Are you considering a career in supply chain management? If you have an aptitude for organization and analyzation and are interested in learning about product acquisition, allocation, and delivery, an associate degree in supply chain management may be a good fit for you. In most cases, institutions offer programs in logistics, which tend to cover various facets of supply chain management, business, and business management.
While a bachelor’s degree is typically necessary for most positions in this profession, associate degree graduates may be able to find entry-level employment in the following jobs:Read More
- Supply Chain Specialist
- Import Specialist
- Inventory Control Specialist
- Purchasing Assistant
- Parts Clerk
- Logistics Coordinator
This is particularly true for individuals with related work experience, as some employers allow candidates to substitute this for a bachelor’s education. It’s important to realize, however, that the job market can be quite competitive. Most large companies with complex logistics and supply chains prefer hiring workers with bachelor’s degrees in logistics, business, or supply chain management. An associate degree can also help prepare you to continue your education. Credits earned at accredited community colleges can be transferred to other institutions relatively easily. This not only helps to fulfill bachelor’s degree requirements faster but can make attending a four-year college or university less expensive.
Requirements of a Associate Degree?
Associate degrees are undergraduate-level education programs designed to provide students with the basic technical and academic knowledge necessary for employment or further study in a chosen field. They are also known to provide graduates with many transferable skills that can be beneficial when applying for employment.
Most colleges and universities offer Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees in supply chain management and logistics. It may be possible to find Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Applied Arts (AAA) degrees, but these tend to be broader and require more general education classes. AS and AAS degrees are generally better for individuals interested in joining the workforce right away, while AA and AAA degrees are ideal for those who intend to pursue higher education in the future.
While logistics and supply chain management curriculums vary, most associate degree programs consist of 60 semester credit hours. This equates to roughly 20 college courses, which generally require two years for full-time students to complete. It is worth noting that some colleges and universities offer accelerated programs that can be finished in as little as a single year. It’s also possible to graduate ahead of the standard schedule by claiming college credit from high school advanced placement (AP) classes.
Students should know that, if they are enrolled part-time, they will likely need more time to complete the necessary graduation requirements. Those taking only a couple classes per semester should expect to be enrolled for three to four years.
Where Do You Earn an Associate-Level Degree?
Most associate degrees in supply chain management and logistics are offered by community colleges. These schools specialize in two-year degree programs and play an integral role in preparing students to join local workforces. Schools of this type provide valuable technical skills training, as well as an affordable alternative to traditional four-year institutions. Notably, classes are also offered for personal growth and development purposes within the community.
While less common, some four-year colleges and universities also offer associate-level degrees. In both cases, classes may often be taken on campus or online. Online schools are gaining in popularity due to flexible scheduling options, which are often ideal for current professionals or those with other obligations at home.
Online Vs. Traditional Education in Supply Chain Management
As mentioned above, distance learning is ideal for students who already work full-time or have restrictive responsibilities that prevent them from attending classes in person. The convenience and flexible scheduling options can make earning a degree in this field much more attainable.
Not all career fields are well-suited to remote education, however. Highly technical jobs, for example, require students to gain significant hands-on experience in preparation for employment. Fortunately, supply chain management and logistics students can choose to enroll in online or on-campus associate degree programs.
While coursework requirements rarely differ between online and on-campus programs, there are a few distinctions that should be addressed. The biggest difference associated with distance learning is the lack of in-person instruction. Reading assignments, video lectures, virtual forums, and quizzes can all be completed remotely, but a lack of opportunities to interact directly with instructors or gain hands-on experience can be problematic for some students. Similarly, online learners have fewer chances to network with peers and professionals in their field.
Some schools attempt to address these differences by offering hybrid degree programs. Students can complete the majority of their coursework online, but are periodically required to visit the campus for residency sessions. This allows access to some in-person instruction, hands-on training, and networking opportunities but can be less accessible for those who hope to attend a program from across the country.
Accredited online programs offered by reputable colleges and universities are often as rigorous as their on-campus counterparts. Online degrees are valued similar to traditional degrees in this field as long as they are provided by an accredited institution.
What are the Admission Requirements?
Most colleges and universities have predetermined requirements that prospective students must complete before admittance is possible. Every institution is different, so it’s important to review prerequisites carefully before submitting an application.
While specific requirements vary from school to school, they often include some variation of the following:
- Official High School Transcripts or GED
- Official Post-Secondary Transcripts (if applicable)
- Minimum Grade Point Average (GPA)
- Application and Fees
Those who plan to enroll in bachelor’s degree programs will need to meet additional admittance requirements.
In addition to the items mentioned above, prospective students will also need:
- Letters of Recommendation
- Personal Statement or Supplemental Essay
- Scores from College Entrance Exams (SAT, ACT, etc.)
While most community colleges do not require SAT and/or ACT scores, they are often necessary to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program. Many institutions set a minimum acceptable score for these entrance exams. As a result, students should research this requirement prior to submitting an application. Additionally, it may be necessary to take the SAT and/or ACT multiple times in order to achieve the desired score.
Why Earn an Online Supply Chain Associate Degree?
There are many reasons to pursue an associate degree in supply chain management or logistics. Benefits include lower tuition costs, shorter program length, and the ability to join the workforce faster.
Notably, earning an associate degree costs less than earning a bachelor’s degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average in-state tuition, fees, room, and board at traditional four-year institutions for the 2017-2018 academic year was $27,357. Associate degree students, on the other hand, paid an average of $10,704. This is a significant difference, especially for individuals concerned about the expense of earning a degree.
The speed of completion for an associate degree is also a lot faster than a bachelor’s degree. While time frames can vary due to personal circumstances and enrollment status, most full-time students can graduate from associate programs within two years. Those enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs will likely need four years to complete their graduation requirements.
Similarly, associate degree graduates can join the workforce sooner. Those earning bachelor’s degrees generally attend school for two additional years, during which they remain unable to work full-time and are likely to continue to amass student loan debt. Individuals with associate degrees can qualify for entry-level positions after only two years. While they tend to earn lower salaries than bachelor’s degree holders, they can also begin paying off accrued debt earlier.
Additionally, associate degree credits can be transferred to four-year institutions in the future. Whether you graduate or not, completed coursework often counts toward future degree requirements, potentially shortening your graduation time frame.
Why a Degree in Supply Chain Management?
There are many reasons to pursue a degree in supply chain management or logistics, chief among them being salary potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), logisticians earned a median annual wage of $76,270 in 2020, which is significantly higher than the median annual wage of $37,690 reported for all occupations in the country. Job outlook for this field has also remained steady for many years and employment opportunities are anticipated to remain stable.
Another benefit is the relatively low barrier to enter the field. While most employers give preference to candidates with bachelor’s degrees, there are some entry-level positions available to those with associate degrees. This means employment is possible after only two years of formal education. There are also many opportunities for advancement in logistics. Pursuing additional education and certifications can put workers on fast-tracks for promotion into management positions.
Additionally, individuals in this field can choose to take on jobs that require international travel. There are plenty of opportunities for those interested in working abroad, as well as local job availability for people who prefer staying in a single area. This offers great flexibility for employees of all types.
Finally, supply chain management and logistics degrees help students develop a number of transferrable skills. Some of the most useful talents related to this field include critical thinking, problem solving, customer service, workflow optimization, general management, financial planning, and forecasting.
What’s Involved in an Associate Degree?
There are a number of community colleges that offer in-person and online associate degrees in supply chain management. It’s worth noting, however, that some colleges and universities offer associate degrees in logistics that cover topics directly relating to supply chain management. Review your options carefully before deciding which program is best for your academic and career goals.
This degree is meant to provide the foundational knowledge necessary to be successful in the field. This generally includes teaching students about proper procedures, staffing, equipment, shipping regulations, and warehousing. Both domestic and international shipping laws are likely to be covered, as well. Supply chain management is sometimes offered as a concentration within a broader business degree, but it’s rare to find programs specializing in a single aspect of the field.
While the specific coursework and titles will vary from institution to institution, many associate degrees in supply chain management include classes such as:
- Professional Finances
- Professional Logistics
- Inventory Control
- Quality Control
- International Business Law
- Transportation Methods
- Import / Export Management
- Organizational Psychology
- Information Systems
- Supply Chain Management
- Spreadsheet Software
What to Consider When Choosing an Associate Program for Supply Chain Management
When looking for a program in supply chain management or logistics, it’s important to consider the college or university’s accreditation status. Earning and maintaining proper accreditation means the institution meets established academic and professional standards regionally, nationally, and/or internationally. Only accredited programs can guarantee students will be adequately prepared for work within the field after graduation.
Most community colleges and institutions offering associate degrees in supply chain management will be regionally accredited. Regional accreditation confirms that all of the college or university’s programs meet the expectations of employers within the region. There are several regional agencies that have been approved by the Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA).
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCACS)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS COC)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Schools (WASC ACS)
Individual programs may also acquire accreditation beyond that provided by the regional accrediting agency. While not required, some associate degree business programs related to supply chain management are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Those planning to earn a bachelor’s degree should look for programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
Students are discouraged from attending educational institutions that lack accreditation. Degrees from these colleges and universities may not be accepted by other schools or employers. Graduates often have trouble transferring credits and may even be considered ineligible for some jobs in the field. Also, those who attend unaccredited institutions will not have access to federal financial aid and may not be eligible for many scholarships.
Further Supply Chain Management Education
An associate degree in supply chain management or logistics can qualify graduates for some entry-level positions in the field, but most employers expect candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management. These programs explore important concepts in much greater depth and are, as a result, often considered more valuable by companies and organizations.
Most bachelor’s degree programs consist of 120 credit hours of coursework, which generally takes full-time students four years to complete. Students often learn about quality assurance, inventory tracking, and reverse logistics, as well as how to improve the overall business process.
While course titles will vary, students can expect to take classes like:
- Transportation and Logistics
- Procurement and Sourcing
- Demand Planning
- Fulfillment and Inventory
- Warehouse Management
A master’s degree in supply chain management or logistics can help graduates advance their careers further. These programs are designed to build upon the theoretical knowledge and practical skills gained during undergraduate study. It may be necessary to earn this type of degree if you plan to apply for higher-level management positions.
Most master’s degree programs consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Most programs explore various advanced aspects of supply chain management, as well as business analytics. Students will have numerous opportunities to hone their decision-making, organization, and managerial skills.
While course titles will vary, students can expect to take classes like:
- Strategic Sourcing and Procurement Management
- Applied Business Analytics
- Project Management
- Big Data Management
Many colleges and universities also offer master-level students the opportunity to select a concentration. This allows for more specialization within the field.
Common options include:
- Quantitative Approaches
- Logistics and Transportation
- Logistics Management
- Logistics and Operations
Enrolling in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is another viable option for individuals interested in supply chain management. Many of these degrees offer concentrations in supply chain management and logistics. Graduates are likely to have more employment opportunities, stand out among job candidates, make more money and qualify for senior-level and management positions.
Most MBA programs consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. In addition to supply chain management, students can choose from a wide variety of concentrations including data visualization, enterprise systems, security controls, and business analytics. Graduates have numerous opportunities to better develop and hone skills in strategy, marketing, global business, and supply chain management.
Doctorate or PhD
Those interested in pursuing top-level roles in supply chain management and logistics may benefit from earning a doctorate. While not necessary for most jobs in the field, this type of degree can provide graduate access to positions as directors of operations and chief operating officers. Alternatively, they may prefer to take on jobs at educators within the field. Most four-year colleges and universities require professors to have doctorate degrees.
While curriculums vary, these programs often place a strong focus on research and the contribution of new discoveries. It’s common for instruction to include research methods, supply chain modeling, econometrics, and multivariate analysis. Students will also be expected to complete and present a dissertation. Every program is different, but most take candidates about five to seven years to complete.
Supply Chain Management Management Certification
In addition to obtaining a degree in supply chain management or logistics, you can choose to pursue a number of certifications that can help advance your company or enhance your professional qualifications. Earning certifications also ensures you stand out among other candidates when applying for employment. Additionally, current professionals who earn new certifications may qualify you for a pay increase or additional promotional opportunities.
With so many options to choose from, it’s important to research each certification closely before applying. Make sure the program you select is relevant to your current role or a position you hope to attain in the future.
Some of the most prominent options for database administrators include:
- Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)
- Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM)
- Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR-P)
- Certified Logistics, Transportation and Distribution (CLTD)
- Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM)
- Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity (CPSD)
- Council of Supply Management Professionals (CSCMP)
- Certified Professional Logistician (CPL)
- Certified Professional Contract Manager (CPCM)
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
Individuals planning to open their own businesses as third-party pharmaceutical logistics providers will also need to obtain governmental certification through their states. Two of the leading providers for voluntary supply chain management certifications are the International Society of Logistics and the Association for Supply Chain Management. Both organizations offer several certifications within the field.
Available Careers with a Supply Chain Management Associate Degree
There are plenty of opportunities available to individuals who earn an associate degree in supply chain management or logistics. However, some employers may require additional education and/or certifications prior to employment.
Some of the most popular job options include:
- Supply Chain Specialist
- Import Specialist
- Inventory Analyst
- Purchasing Assistant
- Parts Clerk
- Logistics Technician
- Warehouse Manager
- Raw Material Specialist
Supply Chain Specialist
Supply chain specialists make sure the business or organization they work for is prepared to function properly. They are responsible for ensuring that supplies and inventory items are ordered, received, replenished, and maintained at the necessary levels. These professionals also serve as the main point of contact for suppliers.
Import specialists detect and help prevent possible violations of United States customs laws, as well as importation and exportation regulations. They often work to ensure illegal drugs, products, weapons, and weapon parts do not enter the country. These professionals regularly coordinate with contractors, shippers, clients, and carriers.
Inventory analysts handle any potential challenges associated with inventory management. They are often responsible for determining the proper inventory levels for stores, as well as ensuring that inventory levels are consistently maintained. These professionals also work with employees to facilitate shipment arrivals, delivery offloading, and store stocking.
Purchasing assistants help with the purchase of products for companies and organizations. They are responsible for stock and inventory levels at all times and must keep track of general sales and revenue trends. These professionals are also responsible for generating and running industry reports for stakeholders.
Logistics technicians ensure that a specific company location has sufficient supplies and equipment. They are responsible for choosing, ordering, and distributing items as needed. These professionals must also develop and maintain databases to track, store, and analyze logistics data for their employers.
Warehouse managers are responsible for maintaining and receiving equipment. They supervise staff members in the warehouse, but may also work on the floor to ensure tasks are completed on time. These professionals often coordinate important tasks, enforce programs, safeguard the facility, and control inventory levels.
Overall, the earning potential for individuals with an associate degree in supply chain management or logistics is promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for logisticians was $76,270 in 2020. This is significantly higher than the average median wage for all other occupations. Even the lowest 10% earned a decent salary of $44,190, while the highest 10% earned more than $122,580.
According to PayScale, the average base salary for supply chain managers is $83,953. Pay is often directly connected to the number of years worked in this field. Those just starting careers typically earn about $62,000, while those with 20 years of experience earn an average of $95,000.
It’s worth noting that earning a bachelor’s degree can result in higher salary potential. Those with graduate degrees are also statistically more likely to earn more money per year.
The outlook for logisticians and supply chain managers is also quite good. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) projects that there will be a 4% increase in job availability between 2019 and 2029. This is about as fast as the national average for other professions. Areas that will see the most growth are third-party logistics companies.
One major factor attributing to this anticipated development is the continued importance of the logistical and supply chain process in relation to company or organization profitability. Because these individuals have such a vital role, there is little chance of a decrease in demand for highly trained professionals in the field. Additionally, supply and distribution systems have become increasingly complex, which means those who have experience in the field will be even more valuable. Professionals who can use logistical software or have performed logistical work for the military will have the best prospects.
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