How To Become a General Manager (GM) - Education, Skills & Duties (2023)

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When the average American hears the term “general manager,” they might think of it in the context of professional sports. In football, for example, a team’s GM is responsible for financial transactions, business strategy, staff assignments, and player contracts—and in this role, they often invoke the ire of armchair pundits across the nation.

There’s less public scrutiny over the hiring and firing of various employees in the business world, but the responsibilities of a general manager are primarily the same. Here, a GM is responsible for the operation of a particular department within a company. And it’s their job to shape that team into an efficient and synergized unit that can meet operational targets. Of course, the goal isn’t winning the Super Bowl, but sometimes the stakes are just as high: the decision a GM makes can have consequences to the tune of millions of dollars.

General managers come in many shapes and sizes, and their duties are primarily based on the particular company and department they serve. For example, a GM at a tech company may have a background in IT and serve as a product manager, while a GM at a manufacturing company may specialize in supply chain logistics. In most cases, GMs oversee lower-level managers and report up to top executives. This requires both a fundamental understanding of a specific department’s operations and a keen ability to motivate and manage large teams.

But the rewards are commensurate with the requirements: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of a general manager is over $115,250 per year (BLS May 2021). The top employing industries for general and operations managers range from restaurants and other eating places to merchant wholesalers, with nearly 2,984,920 people employed in this role (BLS May 2021).

The GM of a business department isn’t all that different from the GM of a sports team. This is a role that asks for a competitive spirit, an appetite for risk, and attention to detail. If you’re ready to step out onto the field of general management, read on to find our step-by-step guide.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a GM

Step One: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)

After graduating from high school, aspiring general managers need to earn a bachelor’s degree. While one can choose to major in any business-related sphere (e.g., finance, marketing, economics, etc.), the most linear path is to specialize in business administration or management. Admissions requirements vary from school to school but generally include some combination of the following: a competitive high school GPA (3.0 or greater); letters of recommendation; SAT and/or ACT scores; and a personal statement.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University offers a bachelor of science (BS) in management that can be completed entirely online. Students in this program will gain the qualifications and expertise needed for managing people, streamlining operations, and leading globally. Graduates will position themselves to take on key positions in several industry fields and sectors of business.

The 120-credit curriculum of this program covers subjects such as organizational behavior; cross-cultural management; leading organizations; organization and management leadership; marketing and business performance; global supply operations; business law and ethics for managers; principles of international business; and problem-solving and actionable analytics.

Upon successful completion of the program, graduates can take up roles such as business analysts, business professors, general managers (GM), office managers, compliance managers, sales managers, social services directors, and store security managers.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $700 per credit

Boston University

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The on-campus bachelor of science in business administration (BSBA) program at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business puts its students into management training at the start of their freshman year. Key classes include the dynamics of leading organizations; modeling business decisions and market outcomes; management communications; marketing management; modeling business decisions and market outcomes; managerial accounting; and operations management.

Students may choose from 11 different functional concentrations: accounting; finance; business analytics; independent concentration; innovation & entrepreneurship; information systems; law; marketing; management & organizations; operations & technology management; or strategy.

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the university for a customized assessment

Step Two: Gain Early Work Experience (Optional, Timeline Varies)

After earning their bachelor’s degree, many aspiring general managers seek out early work experience. While some prefer to skip straight to their MBA (see step three below), entry-level jobs can prove to be an invaluable experience, providing a chance to learn on the job while also shaping the direction of one’s career toward a particular subset of business like HR, IT, or finance.

An aspiring general manager will almost always need to spend time at lower-level positions before earning the title of a GM. However, starting early can boost one’s resume for further employment and one’s application to graduate programs. As a bonus, some employers will even subsidize a portion of their employee’s graduate tuition, making early work experience an attractive investment.

Step Three: Earn an MBA (One to Three Years)

After earning a bachelor’s degree, an aspiring general manager can benefit immensely from earning a master’s of business administration. The MBA is of value for almost any business-facing profession, but it’s practically tailor-made for future general managers. Students in MBA programs will sharpen their business acumen, develop an extensive professional network, and learn the management skills that turn a role-player into a leader.

Admissions requirements for MBA programs will vary from school to school but generally include some combination of the following: a competitive undergraduate GPA (3.0 or greater); letters of recommendation; GRE and/or GMAT scores; a personal statement; and work experience.

Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business

The online MBA at Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business offers all the rigor of an on-campus program, but with the added flexibility of online delivery. The core curriculum includes management classes covering topics such as operations and supply chain management; managing people and organizations; managing the global enterprise; managing information resources; and managing ethics in the workplace and marketplace.

Students may choose either a generalist track or add one of eight concentrations: finance; healthcare management; high technology management; innovation entrepreneurship; international management; marketing; supply chain management; or sustainability. The program consists of 50 credits.

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months or more
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,695 per credit

Johns Hopkins Carey Business School

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The flexible MBA program at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School can be completed either online, on-campus, or in a hybrid format. The business foundation portion of the curriculum includes classes such as business communications; business analytics; operations management; accounting and financial reporting; corporate finance; leadership and organizational behavior; marketing management; statistical analysis; and strategic management.

Online students may choose to further specialize their education by choosing from one of eight concentrations: business analytics and risk management; entrepreneurial marketing; digital marketing; entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology; health care management, innovation and technology; financial management; public and private sector leadership; and investments. The program comprises 54 credits and takes approximately 32 months to complete.

Students enrolled in this program will be required to take one course with a mandatory residency, which includes a two-day synchronous component. Additional, optional residency courses will be available throughout the program.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 32 months or less
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,730 per credit

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University offers a 30-credit online MBA with 17 specialization areas, including sports management; accounting; engineering management; business analytics; entrepreneurship; healthcare management; finance; human resources; international business; information technology management; and more.

Courses in this program include leading people and organizations; organizational strategy in a global environment; innovation and strategy for high-performance organizations; measuring success in an organization; optimizing brands; leading organizational change; and strategic opportunity management. Applicants can transfer up to six credits and choose from several start dates. GRE and GMAT scores are not required for admission.

SNHU’s online MBA program revised its curriculum in 2021 and is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). In addition, students have access to support services through academic advising, and exclusive online learning communities. This program can be completed in approximately one year.

  • Location: Manchester, NH
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE); Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $627 per credit

University of Scranton

The Kania School of Management at the University of Scranton offers an on-campus and an online MBA program with eight unique specialization areas, three of which are in management. Made up of 36 to 48 credits, the program’s core curriculum includes courses such as organizational behavior; marketing management; management information systems; introduction to business analytics; operations management; financial management; managerial economics; and accounting for management. The Association accredits this program to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

The University of Scranton is one of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States and offers small MBA classes, capped at 20 students. Students in this program interact with their classmates and MBA faculty members to create a strong network of cohorts to help them transition from academic to professional life.

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Admission requirements to the program include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, a minimum grade point average of 3.0, official transcripts from all previously attended institutions, a current resume, three years of professional or supervisory work experience, a statement of intent, and three letters of reference. GMAT or GRE scores are not required for admission.

  • Location: Scranton, PA
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $965 per credit

University of Saint Mary

The University of Saint Mary offers an online MBA with eight concentration areas, including human resource management; health care management; general management; finance; leadership and organizational health; marketing & advertising management; accounting; and business analytics.

Comprising 33 credits, the program includes courses such as organizational management; marketing management; managerial economics; legal environment & commercial transactions; managerial accounting; managerial finance; global management; and data analytics for decision-making. This program is accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) and can be completed full- or part-time.

Graduates with a human resource management concentration are well-positioned for human resource management roles and are trained to take calculated risks. By studying business and ethics, conflict management, and negotiations, MBA graduates with human resources training are prepared to lead teams and help companies navigate challenging situations.

  • Location: Leavenworth, KS
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $598 per credit

Step Four: Consider Professional Certification (Optional, Timeline Varies)

While it’s not a requirement, many general managers seek out professional certification. In doing so, a general manager can stand out from an increasingly educated pack by demonstrating a commitment to and understanding of the industry’s best practices. And requirements to recertify often mean that a credentialed general manager is asked to complete continuing education units, making them more likely to be abreast of industry trends.

The Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM) offers a robust credential in its Certified Manager (CM) certification. Eligibility is based on a weighted point system that balances education and work experience. While there is some flexibility within that system, a bachelor’s degree combined with four years of management experience is generally sufficient. Once deemed eligible, applicants must pass three separate multiple-choice tests: management essentials, planning and organizing, and leading and controlling.

A complete blueprint of each test’s topic areas can be found on the ICPM website. Each test consists of 100 questions, which applicants are given two hours to complete. Application and exam fees total $555. Those who hold the CM designation will need to recertify every three years by completing 45 professional development units (PDUs) with a management or leadership focus.

Helpful Resources for Aspiring GMs

Management is about teamwork. General managers rely on the exchange of ideas to make them better leaders both in and out of the office. To get a glimpse into the evolving world of general management, check out some of the resources below.


What are general management skills? ›

Interpersonal skills. Communication and motivation. Organisation and delegation. Forward planning and strategic thinking. Problem solving and decision-making.

How do I start as a general manager? ›

How to become a general manager
  1. Earn a bachelor's degree. ...
  2. Gain relevant work experience. ...
  3. Gain additional credentials relevant to your current position. ...
  4. Earn an MBA. ...
  5. Build a positive work reputation. ...
  6. Build your professional network. ...
  7. Find a mentor. ...
  8. Continue to develop your interpersonal skills.
5 Apr 2021

What is the qualification of general manager? ›

Most general managers have at least a high school diploma, and many have an associate's or bachelor's degree. Popular majors for general managers include accounting, logistics, and business administration. Getting a master's degree or MBA can help put you ahead of the competition as well.

How can I become a good general manager? ›

Some of the key elements that make an effective general manager are:
  1. Communicating Vision to the team. ...
  2. Setting Agendas. ...
  3. Setting right expectations. ...
  4. Building Networks/relationships. ...
  5. Managing conflicts. ...
  6. Assuming Responsibility. ...
  7. Fair Process Analysis. ...
  8. Recognizing Employees.
4 Apr 2015

What are five 5 important skills every manager should have? ›

The five people management skills in this article will help any manager grow their relationship with their team and better serve their employees.
  • Demonstrating Trust. ...
  • Giving Compassionate (and Honest) Feedback. ...
  • Motivating Others. ...
  • Giving Credit. ...
  • Distributing Work.
2 Aug 2019

What are the 5 basic managerial skills? ›

  • What are Management Skills? ...
  • Management Skills #1: Relationship Management. ...
  • Management Skills #2: Planning. ...
  • Management Skills #3: Prioritisation. ...
  • Management Skills #4: Critical Thinking. ...
  • Management Skills #5: Industry Knowledge.
5 Aug 2021

What education do you need to be a manager? ›

Education requirements for management jobs vary by the company or organization. Some employers require a bachelor degree or an associate degree or some post-secondary education. Some management jobs require a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree or a master degree in another field.

What should I study to become a manager? ›

Master's in Management Essentials Programme
  • Leadership skills. Good managers lead, they don't boss. ...
  • Communication skills. Communication skills are considered the most vital skill in any job role. ...
  • Interpersonal skills. ...
  • Commercial awareness.
23 Aug 2019

What is the top 10 skills required to become an effective manager? ›

However, we do know that there are certain abilities and skills that are commonly brought into connection with management: these include decision-making, resource allocation, networking, planning, controlling, leadership, communication, learning and development, strategy, and much more.

What are the 3 main managerial skills? ›

Robert Katz identifies three types of skills that are essential for a successful management process: Technical skills. Conceptual skills. Human or interpersonal management skills.

What are the 4 general management skills? ›

The 4 must-have General Management Skills:
  • Visionary Leadership.
  • Strategy & Development.
  • Negotiation and Conflict Management.
  • Team-building & Interpersonal Skills.

What are the 4 characteristics of a good manager? ›

Top 10 Qualities of a Good Manager
  • Leadership Skills. In order to be an effective manager, you need to be able to lead your employees in an efficient manner. ...
  • Professional Experience. ...
  • Good Communication Skills. ...
  • Knowledge. ...
  • Organization. ...
  • Time Management Skills. ...
  • Delegation. ...
  • Confidence.

What skills do new managers need? ›

Important skills for new managers
  • Delegating responsibilities. ...
  • Prioritizing tasks. ...
  • Communicating needs. ...
  • Managing projects. ...
  • Supporting team members. ...
  • Time management. ...
  • Constructive feedback. ...
  • Goal setting.

What are the 3 types of skills? ›

There are three types of skills: functional, self-management and special knowledge. Functional skills are abilities or talents that are inherited at birth and developed through experience and learning. Examples are: making decisions, repairing machines or calculating taxes.

What is the most important management skill? ›

1. Building good working relationships with people at all levels. Recommended by 79.9% of managers surveyed. The most important management skill, the survey found, is the ability to build good relationships with people at all levels.

How do I become a manager with no experience? ›

Here are 8 steps to get hired as a manager if you've never managed people before:
  1. Seek out education. ...
  2. Lead a project. ...
  3. Mentor a teammate. ...
  4. Support your supervisor. ...
  5. Revise your resume. ...
  6. Explore internal opportunities. ...
  7. Consider assistant manager roles. ...
  8. Prepare for interviews.
9 Nov 2021

What are examples of general management? ›

More Definitions of General Management

General Management means costs related to the operation of the Council office and program. Examples are council meetings, rent, utilities, dues, travel, rental of equipment and staff that do not conduct state plan activities.

What are examples of management skills? ›

Management skills are a collection of abilities that include things such as business planning, decision-making, problem-solving, communication, delegation, and time management.

What are the 3 basic management skills? ›

Robert Katz identifies three types of skills that are essential for a successful management process: Technical skills. Conceptual skills. Human or interpersonal management skills.

What does general management mean? ›

Definition. Comprehensive in scope, general management describes the responsibilities and tasks associated with the positions people fill while operating at multiple levels within organizations. Commonly, managerial positions are divided into three primary levels (or operations) – top, middle and lower.

What are the 3 major role of general manager? ›

General Manager Responsibilities

Set policies and processes. Oversee recruitment and training. Evaluate operational and financial performance.

What are the types of general manager? ›

The four most common types of managers are top-level managers, middle managers, first-line managers, and team leaders. These roles vary not only in their day-to-day responsibilities, but also in their broader function in the organization and the types of employees they manage.

What are the 4 key managerial skills? ›

Originally identified by Henri Fayol as five elements, there are now four commonly accepted functions of management that encompass these necessary skills: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling.

What are management skills in education? ›

Understood as such, managerial skills allow systematizing actions under productivity and organization criteria, to be able to fulfill objectives and goals within an organizational and professional framework that aims to make educational projects' activities and content feasible.

What is a skill example? ›

For example: Good communication skills. Critical thinking. Working well in a team.

What is the study of general management? ›

A general management degree is a more in-depth, specialized course that includes the topics of business administration, economics, and international management, and that trains you to be a manager in the world of business.

What is another title for general manager? ›

In consumer products companies, general managers are often given the title brand manager or category manager. In professional services firms, the general manager may hold titles such as managing partner, senior partner, or managing director.


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