What Can You Do With a Supply Chain Management Degree?

by Matthew Sweeney
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The COVID-19 pandemic brought the need for effective supply chain management into focus, but the field has always been critical to daily and commercial life.

Have you ever wondered who coordinates companies' supplies of materials and products? Supply chain management is the area of management concerned with how companies source, transport, and purchase goods, even while dealing with factors like a global pandemic. The managers who oversee this process usually hold a bachelor's in supply chain management.

Read on for our primer on what to expect from a supply chain management degree as well as job options, potential salaries, and career resources for graduates.

Careers in Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management graduates typically go into industries like manufacturing distribution, wholesale trade, and retail trading. Below, you'll find some common career choices open to supply chain management graduates. Keep in mind that a supply chain management degree can also help you in a variety of careers not listed here.

Logistician

Median Annual Salary (2020): $76,270
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 4%

Logisticians coordinate a company's supply chain, directing and managing the allocation of materials, supplies, and products. They also analyze the logistical needs of an organization, drawing upon their degree coursework in logistics analysis to do so. These professionals typically need at least a bachelor's degree, though sometimes an associate degree is sufficient.

Operations Research Analysts

Median Annual Salary (2020): $86,200
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 25%

Operations research analysts help organizations run more efficiently through a combination of field research, statistical analysis, and data collection. These professionals often work in finance, insurance, management, or manufacturing. This position usually requires at least a bachelor's degree.

Supply Chain Managers

Median Annual Salary (2020): $96,390
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 4%

Supply chain managers manage the flow of products from manufacturer to supplier, handling production, purchasing, warehousing, and distribution services for organizations. Typically, this position requires a bachelor's degree in supply chain management.

Industrial Production Managers

Median Annual Salary (2020): $108,790
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 1%

Industrial production managers work at manufacturing plants in many different industries. They set, meet, and report on a plant's production goals, using management science and reverse logistics, as taught in a supply chain management degree. This position generally requires a bachelor's degree.

Purchasing Managers

Median Annual Salary (2020): $125,940
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 3%

Purchasing managers oversee and coordinate the work of buyers and purchasing agents for organizations in industries like retail, manufacturing, and wholesale trade. The most relevant course topics for this career are sourcing, procurement, purchasing, and inventory management. This position requires at least a bachelor's degree in supply chain management.

What Kinds of Supply Chain Management Degrees Are There?

A variety of supply chain management degrees can prepare you for your career goals, and finding the right one depends on your needs. For instance, a future purchasing manager will need at least a bachelor's degree, while a future purchasing assistant will need only an associate degree.


Associate Degree in Supply Chain Management

An associate degree in supply chain management, which typically takes two years to complete, gives learners a solid foundation for a career in supply chain management and logistics. Graduates often become purchasing assistants, inventory analysts, and transportation managers, especially when they combine the degree with a professional certificate.

Some learners may choose to use a supply chain management associate as a springboard to earning a supply chain management bachelor's degree, with the associate counting toward general education requirements.


Bachelor of Supply Chain Management Degree

A four-year bachelor's in supply chain management meets the educational benchmark for most supply chain management careers. Graduates with an online supply chain management bachelor's typically find work as distribution managers, quality control analysts, and inventory analysts.

Coursework covers management science, operations management, and logistics and purchasing. Many students opt to earn their bachelor's degrees with a specialized concentration, such as public administration or environmental sustainability.


Master's Degree in Supply Chain Management

Some supply chain management professionals go on to earn a master's in supply chain management right after their bachelor's, while others return to school mid-career to earn this advanced degree. A master's is best suited to professionals who are interested in executive or management careers.

A master's degree prepares students for high responsibility positions, such as procurement manager or global supply chain analyst. The curriculum in a supply chain management master's program covers topics such as sourcing and procurement, global leadership, and supply chain analytics.

While this degree takes two years to complete and usually costs more than a four-year bachelor's, it can significantly boost professional credentials and earning potential.

What Is the Difference Between a Master's Degree in Supply Chain Management and an MBA in Supply Chain Management?

A master's degree in supply chain management focuses on specialized topics, such as sustainable operations, logistics management, and supply chain coordination. This curriculum prepares graduates for positions in procurement management and logistics analysis.

An MBA in supply chain management covers more general aspects of business, such as finance, organizational management, and accounting, with some concentration coursework in supply chain logistics. Graduates may pursue general management positions, such as project manager.


Doctoral Degree in Supply Chain Management

After earning a master's, some professionals and students continue their studies for another 4-6 years to earn a doctoral degree in supply chain management.

A supply chain management doctorate usually prepares graduates for highly specialized positions in consulting or education. For example, they might become business professors specializing in supply chain management. A doctorate can also prepare a graduate to work as a chief operating officer, overseeing an entire company's operations.

Accreditation for Supply Chain Management Programs

When researching supply chain management degrees, start by looking up programmatic and college accreditation. The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs accredits supply chain management programs, meaning that programs with ACBSP accreditation meet the benchmark for curriculum requirements and contemporary relevance within the discipline.

For institutional accreditation, only consider programs from regionally accredited schools. This ensures that you can transfer credits should you decide to switch schools, and it guarantees that your degree will be recognized by employers.

Certification and Licensure

Currently, there is no licensure requirement for working in the supply chain field. However, you can pursue certifications to demonstrate your abilities and advance professionally. Most of the following certifications require either a bachelor's in supply chain management or extensive professional experience to qualify.

Certified Supply Chain Professional Certification (CSCP)

The American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) offers the CSCP certification in concert with the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM). The certification is designed for general supply chain management careers, such as logistics and transportation management. To maintain certification, certificate holders must submit 75-100 continuing education credits every five years.

Certified Professional in Supply Management® (CPSM®)

The CPSM certificate, offered through the Institute for Supply Management, is for professionals who wish to work in procurement, financial management, and sourcing management positions. The CPSM certification is valid for three years, during which time the certificate holder must complete and submit 60 continuing education credits for recertification.

SCPro™ Certification

The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) offers the SCPro certification as a general credential for supply chain professionals. Certificate holders who make it to the third tier must submit a real-world project related to supply chain management. To recertify, certificate holders must submit 25 continuing education units every two years.

Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM)

APICS and ASCM's CPIM certification is designed for industrial production managers and professionals who work in materials management, production planning, and other manufacturing-specific aspects of supply chain management. The CPIM certification lasts five years, during which time professionals must earn 75 credits of continuing education units to renew their credentials.

Project Management Professional (PMP)®

The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers the PMP certification for experienced project managers. The certification validates your ability to lead projects and teams in business contexts, including supply chain management. The certificate remains valid for three years, during which time you must complete 60 units of continuing education to recertify.

Supply Chain Management Professional Organizations

One of the largest organizations representing supply chain management professionals in the world, ASCM advocates for supply chain leaders through continuing education, networking resources, and the SCM Now publication. ASCM has recently partnered with APICS, offering exam prep for APICS certification exams through its online Supply Chain Learning Center. CSCMP represents over 6,000 supply chain management professionals around the world. A yearly student membership grants discounted access to the annual EDGE conference, along with networking opportunities and access to the organization's online library of case studies, research, and surveys. The UK-based CIPS has advanced the field of supply and procurement management globally since 1932. Student membership in the organization helps aspiring professionals build up qualifications through a competence-based program that awards either a certificate, advanced certificate, diploma, or advanced diploma, which students can list alongside their accredited graduate degrees. WERC is the only organization that represents warehouse professionals working in the supply chain management field. WERC's online resources for young professionals include online courses in topics like warehouse technologies, leadership development, and warehouse operations. The organization also offers a Facility Assessment and Certification program for established professionals who are overseeing their own facilities. ISSP advocates for upholding Lean Six Sigma standards for mitigating waste and improving productivity and quality. ISSP certification demonstrates a dedication to excellence and living up to the standards of Lean Six Sigma training and consulting providers. The organization also offers webinars on operations research and logistics. At 30,000 members strong worldwide, CILT is one of the leading professional organizations for supply chain, logistics, and transportation management professionals. The organization offers student memberships for learners enrolled either in CILT International courses or in programs related to logistics and transport.

Common Questions About Supply Chain Degrees

true Is Supply Chain Management a Good Degree?

Yes, a supply chain management degree is versatile and prepares graduates for a variety of in-demand jobs across the globe.

true What Kind of Jobs Can You Get With a Supply Chain Management Degree?

Logistics and supply chain management positions are the most common for graduates with this degree, but it can also help graduates secure general business positions, such as project manager.

true What Degree Is Needed for Supply Chain Management?

An accredited bachelor's in supply chain management, business administration, or a related degree is required for most supply chain management careers. However, some positions may accept an associate.

true How Much Do Supply Chain Majors Make?

Supply chain bachelor's degree-holders make about $42,500 annually, according to PayScale. Supply chain majors with master's make almost double that.

true What Are the Best Jobs in the Supply Chain Field?

The highest-paid jobs in supply chain management aree purchasing managers and operations research analysts.

Header Image Credit: Alistair Berg | Getty Images

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