What Does a VP of Operations Do?

Organizations have many moving parts, with various projects, initiatives, strategies, and teams of employees all needing to work in harmony to achieve company goals. Those in executive positions, such as a vice president of operations, are responsible for ensuring that the various departments within an organization are aligned and that operations are optimized to provide the best output at the lowest cost.

To accomplish this, VPs of operations need to possess numerous competencies, including comprehensive knowledge of business strategy, data analysis expertise to get the most out of a company’s various departments, and the leadership skills to guide teams to success.A VP of operations holding a tablet monitors a factory production floor.

In addition to real-world experience, employers seeking VPs of operations often look for candidates who have a proven understanding of high-level business management. An advanced degree in business administration can equip individuals with this expertise, allowing them to take their careers to the next level.

VP of Operations Job Description

One of the primary duties of a VP of operations is to ensure that an organization operates effectively and efficiently by developing and implementing operational strategies, streamlining processes, and optimizing how resources are allocated based on priorities. They work closely with other departments and senior leadership to align operational goals with overall business objectives, seeking opportunities for improvement and innovation.

These executives are also responsible for managing budgets and resources. They analyze financial data, determining how the company should best use available resources to achieve its goals, and then develop strategies for leveraging those resources as cost-effectively as possible.

They also often play a crucial role in employee recruitment and training. Once a team is in place, they provide guidance, mentorship, and training to ensure managers have the necessary skills and knowledge to lead their teams.

VPs of operations should possess several crucial competencies, such as:

  • Communication: Strong communication skills are essential for VPs of operations, enabling them to articulate a company’s vision, goals, and strategies, and foster collaboration and alignment across different departments.
  • Decision-Making: As executives, VPs of operations are responsible for making far-reaching decisions that require quick action to keep up with market pressures or react to production issues. They rely on strong decision-making skills, which involve considering multiple variables and potential impacts.
  • Leadership: These skills are crucial for motivating and inspiring teams, driving change, and cultivating a culture of operational excellence.
  • Business Acumen: Regardless of the type of organization they work for, VPs of operations must comprehensively understand their industry’s competitive landscape. This knowledge allows them to identify growth opportunities, mitigate risks, and make strategic decisions that contribute to long-term success.

How to Become a VP of Operations

A solid educational background is crucial for aspiring VPs of operations. A bachelor’s degree in a field such as business, marketing, accounting, or finance provides a strong foundation for understanding the intricacies of business operations in areas such as financial analysis, project management, and organizational behavior.

While a bachelor’s degree lays the groundwork, a graduate degree can enhance an individual’s business and management expertise and boost their career prospects. Those aspiring to an executive-level role should strongly consider an advanced degree in business administration, such as an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA). The curriculum in an EMBA covers crucial concepts for business leaders, including marketing strategy, operations management, and financial analysis.

In addition to education, real-world know-how is vital to becoming a VP of operations, as most employers look for applicants with significant experience for executive positions. Seeking opportunities in lower-level leadership roles is crucial, as these positions allow professionals to gain hands-on experience in overseeing day-to-day operations, managing teams, and implementing process improvements.

To keep up with industry shifts and refine their knowledge and skill set, executives should also continuously seek learning opportunities by attending conferences and seminars, joining professional organizations, or pursuing traditional education.

VP of Operations vs. COO

While the roles of a VP of operations and a chief operations officer (COO) may appear identical on the surface, as both positions are responsible for managing a company’s operations, their scope and level of authority can vary based on an organization’s size and structure.

In smaller companies, the duties of a VP of operations and a COO may overlap, with one person assuming both roles. However, as companies grow, they often separate the two positions to address increasing complexities.

One key way in which the roles differ is in who they tend to work most closely with. VPs of operations typically collaborate with other vice presidents and the company president, and they often have limited direct involvement with lower-level employees. In contrast, COOs often work closely with the operations staff at all levels of an organization.

Regarding the scope of the role, VPs of operations traditionally focus on long-term forecasting and decision-making for a company’s operations. They develop strategies that support the organization’s growth and competitiveness. In contrast, COOs tend to concentrate on the day-to-day structure and effectiveness of the operations team, ensuring smooth workflows and optimizing processes to enhance productivity and efficiency.

The reporting structure also differs between the two roles. A VP of operations generally reports to the company’s president, informing them about operational matters and aligning strategies with broader organizational goals. On the other hand, the COO typically reports directly to the chief executive officer (CEO). This reporting hierarchy positions the COO as a key advisor to the CEO, responsible for shaping overall operational strategy.

VP of Operations Salary

One consideration for professionals aspiring to become VPs of operations is salary potential. According to Payscale, the median annual salary for a VP of operations was approximately $135,500 as of May 2023. Salaries for VPs of operations vary based on factors such as experience, location, industry, and company size.

The job outlook for VPs of operations is also promising, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting 6% employment growth between 2021 and 2031, which is slightly higher than the average for all occupations (5%) during the same period. Additionally, the BLS projects that employment of general and operations managers will grow at an even faster rate of 7%, creating more than 200,000 new jobs over the decade.

Advance Your Career as a Business Leader

If you want to advance your career and assume an executive position, such as a VP of operations, consider the benefits of Washington State University’s Online Executive Master of Business Administration. WSU offers a transformative learning experience that can lead to success in achieving your career goals, with a curriculum that provides a comprehensive understanding of strategic operations management, financial analysis, and decision-making based on data analysis.

The program can also help you hone your leadership skills, learn how to recognize and react to operational needs and challenges, and stay ahead of industry trends. The program’s flexible online format allows you to balance your studies with your professional and personal commitments, enabling you to earn your degree in as few as 16 months.

Realize your potential to become a top-level leader by earning a degree from Washington State University.

Recommended Readings

5 Benefits of Business Analytics in an Organization

4 Tips for Managing Change in the Workplace

Data-Minded Management


Built In, “Vice President of Operations

Indeed, “How to Become a VP of Operations in 4 Steps (With Salary

)”Indeed, VP of Operations Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Indeed, “VP Operations vs. COO: What’s the Difference? (With FAQs)”

Payscale, Average Vice President (VP), Operations Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Top Executives