Becoming a Supply Chain Manager – Careers & Outlook

To become a supply chain specialist, professionals can start at nearly any level. There are jobs under this umbrella that require only a dedicated worker with a high school diploma. These jobs are often in a warehouse, but once that part of a business is well-known, a worker can rise through the ranks of a firm or company.

Most successful logisticians start their careers with bachelor’s degrees that focus on supply chain management. However, those with other degrees might also be able to land an entry level position and then work their way up through the ranks.

Steps to Become a Supply Chain Manager


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Step 1

Future supply chain managers must both prepare and have the appropriate talents prior to attaining their dream jobs. The first of those steps is found in recognizing a talent for organizing systems. Future supply chain managers might discover that they have a talent for organizing simple things such as their desk or rooms. Later they might find that they are a natural at leading group projects at school.

Future supply chain managers may also find that they have strong math and science skills. Many supply chain managers may excel at accounting and frequently have talent with auditing complex systems. Their analytical abilities can even extend into areas such as statistics and computer science. On top of this cerebral work, supply chain managers often have great interpersonal communication abilities. After all, they must be able to utilize both written and verbal communications to convey their brilliant ideas regarding the supply chain.

Step 2

Once it's determined that they want to pursue a career in supply chain management, students need to find the right academic program for them. After all, careers in supply chain management are rarely launched without years of hard work in college courses. While a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management is often the minimum requirement for entry, it is possible to enter the field with an associate degree in the field, often found under the wing of a business administration department or school.

This field is growing, and employers are focusing on improving their supply chains all the time. Thus, colleges and universities are adding new SCM majors or otherwise expanding their focus on supply chain management. This extends to community colleges, which may have general business degrees that feature courses that cover supply chain management or even major degree programs that prepare students to begin a career in the field. Their first jobs may be as procurement specialists, inventory manager, or as warehouse personnel.

Step 3

The third major step along the way to a career as a supply chain manager is to discover a favored industry or other specialization. Since many undergraduate programs will provide more of a general training in SCM, students can focus their skills and their resumes with specific experience. This experience will arise from both classwork and internships that focus on certain industries.

In fact, since supply chain managers engage with firms on such a deep, granular level, they need to have more intimate knowledge of that company’s or industry’s needs. For instance, a supply chain professional who works for a restaurant chain must be able to anticipate where the best prices for produce can be found and even predict customer needs according to the season or prevailing cultural trends. Thus, a student with a degree in SCM who has experience in that industry or coursework that specifically applies will be more likely to land an interview.

Step 4

After working in the field for a few years, most supply chain managers should start looking for a master’s degree program in supply chain management. It's worth noting that there are master’s degree programs that focus their entire program on SCM. Then professionals also have the option of an MBA with a concentration in supply chain.

Either degree will surely enhance the career of any professional, but each has its particular attributes. The MS in Supply Chain Management route is a degree that will focus solely on SCM. In fact, this might be the best choice for students who are fresh out of college. This is because they can enter a SCM job with master’s level skills.

The MBA route is also excellent but may come later in a career. This is because it features general business courses that many hiring managers look for in their C-suite leadership. MBA students can still find programs that offer a concentration in SCM and there are surely dual MBA programs that graduate students with both an MBA and an MS in SCM.

What is a Supply Chain Manager?


A supply chain manager is a business professional who has top skills in logistics and may actually be referred to as a logistician. They manage the supply chain for their firms or companies, which they may use to ship or receive raw materials, manufactured goods, or other packages.

What Does a Supply Chain Manager Do?


On a daily basis, a supply chain manager analyzes their firm's movement of materials or goods to determine how to make them more efficient and valuable to the organization. To that end, many supply chain managers work with colleagues in the information technology department, warehouses, and even the firm's manufacturing operations. In fact, a supply chain manager is a vital part of creating products and completing any sort of project. Thus, they need to be able to coordinate multiple teams, deliveries, systems, and processes.

Since this work is done primarily via computer, a supply chain manager could hypothetically work from home or anywhere they can find a Wi-Fi connection. However, most supply chain managers work during regular business hours in their firm's offices. Those that work from home or otherwise on a remote basis must still be available during regular business hours for meetings, phone calls, and other correspondence.

Supply chain managers need to be experts at understanding and designing flow charts, assessing team dynamics, and leadership. It's not enough for them to have an intimate knowledge of the systems, materials, and processes involved in a business, they must also be able to motivate and lead their colleagues. The best supply supply chain management careers thus likely hinge as much on leadership abilities as they do on logistical prowess.

Supply Chain Manager Skills to Acquire


  • Leadership:
    Every great SCM professional is a terrific leader. This is because they need to be able to motivate people to help them implement their plans.
  • Communication:
    Supply chain managers need to be able to create documents that explicitly detail their plans for a firm's supply chain. They also need to be meticulous when it comes to working with vendors and others. After all, one wrong number on an order might result in disaster further down the chain. Interpersonal skills are vital to long-term success in supply chain logistics.
  • Organization:
    There is simply no such thing as a disorganized supply chain manager. SCM professionals need to be able to track multiple variables across a supply chain and have teams in place to execute their roles at the exact right times.
  • Negotiation:
    Very often, supply chain professionals are in a position to acquire raw materials or even services that help their firm. They therefore need to be capable of negotiating the best price for their firm. Managing costs in this way is imperative for long-term success.
  • Technology:
    SCM professionals need to have a range of technology skills. They need to be able to communicate with their firm's database managers and work with project management tools, too.

Alternative Paths


While the traditional route to success in supply chain management is to earn a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in the field, there are other ways to achieve the success you’re looking for. For those who already know that this is the career for them, its recommended that they enroll in an associate or bachelor’s business program. This is because, without a degree, their chances of landing the job they really want are far lower.

Since supply chain management is not a licensed position, it’s possible for nearly anyone with the right sorts of skills, talents, and supply chain experience to succeed in SCM. For instance, even a low-level warehouse worker might demonstrate the right talents and abilities to rise into management. They may then develop other skills that prompt other promotions. Eventually, they may find themselves working as SCM professionals without a single day in college.

For those who achieve success through this alternative method, it's recommended that they also seek out professional certifications from SCM associations. When professionals earn reputable certifications and then maintain them through continuing education courses, they show employers that they are dedicated to supply chain management and will thus receive the rewards.

Supply Chain Manager Career & Salary


Where Might You Work?


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Supply chain managers work in nearly every industry in every state and town. These professionals are also found throughout government. In fact, many receive their first exposure to supply chain logistics by way of military training. Military training in logistics is top notch, as the armed forces absolutely need airtight logistics to keep troops prepared. In the military, SCM specialists might help facilitate construction projects, healthcare needs, maintain inventories of clothing and other basics, as well as keep large projects on task.

In the civilian world, SCM experts can seek jobs with manufacturing firms that rely on raw materials. They work with database professionals to maintain inventories and can keep large building projects under budget and on time. They might also work with hospitals and thus seek to anticipate patient needs by analyzing epidemiological data. Healthcare systems also need SCM professionals who help with the essential physical plant of the organization. Retail firms in any sector likewise need to anticipate customer needs, negotiate prices, and even ship items all across the nation to customers as well as affiliated stores.

SCM and logistics professionals also work in non-profit organizations. For instance, organizations which send volunteers overseas to help with disasters need SCM professionals to keep everyone fed and outfitted with all the materials they need.

Career Outlook


Supply chain management is an employment sector that is gaining increasing interest. Our global economy demands that SCM specialists understand how to find the best materials and resources, on top of knowing how to construct winning supply chain strategies. For these reasons, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has very favorable numbers for this employment sector.

The BLS is currently reporting that the demand for logisticians will increase by 4% through 2029. This figure is characterized as, as fast as average. The BLS also shows that the median salary for logisticians is over $76,000 before bonuses. Meanwhile, related fields are reporting median salaries that range from $40,000 for quality control t over $108,000 for industrial production managers.

SCM professionals might even take their career path into work as consultants. Or their skills might translate into a job as a project manager. On the other hand, SCM experts can also work with smaller firms to help them design a supply chain system, maintain inventory control, or better manage their transportation and distribution systems. Other possible supply chain management careers include procurement specialists, inventory management, and import/export entrepreneur.

Jobs


Supply chain management is an integrated part of nearly every organization. As companies strive for increasing efficiencies and profitability, effective SCM becomes all the more important. After all, supply chain experts are essentially the glue that holds every organization together in the most effective and cohesive form possible.

Workers in the supply chain can be found working at the loading docks of a warehouse or on the corporate campus of one of the nation's largest companies. Thus, the industries and materials that they work with can vary widely and may include agricultural products such as flowers, athletic equipment, automotive parts, and packaged foodstuffs.

  • Purchasing Agent:
    This job involves finding the best items and negotiating the best prices for a firm. It will be imperative that the employee be able to keep track of inventory databases and the ongoing needs of the firm.
  • Supply Chain Planner:
    This employee may find themselves in the automotive sector and need to be able to analyze the flow of parts through the supply chain and then make that system more efficient. The candidate needs to be able to anticipate needs throughout the year and production cycles.
  • Wholesale Inventory Specialist:
    This professional will keep track of all shipments into the warehouse, as well as all of the supplies and equipment. Since many warehouses are attached to retail operation, the warehouse inventory specialist will then need to organize staff to package and ship items back out to stores.
  • Transportation Analyst:
    This position requires that workers oversee shipments as they travel from port to port through the supply chain. Since companies can sell their wares through over 100,000 retail stores nationwide, these jobs can be very demanding.

Advancing from Here


A worker who gets their start in a supply chain management position in any firm will learn much about that company's operations and may find that they can move up into an operations management position. Depending on the firm, a supply chain professional could take over a region of their retail operations. Others might negotiate other jobs with their firm. Since the supply chain is a fundamental part of how any business makes money, the possibilities are nearly limitless. Ultimately, if a supply chain professional returns to school for an MBA with a concentration in supply chain management, they could end up as the chief operations officer of their firm.

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