Almost every firm, no matter what industry they're in, needs to have someone to handle its supply chain. Sometimes this part of the business is almost an afterthought, but then some companies are in the business of shipping supplies constantly, and thus have supply chain concerns every day. Since this field can also fall under the heading of operations, it is easy to see how vital it is for nearly every company. Inefficiencies at any point in a business' operations can mean financial disaster.
These days, supply chain management can entail jobs such as warehouse management, trucking supervisor, or software engineer. Supply chain management experts are even found working with artificial intelligence, databases, and cyber security. No matter which specific angle one takes on this field, their work is sure to be vital to the functioning of any business.
Requirements of a Master’s Degree?
A master’s degree is the next degree level above a four-year bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree typically takes about two years, though some degrees may take three, as in a law degree. When it comes to a master’s degree in supply chain management, students can anticipate a two-year program. They can also look forward to many options when it comes to earning a master’s degree in supply chain management.
There are at least two types of master’s degrees that focus exclusively on supply chain management. For instance, MIT offers a master of applied science in supply chain management or a master of engineering in supply chain management. Students can also find MBA programs that offer a concentration in supply chain management. Then there are dual degree programs, in which MBA students can add a master of applied science to their curriculum and graduate in around three years with two master’s degrees. Finally, a growing trend in undergraduate education is to offer an accelerated master’s degree whereby students can complete both a bachelor’s and a master’s in five years. While these program often pair the undergraduate work with an MBA, students can major in supply chain management or otherwise make that a focus in their academic work.
Where Do You Earn a Master’s Degree?
Students seeking a master’s degree that sets them on track for a supply chain management career usually seek opportunities in their local universities. In fact, this is the predominate choice for working and aspiring supply chain managers. There may even be schools that are still considered colleges that offer SCM master’s degrees but, by and large, students should look to universities. However, the best master’s degree program may not be in their local area, or even in their state.
With that in mind, students have two general options: move to the school that has the best master’s program or find an online option. An online master’s degree in supply chain management is an excellent option that produces the same academic outcomes as traditional classroom programs. However, there may also be a third option. This is the hybrid master’s degree in which students spend a limited amount of time on campus and then spend the bulk of their time at home studying via the department's online portal.
Online Vs. Traditional Education in Supply Chain Management
While online master’s degree programs are nothing new, and various flexible options have existed for even longer, students may still be a bit wary about making the transition to a fully online master’s degree. However, their concerns can be allayed by way of the educational research that shows equivalent outcomes when researchers compare online and traditional education. Thus, when online master’s degree students engage with the course material and their instructors, they are sure to learn just as much as their on-campus peers.
While some bemoan the lack of individual instruction in online education, the truth is that students can easily email their instructors at any time of the day or night and their questions are usually answered in a timely fashion. Given the time constraints of a traditional class session, many students are left wanting in these situations. Thus, students can receive the same or better attention from their online instructors as from a traditional classroom professor.
On top of this, online graduate students have far more freedom with their time. Graduate students of supply chain management can access classroom materials at their convenience. In fact, asynchronous classrooms even allow students to leap ahead if they have the time and inclination. However, homework and project deadlines are still in place for those who work at the recommended speed.
As for the overall respect given to an online degree, employers are usually more interested in what a candidate has learned than how they acquired the knowledge. Further, online graduate degree programs hold the same accreditations as their traditional peers. In fact, since online courses require more self-discipline than a traditional, rigidly structured degree program, employers may place even more value on an online master’s degree.
What Are the Prerequisites for a Master’s Degree?
The most obvious prerequisite for a master’s degree is an undergraduate degree. When candidates apply to a graduate degree program, they submit their transcripts, which admissions counselors review to find specific required courses. For supply chain management, programs may require a certain number of courses in the subject, as well as computer science or mathematics courses. Requirements vary from program to program, but most will require a minimum number of relevant courses.
Admissions counselors may also review a candidate's resume. Those who have significant experience in supply chain management may not have to return to satisfy academic requirements. They may also look positively on factors such as a professional certification in the field and the continuing education efforts that are involved with those credentials. Graduate admissions counselors may also want to review each candidate's GMAT or GRE scores.
Keep in mind that each program administers its admissions in an individual way. Some don't even require admissions tests. However, most do have minimum standards for undergraduate GPA and even insist on reviewing each candidate's class ranking. Candidates who don't quite have the GPA or ranking to qualify can still prove themselves with additional coursework or business experience.
Why Earn a Master’s Degree?
The decision to earn a master’s degree is not an easy one. An advanced degree takes a lot of time and energy on top of the added expense, unless students are lucky enough to participate in a tuition reimbursement program through their employer. Given these factors, there is no guarantee that even a master’s degree in supply chain management will result in higher salary or a more rewarding career.
However, educational research consistently shows that those who earn a master’s degree tend to earn more and achieve higher status within their organizations. Since supply chain management is such a growing and thriving field, students who earn their master’s degree as soon as possible are sure to have even more success over the long-term. On top of this, the additional academic training helps set professionals up for success when they seek a professional certification.
A bachelor’s degree will help launch a supply chain management career, but it won't take a person to the C-suites. Some students may have the option of an accelerated bachelor’s to master’s degree program in their undergraduate department. This option allows students to work through their bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in only around five years.
Why a Degree in Supply Chain Management?
A degree in supply chain management is a terrific idea for those who love logistics. While there may be many ways for a logistician to express their talents, supply chain management is perhaps one of the most profitable. In fact, sites and agencies that track salaries for this profession show that salaries range from a median of over $76,000, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), to an average of over $84,000 as reported by Payscale.com. Note that, in both cases, the salary figures only reflect base salary. Supply chain managers may actually earn much more once items such as bonuses and benefits are added to the tally.
However, those figures only reflect data for one possible job title or description. Professionals with a master’s degree in supply chain management can also become operations managers. These business professionals can earn upwards of $100,000 per year, if not more, according to the BLS. Another associated job title is that of industrial production managers, who earn a median yearly salary of over $108,000. Given that the BLS data also indicates that these professionals typically only have a bachelor’s degree, its evident that wages will only rise once workers elevate their academic credentials.
What’s Involved in a Master’s Degree in Supply Chain Management?
A master’s degree in supply chain management is a graduate degree that covers various aspects of work as a logistician. For some programs, such as the supply chain degree offered at MIT, the supply chain management curriculum looks much like what one would expect in a computer science degree. There may be courses that cover programming languages such as Python, data analysis, machine learning, and databases for supply chain management.
Other programs look more like specialized master’s degrees in business administration. Those programs curricula involve topics such as supply chain management strategies, operations analysis, six sigma, supply chain finance, and global logistics management. In fact, these programs' hardly make any mention of the computer science topics found at more technically oriented institutions.
Given this rather broad disparity in the available supply chain degree programs, it's important for students to take a close look at each master’s degree program. Only then can they ensure that the program they are applying to will teach what they need to learn.
- Supply Chain Analytics & Technologies
- Forecasting & Market Analysis
- Data Management & Visualization
- Innovation & Technology in Supply Chain Management
- Humanitarian Logistics
- Business Communication & Presentation
- Leadership and Ethics
- Operations Management
- Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python
- Databases and Data Analysis for Supply Chain Management
- Data Science and Machine Learning for Supply Chain Management
- Modeling with Machine Learning: From Algorithms to Applications
- Logistics Systems
- Leading Global Teams
- Computer programming
- Operations management
- Artificial intelligence
- Resource allocation
- Supply chain operations for healthcare
- Global supply chains
- Communications and supply chain management
What to Consider When Choosing a Master’s Program in Supply Chain Management
Accreditation is one of the most important academic factors to consider when choosing a master’s degree in supply chain management. Students should be sure that their program at least has credentials from an accreditation agency that has CHEA approval.
These are the regional agencies and include:
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
There are other agencies that specialize in business and business-related programs from the associate level through to doctoral programs. These are AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE. A supply chain management program that has one of these national accreditation agencies will surely be recognized for excellence by any employer.
Further Supply Chain Management Education
An MBA is largely considered to be the gold standard for business related master’s degree programs. When combined with a concentration in supply chain management, an SCM professional is sure to receive offers for employment in the C-suites. An MBA can also be combined in a dual degree program with a master’s degree that specializes in SCM.
When professionals complete their MBA, they often receive bonuses and promotions. During the course of an MBA, students often form a professional network with others in the field. This network will pay dividends in the future when it's time to seek new opportunities.
Doctorate or PhD
A doctoral degree, also known as a PhD, in supply chain management is often not a requirement for success in business, but it can likely prove useful. One chief advantage of a PhD is the increased ability to teach at the college level. Doctoral degrees pave the way to full-time, tenure track positions teaching graduate or undergraduate students. Plus, many companies desire PhD holders to work for them, particularly those who need an SCM employee who specializes in computer systems for SCM.
An academic certification in supply chain management is a terrific way to earn top, career-changing credentials without spending a lot of time or money on a full degree. The graduate credits earned along the way to certification can also be used to help complete a full master’s degree later on.
There are other sorts of certification that come from professional supply chain associations. These certifications require that candidates pass a rigorous examination and then maintain their credentials by completing continuing education courses on an annual or biannual basis. Professional certifications are typically cheaper to earn but then ensure that holders continue to learn more about their profession every year.
For those supply chain management professionals who focus more on the technological aspect of SCM there are many different technology related certifications available. A certification in the programming language Python, for example, can be a terrific way to open the door to SCM jobs that require that particular skill. Supply chain management professionals can also investigate the possible certifications for database design, maintenance, and security.
On top of these possible options, supply chain management professionals who are not yet sure which direction to take their academic credentials, there are many free or cheap online courses available. These offer professionals the ability to take a taste of a field before committing to it 100%. Coursera, for instance, allows students to take many university courses for free but then students can also choose to pay for a certification of completion, if not full college, or even graduate, credit.
Available Careers with a Supply Chain Management Master’s Degree
Manager of Logistics:
Management opportunities abound for those who hold a master’s degree in supply chain management. This position may involve supervising a fleet of delivery vehicles, creating new supply chain strategies, or even overseeing safety protocols.
Global Supply Chain Manager:
In this position, supply chain management professionals might oversee a product from the assembly line through to its delivery to retail stores. This position requires excellent communication skills and the ability to coordinate numerous departments and employees towards the ultimate goal of delivering a product to market.
Top academic credentials can pave the way to a senior position in a consulting firm. In this position, supply chain management experts oversee fellow consultants as they advise a client on how to best conduct their operations.
This job title is for those whose job is to care for the design, development, manufacture, marketing, and distribution of a product. While many of these functions are surely delegated to those with those particular specialties, the product manager needs to coordinate the entire team.
Every company must have an operations manager who sees to the day-to-day functioning of the company. This can entail everything from hiring the appropriate professionals for the right jobs, maintaining manufacturing equipment, and managing distribution.
A master’s degree in supply chain management means that healthy salaries, bonuses, and benefits are on the horizon. For instance, those with an MBA in supply chain management are reported to earn an average salary of over $90,000. This number is derived from salaries ranging from that of a vendor manager whom Payscale.com reports as earning $71,000 up to a Vice President of Operations who earns upwards of $173,000 before bonus, etc.
Payscale also reports that those with a non-MBA master’s degree in supply chain management earn an average salary of $102,000. For this degree type, they show that the high end is $168,000 and the low end is $78,000. Since Payscale is a job search engine company their numbers derive from what a starting salary is likely to be. Individual supply chain management workers who have additional credentials or extraordinary experience may be able to negotiate a higher salary, a more beneficial bonus structure, or enhanced benefits.
While those SCM experts who only have a bachelor’s degree are sure to earn less than those with a graduate degree, their experience will pay off in the long-run. Thus, those who work for five or more years with a bachelor’s degree prior to returning to graduate school may earn more than those who go directly from undergrad to a master’s degree program.
The outlook for supply chain management careers is looking very good. For those who choose this field for their careers, there is a wide variety of paths to take. Some may approach the field form a computer science angle and conduct a career that is more akin to that of a software developer than a hands-on operations manager. Then there are those who may spend more time routing trucks across the nation in hopes of delivering packages in the most timely and cost-effective manner possible. Thus, it can be difficult to nail down specific numbers for supply chain professionals.
However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does show that the demand for logisticians should grow by 4% through 2029. They also show that operations experts should expect a growth rate of an eye-popping 25% in the same time frame. For those who choose the technological side of supply chain management, jobs in that arena tend to pay very well and have great growth projections. Software developers and quality assurance analysts are expected to show a 22% rate of growth through 2029, which is much faster than average.
All in all, the economic forecast for this profession is looking very good indeed.
Business Degrees & Career Paths