As the world's economies become increasingly intertwined, supply chains are overlapping. Businesses are also migrating online, requiring new inventory systems and logistical support to ship items across the country, if not the world. For this reason, supply chain management is becoming an ever-higher priority for today's top firms.
The field is diverse and challenging in that it crosses many disciplines including operations management, logistics, statistics, and computer science. Students thus can find their individual niche within supply chain management where they will make a tremendous difference for their employers.
Why Get a Supply Chain Management Degree?
There are many reasons to earn a supply chain management degree. One of the chief reasons is that is offers students the opportunity to learn more about how inventories move around the world. It also teaches students a lot about analytical processes, including technology. In fact, supply chain management students would be well-served by learning about blockchain technology, which may shape the future of the field.
Furthermore, a degree in supply chain management can lead to a terrific, well-paid career in business. The increasingly global economy is creating a demand for experts in supply chain management who can work tirelessly to ensure that goods are shipped safely and efficiently to their destination. The profession is also pervasive throughout the economy. Every industry relies on shipments, thus they need supply chain experts. Government agencies also need logisticians who help deliver items such as vaccines and disaster relief to those in need.
Overview of a Supply Chain Management Degree
Supply chain management experts can expect to have long careers. Those who are able to stay current with new supply chain technologies, protocols, and regulations are sure to have steady work for the foreseeable future. That's because every firm and government agency relies on its ability to ship and receive goods. Thus, supply chain management is a vital part of these company's operations. Those who choose to cut corners in this area may soon find their business faltering.
Possible Career Paths With a Degree in Supply Chain Management
A degree in supply chain management can lead to a number of different careers. Depending on the level of education, SCM professionals can pursue work as a logistics analyst, a logistician, purchasing manager, supply chain manager, or a transportation manager, to name a few options. With a master's degree in supply chain management, if not a doctorate, professionals can seek out work as a college professor. Since there are so many online programs available, it's easier than ever to teach a course at night after work.
Here is a list of possible careers with their average salaries, as reported by Payscale.com:
- Supply Chain Manager: $84,000
- Logistician: $81,000
- Operations Manager: $66,000
- Supply Chain Analyst: $61,000
- Inventory Manager: $56,000
- Transportation Manager: $67,000
- Logistics Director: $100,000
- Vice President of Operations: $130,000
- Director of Supply Chain Management: $127,000
- Chief Operating Officer: $144,000
On top of these positions, supply chain professionals can also pursue work as consultants. Sometimes, fresh graduates are chosen for these positions because their youth and energy are helpful when a contract involves travel. However, those in their mid-to-late careers also choose this route. With enough experience, a master's degree, and a strong network, an SCM professional can even strike out as an independent consultant.
Supply Chain Management Degree Levels
Online Associate Degree in Supply Chain Management
An associate degree in supply chain management is a terrific way to get started in the field. Students in community college business programs learn the fundamentals of logistics, which they can put into practice with an entry-level position. Keep in mind that supply chain management is a very complex field that requires deep technical knowledge and analytical skills. Thus, those with a two-year degree may need to start in a more administrative position alongside the logisticians. From that position, they can learn more about the field and can study for certifications or other degrees at night or on the weekends or whatever spare time they have available.
An associate degree in supply chain management can open up job opportunities across the entire supply chain. This degree teaches students skills related to inventory control, purchasing, and materials management. This will also provide a foundation for vendor negotiations and further optimizing a firm's logistical operations. In fact, the level of critical and solutions-oriented thinking required for the degree will help in nearly any position in a firm's operational hierarchy.
- Introduction to Supply Chain Management
- Inventory Control
- Operations Management
- Forecasting and Scheduling
- International Business
- Business Writing and Communications
- Materials Management
- Operations Manager: These professionals oversee the day-to-day activities of their firm.
- Inventory Coordinator: This position is within the field of logistics but mainly concerns a firm's storage of goods.
- Purchasing Assistant: This field is vital for those firms and industries that rely on purchasing raw materials for manufacturing or even finished goods for a retail store.
- Warehouse Management: Warehouses need constant upkeep and a manager who is on top of the day-to-day as well as bigger picture issues related to maintaining a warehouse.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Supply Chain Management
A supply chain management career can really find traction and long-term success with a four-year bachelor's degree in business or a bachelor’s directly in supply chain management. Since this concentration area is increasingly in demand, more and more colleges and universities are offering it as a degree option in their business schools. For those who choose supply chain management as their major field, there will be plenty of employers looking for professionals in this field when they graduate.
To enter into a supply chain management program, many schools require that students first gain admission to their business school. Smaller colleges often don't have such a requirement, but a larger university may have a secondary application process for those who wish to study business. Students will need to have a GPA that meet the requirements for that specific school of business. This varies among different colleges and universities, but a good rule of thumb is to have at least a 3.2 overall GPA. Some business schools will also require specific prerequisites at the introductory level but also courses such in upper-level mathematics or introductory computer science courses.
For those who are interested in supply chain management but have yet to choose their college or university, it's advised that they think about these facts before jumping into a program. Sometimes, students don't realize that they will need to earn admission to a business administration school within a college or university and thus aren't fully prepared for that eventuality. Once educated as to the requirements of a business school degree, first-year students can start to create a roadmap that leads to a degree in supply chain management.
Keep in mind that there are programs that do not have this sort of added application process. Smaller colleges and universities often find that their first-year admissions process is adequate. However, individual courses may have prerequisites and each major field always has required courses that may even fall outside the field. For instance, some supply chain management programs may require courses such as calculus, statistics, or computer science.
- Introduction to Business
- Operations Management
- Inventory Systems
- Transportation Security and Risk
- Business Logistics
- Supply Chain Modeling
- Global Supply Chain Management
- Predictive Analytics & Data Mining
- Environment, Sustainability, and Business Operations
- Supply Chain Management Internship
- Distribution Managers: Larger organizations may employ distribution managers to oversee the entire supply chain for their firm. These professionals oversee customer service matters, transportation issues, and warehouse matters, among other part of their firm's operations.
- Logistician: These professionals manage the supply chain for their firm, including the acquisition and distribution of goods or materials.
- Operations Management: These specialists work with a company's day-to-day functioning and seek to increase internal efficiencies.
- Transportation Manager: These businesspeople oversee their firm's fleet of trucks and ensure that goods are shipped and/or received with the utmost efficiency.
- Warehouse Manager: Each warehouse has special needs, and their managers seek to streamline operations so that the firm's inventories are secure and easy to access.
Online Master’s Degree in Supply Chain Management
A master's degree in supply chain management will not only enhance a logistician's ability to maximize efficiencies but will enhance their ability to earn and receive promotions in their firm. There are a few ways to earn these credentials. Some students will choose a dedicated Master of Science in Supply Chain Management. Others may opt for an MBA and then choose supply chain management for their concentration. Yet a third option may be to earn a certificate in supply chain management that can be either added to a person's existing master's degree or which might serve as credits toward a full degree later.
Supply chain management professionals who are thinking of rising into the C-suites, or who are considering branching out into an entrepreneurial venture of their own, might prefer the MBA route. This is because MBA programs require a bedrock of courses in general business topics such as finance, management, leadership, and marketing, among other possible topics. After a full year (or more) of general business coursework, students can focus on their supply chain management concentration.
When reviewing options for a master's degree in supply chain management, students should be especially aware of a program's accreditation. Every graduate program they apply to should have regional accreditation as a minimum standard. Ideally, students will apply to master's degree programs that have nationally recognized credentials from agencies such as: AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE.
- Supply Chain Analytics
- Intro to Computer Science
- Programming in Python
- Writing and Communications for Supply Chain Management
- Data Science for Supply Chain Management
- Supply Chain Management and Machine Learning
- Blockchain Solutions for Supply Chain Management
- Managerial Finance
- Economic Analysis
- Ethics and Corporate Responsibility
- Distribution Strategy & Logistics Management
- Supply Chain Modeling
- Manager of Logistics: These professionals oversee the entire supply chain for their firm. This includes ensuring proper shipment of products from the warehouse and distribution of products to customers.
- Global Supply Chain Manager: This position requires in-depth knowledge of supply chain issues worldwide. Thus, global supply chain managers need to ensure both the quality of goods from start to finish as well as the overall efficiency of their transport.
- Senior Consultant: SCM managers work with their clients to streamline their supply chain operations.
- Senior Product Manager: These managers work with all aspects of their product's lifecycle including production, shipment, and sales.
Supply Chain Management MBA Coursework (Classes and Courses)
An MBA has long been considered the gold standard for business professionals. It's also a terrific choice for government workers and anyone involved in the administration of larger organizations. Those involved in supply chain management pursue an MBA to both enhance their general business knowledge and skill while spending focused time on their chosen field.
To gain admission to an MBA program straight out of college, admissions counselors need to see top GPAs as well as strong scores on the GMAT, or GRE. Graduate programs also frequently want to see that students have taken and passed certain prerequisites. In the case of a business administration master's degree, a degree in business is often vital to success. However, if an application reflects relevant work experience as well as a few core courses, the requirements could be waived.
As for admissions exams, such as the GRE or GMAT, each program approaches that in its own unique way. Some have strict requirements for these scores while others might waive them altogether. Executive MBA programs in particular seem to put more weight on practical experience in supply chain management than one's undergraduate transcripts.
- Corporate Finance
- Mergers and Acquisitions
- Business Communications
- Managerial Finance
- Economic Analysis
- Ethics and Corporate Responsibility
- Distribution Strategy & Logistics Management
- Supply Chain Modeling
- Blockchain Solutions for Supply Chain Management
- Chief Operating Officer: An MBA will come in handy in a move up to the C-suites. Knowledge of general business with a focus on operations will result in very good things indeed.
- Supply Chain Analyst: These MBA professionals often work in very large firms where they analyze the organization's various supply chains.
- Project Manager: A project manager with an MBA and a concentration in supply chain management ensures that teams remain on task and within budgetary constraints.
- Logistics Consultant: Firms that have supply chain needs but cannot support a full-time supply chain professional might hire a logistics consultant to help them establish systems to help manage their supply chain needs.
Doctoral/PhD Degree in Supply Chain Management
While the business world generally doesn't emphasize a PhD in terms of gaining utmost success. That honor goes to the MBA degree. However, those with doctoral degrees in business specialties are becoming more and more common. Since the business world is more forgiving than academia, even those who are ABD, meaning they completed the coursework but not their dissertation, receive high status. That's especially true if they dropped their dissertation for the sake of pursuing a business interest.
For supply chain management, a PhD would probably be very helpful, especially for those who focus on the high technology aspects of the field. For instance, supply chain management can involve artificial intelligence, cryptography, and blockchain technologies. However, doctoral degree programs tend to emphasize research and teaching at the college level.
With that said, some SCM doctoral projects might be turned into new technologies or approaches to supply chain management that can be converted into a patented technology, a consultancy, or high demand in the job market. After all, the contemporary economy emphasizes intellectual property and innovative technologies.
To enter a PhD program, candidates must first earn a graduate degree in supply chain management. While an MBA with a concentration in supply chain management might suffice, a dedicated Master of Science in supply chain management is more likely to help with admissions to a doctoral degree program. The application should also include letters of recommendation, a strong transcript, and a statement of purpose that aligns with the departmental philosophy and aims.
- Advanced Linear Optimization
- Strategic Management
- Organization Theory and Technological Innovation
- Probability and Statistics
- Applied Econometrics
- Discrete Event Stimulation
- Predictive Analytics
- Nonlinear Optimization
- Marketing Models
- Structural Equation Modeling
- Behavioral Supply Chain Management
- Professor: A Ph.D. will help the holder attain a tenure-track position where they will receive top earnings. Many also are afforded time to advance their research projects.
- Researcher: This position is often a part of an academic institution, but researchers are also found in the commercial sector. These professionals seek new ways to approach supply chain management as well as new technologies that propel it further.
The cost of a business degree varies depending on the level of education you pursue. Those who seek an associate degree pay the least, with costs coming in around $7,000 for the two-year degree. Meanwhile, those who seek a four-year degree from a public university in their home state will pay around $11,000 per year. Out-of-state residents can pay twice that or more. Meanwhile, a private college or university can charge $30,000 or more per year no matter what state you reside in. Graduate degrees, including MBAs, in supply chain management can be a bit more expensive, with the average cost coming in around $18,000 per year. Finally, a PhD will carry similar costs, though PhD candidates are often able to take on teaching assistantships that bring the costs down significantly. Furthermore, all of these numbers reflect the gross costs, not the actual net price.
Even when the net price is low, many students wince when they review the cost of education. However, keep in mind that a degree in supply chain management can immediately begin to pay dividends. The field is in high enough demand and there are enough job openings that a strong SCM graduate can pay off their educational obligations in no time.
Certificates/Licensures in Supply Chain Management
Formal education is very important when seeking to begin a career in supply chain management. However, once started in the field, it can be as important to pursue a professional certificate from an industry association. Since these credentials are geared towards working professionals, they often address the most cutting-edge technologies and issues. Furthermore, once you earn a certificate, you'll probably need to maintain it by way of continuing education courses. Thus, if you show that you've been certified for multiple years in Planning and Inventory Management from the APICS, any potential employer will understand that you are highly qualified and dedicated to your profession. Furthermore, your current employer may be more likely to give you a raise or a promotion on this basis.
Here is a brief list of the certificates possible in the supply chain management field:
- Certified Supply Chain Professionals (CSCP from APICS)
- Certified in Planning and Inventory Management (CPIM from Associate for Operations Management – APICS)
- Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution (CLTD from APICS)
- SCPro from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP)
- Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM from the Institute for Supply Management - ISM)
Online vs. Traditional Options
As our lives migrate more and more toward online media, so has academia brought top quality business administration degree programs to the internet. Business schools in particular have been fast to adopt the online environment for teaching and learning. While online MBAs are prevalent, more and more programs are starting to offer online degrees for their undergraduate students, too.
Online education has a lot to offer a student of supply chain management. That's because students can pursue their degrees from anywhere in the world, maintain a job, and take care of their families, too. Thus, workers who are already working in logistics, transportation, or warehouse management can augment their work lives with academics. When students bring real-world experience to their school projects, everyone benefits.
Where online supply chain management degree programs offer students flexibility and the ability to inject interdisciplinary learning from the real world, traditional programs also offer benefits outside of the classroom. Real-world courses help students learn to work in groups and they begin to form connections with their fellow students. Those connections often become part of a professional network after graduation. This is particularly true for graduate degree students.
Many business administration degree programs are offering a hybrid alternative. This blends traditional classroom coursework with online classes. For graduate school, this may involve meeting on campus at the start of every semester for a series of special seminars. Undergraduates mainly stick to campus but are able to pepper their schedule with online courses. This way they can free their schedules up to work part-time jobs or complete meaningful internships.
While individuals may have a preference for one more than the other, educational research has shown that the learning outcomes are nearly identical. When students engage with their material and their instructors they tend to learn and retain information regardless of how it's conveyed.
What Should You Consider When Looking for a Supply Chain Management Program?
- Majors Available:
Students who are interested in a career in supply chain management should certainly seek out business administration programs that offer this specialty degree. However, it can also be important to make sure that the school also offers the possibility of a complimentary minor or double major. There are many options, but some to consider include computer science, mathematics, and operations management, if available. It's also vital to seek out a supply chain management program that emphasizes internships and experiential learning. For instance, a course that helps students model their very first supply chain management system could be invaluable in a real-world situation.
- Accreditation – Regional and Programmatic
There are few attributes of a business administration program that are more important than accreditation. These credentials indicate to students and the world that the program has met rigorous standards. Thus, at a minimum, a supply chain management program should carry regional accreditation from an agency approved by the CHEA.
Those agencies are:
- 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 also national accreditations that apply to business schools and supply chain management programs. Degrees from these programs can open doors to top jobs nationwide. Since credentials from these agencies come at extra expense for the institutions, some excellent business programs don't have them. Nevertheless, when seeking a supply chain management program, students should look for accreditation credentials from the AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE. In fact, many tuition reimbursement programs tend to favor business schools with one of these accreditations and are likely to pay a higher percentage, if not 100%, of their employee's academic fees.
- Program Length:
Generally speaking, students should consider starting their careers with a bachelor's degree in supply chain management. A four-year degree provides just the right level of academic training to help land an entry-level position. On the other hand, graduate degrees are increasingly prevalent in the business community.
Students who are ready to work very hard can find accelerated master's degree programs for supply chain management or MBA degrees. These programs allow students to take graduate level courses and then graduate in five years with both an undergraduate and a master's degree in supply chain management.
Along similar lines, there are also dual MBA programs where students can graduate with two master's degrees in three or four years, depending on the program. While popular programs pair a JD with the MBA, there are many other possibilities including computer science, mathematics, and more. In a dual MBA program, students can choose SCM as their concentration and augment that focus with a complimentary degree.
Professional Organizations for Supply Chain Management
Association for Supply Chain Management
This is one of the industry's top associations. They offer a wide range of highly respected certifications while also offering many other benefits to their members. They maintain a global network so that membership goes far beyond a member's local chapter. Dues help to fund certification courses, provide access to professional development resources, and open the door to exclusive research and other content.
Institute for Supply Management
This supply chain management organization offers many benefits for their members including two certifications, a supply chain management magazine, and a career center, for starters. Students of supply chain management should investigate their scholarships as well as the opportunity to meet with other SCM professionals at local chapter meetings.
Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals
On top of offering corporate memberships, the CSCMP offers individual memberships to students, military personnel, academics, and more. Membership opens the door to a quarterly periodical, their State of Logistics report, professional development resources, and more. Their SCPro credentials are likewise available to members who qualify.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much do supply chain managers make?
Supply chain managers earn anywhere from $56,000 to $118,000, according to Payscale.com. These salaries don't include other compensation, such as bonuses and other benefits, so keep in mind that this is a general estimation. Supply chain managers who have special skills in logistics, product development, or change management, for instance, might find that their salaries are 18% higher, if not more. Furthermore, salaries tend to rise over time and with advanced degrees.
Should I get a supply chain management degree online?
An online supply chain management degree can be a terrific idea. If the program is fully accredited and offers a desirable curriculum, there is no reason not to apply. This goes double for those who don't wish to move or quit working just to improve their education. For this reason, online business master's degrees are particularly popular. In fact, there are online SCM degree programs that boast credentials from either AACSB, ACBSP, or IACBE.
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