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

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

If you've decided to pursue a career in business and desire a position in management, then you may have discovered a variety of management specializations. Two options, operations management and supply chain management; however, can be easily confused and may sometimes overlap. While their corresponding degrees may be offered as concentrations or specializations within a broader business management or administration program, understanding the differences between both is important when deciding between the two.

The duties and responsibilities involved in operations management vary in activities and processes to help a company run smoothly. The scope of supply chain management; however, is more specific and limited to the production, packaging, warehousing and distribution of products and other inventory.1,2

When researching both degree specializations, consider the differences and what to expect in courses and skill sets for each.

What is Operations Management?

An operations manager plans, directs or coordinates the operations of public or private-sector organizations. Depending on the size of the company and the scope of the product and service offerings, operations management may involve a specific set of processes or may extend to the entirety of a company's operations.1

Job Responsibilities in Operations Management

Operations managers must understand and oversee the processes through which a company offers products, services customers and maintains profitability. An operations manager may be tasked with:1

  • 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 determining areas in need of 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;
  • Determining goods and services to be sold and setting prices and credit terms based on forecasts of customer demand.

Operations Management Job Skills

Operations managers direct and coordinate activities involving employees and/or departments, and are aware of a company's products, services, internal technology systems and sales and distribution practices. Operations managers may need administrative and managerial skills as well as the ability to learn and use industry-specific practices and technology.1

If you pursue an operations management specialization, courses may include:

  • Cost Control Management,
  • Global Operations Management,
  • Production Planning and Quality Management,
  • Supply Chain Management and Purchasing,
  • And Strategic Manufacturing Policy.

What is Supply Chain Management?

A supply chain manager directs and coordinates production, purchasing, warehousing, distribution and/or financial forecasting activities for a company or organization. Depending on the position, a supply chain manager may evaluate and streamline these activities to ensure quality control and maximize profitability.2

Job Responsibilities in Supply Chain Management

A supply chain manager may be tasked with:2

  • Coordinating with supply chain planners to forecast demand and create supply plans that assure the 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 and improve customer service;
  • Managing activities related to strategic or tactical purchasing, material requirements planning, inventory control, warehousing and/or receiving;
  • Developing procedures for coordination of supply chain management with other functional areas, such as sales, marketing, finance, production and quality assurance.

Supply Chain Management Skills

Supply chain management involves optimizing the processes through which goods and services are produced and distributed, and requires familiarity with a range of planning and distribution software, production technology and personnel management. Depending on your position and industry, key supply chain management skills may include:2

  • Modeling and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software,
  • Personnel and human resources experience,
  • Knowledge of production and processing technology,
  • Project management software (such as Microsoft Project and SharePoint),
  • And purchasing and logistics planning systems.
Ready to take the next step? Explore AIU's bachelor's or master's degrees with a specialization in operations management.

1. "Summary Report for General and Operations Managers." O*Net Online. Retrieved form: http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-1021.00 (Visited 1/14/19).
2. "Summary Report for Supply Chain Managers." O*Net Online. Retrieved from: http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9199.04 (Visited 1/14/19).

American InterContinental University cannot guarantee employment or salary. For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go towww.aiuniv.edu/disclosures.

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