?  Does the company sell physical goods or do they sell services?  They must be able to focus and articulate what “operations” means inside a company and how they can provide value.

What advice do you have for people who are looking to use an MBA to change careers to operations management?

Students need to reflect on the skill sets they already have and draw parallels from their experiences to demonstrate value to prospective employers.  Students need to network with as many operations professionals as possible so they can learn how to be successful in an operations position and take advantage of Krannert alumni and professors who work in the operations area.

Is there anything else that you would like to cover?

For operations students that are comfortable with the travel, a career in consulting is also an option.  Many of the major firms focus on process improvement and are seeking students with a background in operations.

Written by Nicole Willson

Nicole is the SEO manager of TopMBA.com, as well as a contributing author. She holds a BA in history and sociology, and a master's in library science. Aside from her work for QS, Nicole is a long-time contributing editor and administrator for WikiHow.

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