What's the Difference Between a Supply Chain Management Degree and an Operations Management Degree?


Are you interested in better understanding the difference between operations management and a supply chain management degree so you can figure out which direction you should take in your studies? Uncertainty about the differences between these options is certainly understandable, as the two professions are closely intertwined. But they are, in fact, different in focus and scope.

What is Operations Management?

Generally speaking, an operations manager plans, directs or coordinates the operations of public- or private-sector organizations.

Specifically, an operation manager might be tasked with:

  • Directing and coordinating activities of businesses or departments concerned with the production, pricing, sales, or distribution of products.
  • Reviewing financial statements, sales and activity reports, and other performance data to measure productivity and goal achievements and to determine areas needing cost reduction and program improvement.
  • Managing staff, preparing work schedules and assigning specific duties.
  • Directing and coordinating an organization's financial and budget activities to fund operations, maximize investments and increase efficiency.
  • Determine goods and services to be sold, and set prices and credit terms, based on forecasts of customer demand.1

What is supply chain management?

Generally speaking, the job of a supply chain manager is to direct or coordinate production, purchasing, warehousing, distribution and/or financial forecasting activities for a company or organization, as well as streamlining these activities.

Specifically, someone in this role might be tasked with:

  • Conferring with supply chain planners to forecast demand or create supply plans that ensure availability of materials or products.
  • Monitoring forecasts and quotas to identify changes or to determine their effect on supply chain activities.
  • Analyzing inventories to determine how to increase inventory turns, reduce waste or optimize customer service.
  • Manage activities related to strategic or tactical purchasing, material requirements planning, inventory control, warehousing or receiving.
  • Developing procedures for coordination of supply chain management with other functional areas, such as sales, marketing, finance, production or quality assurance.2

Because the job duties are different, so are the courses you will take in each specialization.

If you decide on an operations management degree, you might take courses such as:

  • International Legal and Ethical Issues in Business
  • Materials Planning
  • Industrial Labor Relations
  • Cost Control Management
  • Operations Management
  • Production Planning and Quality Management
  • Supply Chain Management and Purchasing
  • Strategic Manufacturing Policy

If you pursue a supply chain management degree, courses might cover topics such as:

  • Global Supply Chain Management
  • Quality Management
  • Warehouse Management
  • Supply Chain Strategy
  • Transportation Management
  • Logistics Management
  • Decision Modeling
  • Forecasting in the Supply Chain

Ready to take the next step? Explore AIU's bachelor's or master's degrees in operations management.

1. O*Net Online, Summary Report for General and Operations Managers, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-1021.00 (visited 2/04/2015)

2. O*Net Online, Summary Report for Supply Chain Managers, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9199.04 (visited 2/04/2015)