What Does a Supervisor Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A day in the life of a supervisor: Scheduling work hours and shifts, Training workers, Assisting in hiring and firing activities, Identifying and resolving workplace problems, Providing reports and activity updates to management

The Balance / Melissa Ling

The title of "supervisor" is typically applied to a first-line or lower-level managerial role, often in industrial or administrative settings. Supervisors are responsible for the day-to-day performance of a small group, either a team, a department, or a shift. Supervisors typically have experience in the group's purpose or goal and have earned the position based on management's belief that they're capable of guiding the team.

The designation of a supervisor is less common in the 21st century than in prior years when observing co-workers closely was deemed a necessary management tactic, but the designation and the role still exist in a variety of vocations. 

Supervisor Duties & Responsibilities

The Responsibilities of a Supervisor
The Balance

Common supervisory tasks include:

  • Helping the team understand performance targets and goals
  • Training or ensuring that workers are properly trained for their specific roles 
  • Scheduling work hours and shifts
  • Coordinating job rotation and cross-training
  • Sharing company updates, financial results, and new objectives with team members
  • Assisting in resolving emergencies, such as a quality or customer problem that might be escalated to the team supervisor for handling 
  • Identifying and resolving workplace problems, including tardiness or absenteeism
  • Providing reports and activity updates to management
  • Assisting in hiring and firing activities, a supervisor often requires the managerial approval of all new hires or terminations

A large part of the role of the supervisor involves offering feedback, both constructive and positive. Constructive feedback is more challenging for most supervisors to deliver.

Supervisor Salary

Supervisors overseeing production and operation teams tend to earn slightly more than those who work in office or administrative settings.

  • Median Annual Salary: $60,420 ($29.05/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $99,500 ($47,84/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $36,020 ($17.32/hour)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Education, Training & Certification

This occupation doesn't require any particular education, but you will need training.

  • Education: A high school diploma—or its equivalent—is usually required. Some college or an associate degree can be helpful in setting candidates apart from others who desire the position.
  • Experience: A supervisor must have an excellent grasp of the work the team's doing, as well as an understanding of the tasks and activities of a manager. Supervisors are often drawn from the working team because management appreciates their work ethic, company attitude, and commitment to quality.
  • Training: Organizations often require that individuals promoted to supervisory roles attend first-line or front-line management training where they learn important communication and management skills. 

Supervisor Skills & Competencies

You should have several essential qualities to succeed at becoming a supervisor in any field.

  • Leadership: You should have the capacity to take charge while still addressing the concerns and individuality of your team members.
  • Conflict resolution: The ability to productively handle grievances can be a real asset in this occupation.
  • Interpersonal skills: A supervisor's role is predominantly a matter of managing people.
  • Time management skills: You should have the ability to discern what's most important and to allot your own time and your team's time accordingly.
  • Problem-solving abilities: You should possess an ability to gauge different solutions to inevitable problems and select the one most likely to bring about the results you need.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the field of administrative managers, in general, should see about 10% growth from 2016 through 2026, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Workers across all industries will always need guidance, management, and instruction.

Work Environment

A supervisor is accountable for team performance, which brings pressure above and beyond the level he or she may have experienced as a team member. The role has its frustrations as well. A supervisor is charged with responsibility for the team and overall performance but typically has relatively little direct authority without managerial support. 

A newly-appointed supervisor must often navigate an awkward transition from being one of the team members to the individual responsible for guiding and supervising the workers. This transition can be uncomfortable for everyone involved.

Work Schedule

About 25% of those in this and similar roles report working more than 40-hour weeks, although this is more common for those who must be on call for emergencies, not necessarily those who only oversee staff. Otherwise, this is typically a full-time job.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Some similar jobs and their median annual pay include: 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018