Play a pivotal role in how goods and services are produced, distributed, and delivered to their destination
The U.S. supply chain accounts for 37% of all domestic jobs, according to the Harvard Business Review. Every supply chain consists of multiple steps, each with distinct responsibilities. Those entering this field have a number of focus areas to explore, including logistics, distribution, inventory management, quality assurance, transportation, and warehousing.
This work also brings high visibility, since what you do can directly impact a company’s financial success and reputation with the public. We’ve developed this guide to equip you with the information you need to understand the supply chain management career path.
Why pursue a career in supply chain management?
Starting on a path in supply chain management can lead to an enriching career. Jobs are varied enough that you can easily find a position that aligns with your individual strengths and qualifications. Keep reading to learn about some of the benefits of working in this field.
Supply chain management career outlook
As more organizations expand their business operations, the supply chain management career outlook is on par with the average projected growth for all occupations — 4% from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Supply chains, which are becoming increasingly global and complex, are being disrupted and transformed by technology. The outlook is brightest for professionals who are up on the latest trends and have experience with modern software and tools.
Opportunities for advancement with education
The majority of supply chain management positions are open to those with a bachelor’s degree and don’t require a master’s degree. Logisticians gain a great deal of experience on the job and can usually be considered for advanced positions within five years of hiring. In addition to logistics managers, there are also jobs available for purchasing managers, distribution managers, and operations managers.
Supply chain management salary
High demand in this field means generous supply chain management salaries. The BLS reports that logisticians earned a median annual salary of $74,750 as of May 2019. Salaries may vary based on education, experience, job location, and industry. For example, logisticians working in the federal government earned a median annual salary of $85,450 while those working in wholesale trade earned $65,820.
Analysts are typically offered even higher salaries than logisticians, with operations research analysts having earned a median salary of $84,810.
Ability to solve new challenges
Working in supply chain management, you’ll be met with new challenges every day that require quick action. As a result, you’ll become a better communicator, critical thinker, and decision-maker and build new skills that can position you for future advancement.
Opportunity for travel
Supply chain managers must be able to travel from site to site to confirm that all processes are running smoothly. If your organization has a global reach, this may include international travel.
Industry trends in supply chain management
When you know what’s happening in the industry, you can focus on obtaining the most up-to-date skills. Below we’ve provided a snapshot of current trends.
For many years, the supply chain industry has relied on technology to improve the delivery of goods and services. Drones and artificial intelligence are being increasingly employed to transport products from warehouses to consumers.
Drones that can lift goods without the need to rely on forklifts are being developed. The use of robotics is also automating processes such as inventory tracking and safety inspections. Amazon and other companies are testing out drones to transfer products between warehouses and distribution centers.
Artificial intelligence in the form of chatbots is making procurement tasks easier by placing purchase orders and sending automated messages to suppliers.
The future of supply chain management will most certainly involve machine learning. Machine learning facilitates the analysis and interpretation of big data to provide managers with insights needed to make well-informed decisions affecting their company’s supply and demand.
To save on overhead costs, an increasing number of companies are sharing warehouses and logistics suppliers. Outsourcing to a third party can save companies significant time and money and can be done in a few key areas or for the entire supply chain. These third-party supply chain operations have developed established control mechanisms and a strong network design that make them attractive to business owners.
Contrary to popular belief, not all of this work goes to offshore companies. Many organizations are instead choosing local options to handle the logistics side of their business.
Businesses are continuing to stress the importance of sustainability in all areas of operation. The main way supply chains are becoming more environmentally conscious is through changes to packaging options, such as switching from plastic to cardboard. Manufacturers are making their packaging more compact to reduce their carbon footprint.
More organizations now rely on circular supply chains instead of traditional linear versions. In this model, instead of materials going into landfills, they are recycled and reused to make additional products. Today’s consumers appreciate the use of a circular supply chain and consider it a reflection of a brand’s commitment to the environment.
How to become a supply chain manager
Depending on your exact supply chain management career path, there may be some variation in the journey, but several aspects will overlap.
As an aspiring professional, your first step in how to become a supply chain manager is to earn a postsecondary education in a relevant field of study, such as a bachelor’s in business, finance, or supply management. With a bachelor’s, you’ll be prepared for most entry-level positions across different sectors, but to advance your career, you may need further education.
If you want to position yourself for optimal professional opportunities, a graduate-level supply chain management degree will be helpful. This can come in different forms, such as a master’s in management and leadership specializing in global supply chains or a master’s in business administration with a concentration in supply chain management.
Various certifications and licenses are available depending on your specialization, and all of them can help you stand out amid your competition. These usually require a few years of on-the-job experience before you can earn them.
One example is certification through the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), a global leader of supply chain training and certification for over 60 years. Its network of thought leadership can enhance your understanding of all aspects of supply chain work.
Supply chain management careers
Supply chain management truly offers something for everyone, whether you prefer to work in the office doing data analysis and planning or out in the field.
Individuals who work within a supply chain can be involved in scheduling, purchasing, inventory management, quality control, distribution, warehousing, packaging, assembly, and more. At the management level, this means ensuring that your part of the supply chain is performing its duties effectively and efficiently.
Supply chain management internships
Many organizations offer internships related to the supply chain management industry, such as:
Popular areas in supply chain management
Storage and distribution
Repairs, maintenance, and recycling
Packaging and delivery
What kinds of positions are available for a career in supply chain management?
You’ll likely take on a few different roles at varying levels throughout your supply chain management career, as you develop skills, accumulate experience, and narrow the focus of how you want to specialize.
A bachelor’s degree is a must to qualify for an entry-level position in this industry. Many online programs offer a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialization in supply chain management.
Focused supply chain management degrees are also available. Upon receiving your degree, you may be able to gain industry experience through one of the following positions:
Logistics analyst, $58,713
Supply chain planner, $64,844
Purchasing agent, $69,600
Advanced supply chain management jobs
Pursuing an education in this field can help prepare you for advanced positions by allowing you to hone hard skills in areas such as production management, inventory control, chain of operations, and global supply chain logistics.
Studying supply chain management can also equip you with the knowledge to become professionally certified through ASCM, which offers endorsement options for professionals looking to advance into the following types of supply chain management careers:
Purchasing manager, $121,110
Logistics manager, $114,670
Distribution manager, $94,775
Operations manager, $100,780
Top skills and digital tools in supply chain management
You’ll be required to master a combination of different skill types to excel in supply chain management. We’ve compiled the top technical skills and soft skills that employers are looking for in supply chain professionals.
Business and supply chain competencies make up 80% of the fastest-growing skills in this industry; basic technical skills make up the remaining 20%.
Supply chain management offers an array of opportunities in warehouses, distribution centers, manufacturing plants, and office settings.
Professionals can oversee on-site operations or work in a business setting to organize the processes that enable supply chains to operate effectively. Salaries and benefits are competitive because of the high demand for qualified professionals to oversee each step of the chain.
There are also multiple opportunities to specialize as you proceed down your supply chain management career path. With the use of advanced technology on the rise, managers and analysts who are trained in big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence will be highly desirable to potential employers. With respect to soft skills, managers should be excellent communicators, strong critical thinkers, and quick learners.
If a career in supply chain management sounds like it might be a good fit for you, we can help you take your next step with our recommendation engine designed with your future in mind.