Degree of Operating Leverage

A financial ratio that measures the sensitivity of a company’s operating income to its sales

What is the Degree of Operating Leverage?

The degree of operating leverage (DOL) is a financial ratio that measures the sensitivity of a company’s operating income to its sales. This financial metric shows how a change in the company’s sales will affect its operating income.


Degree of Operating Leverage


Breaking Down Degree of Operating Leverage

The degree of operating leverage is a method used to quantify a company’s operating risk. This risk arises due to the structure of fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs do not allow the company to adjust its operating costs. Therefore, operating risk rises with an increase in the fixed-to-variable costs proportion.

Generally, a low DOL indicates that the company’s variable costs are larger than its fixed costs. That implies that a significant increase in the company’s sales will not lead to a substantial increase in its operating income. At the same time, the company does not need to cover large fixed costs.

A high DOL reveals that the company’s fixed costs exceed its variable costs. It indicates that the company can boost its operating income by increasing its sales. In addition, the company must be able to maintain relatively high sales to cover all fixed costs.


Formula for Degree of Operating Leverage

The degree of operating leverage can be calculated in several different ways. First, we can use the formula from the definition of the ratio:


Degree of Operating Leverage - Formula


Since the operating leverage ratio is closely related to the company’s cost structure, we can calculate it using the company’s contribution margin. The contribution margin is the difference between total sales and total variable costs.


Formula using Contribution Margin


Finally, if there is available information about the cost structure of a company, we can use the following formula:


Formula using Cost Structure



  • Q – the number of units
  • P – the price per unit
  • V – the variable cost per unit
  • F – the fixed costs



The management of ABC Corp. wants to determine the company’s current degree of operating leverage. The company sells 10,000 product units at an average price of $50. The variable cost per unit is $12, while the total fixed costs are $100,000.

The company’s DOL is:



The DOL indicates that every 1% change in the company’s sales will change the company’s operating income by 1.38%.


Related Readings

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading CFI’s explanation of the degree of operating leverage. CFI offers the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)™ certification program for those looking to take their careers to the next level. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following CFI resources will be helpful:

  • Contribution Margin
  • Debt to Assets Ratio
  • Forecasting Finance (Equity, Debt, Interest)
  • Leverage Ratios

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