A Career in Supply Chain and Why it Might be Right for You

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supplychainmgtEvery day across the country and the world, supply chain management and logistical practices are carried out to bring you everything from the daily newspaper to your favorite store-bought products at incredibly low prices. And you can thank supply chain managers for a job well done.

In fact, many industry-leading companies such as Apple, Nokia, Toyota and others frequently cite supply chain management as a major contributing factor to their success. As a result, supply chain management has been touted as the sexiest job in the world!

In this guide, we’ll talk about what future SCM professionals can expect from this varied field and whether it’s the right career for you.

What Supply Chain Management Professionals Do

Supply chain and logistical managers handle the behind-the-scenes aspects of bringing products to consumers, including planning, production, purchasing, distribution and storage, customer service and more.

Their function is to connect various sectors of the business and control company expenses, improve profits and increase sales. More specifically, they:

  • Oversee the selection and management of company suppliers
  • Support and streamline manufacturing processes wherever possible
  • Monitor product flows and collaboratively respond to potential delivery issues
  • Use transportation and distribution best practices to bolster ad campaigns

In short, businesses of nearly every size and type employ supply chain managers to facilitate smooth departmental transitions and it’s for this reason that many graduates are in high demand.

Is a Career in Supply Chain Management Right for You?

While SCM offers many specializations and opens many doors, there are five key qualities companies look for in graduates. These include:

  • A macro-management personality
  • An ability to think systematically
  • Strong leadership skills
  • An understanding of technology
  • Superior business skills

That said, you’ll need to be interested in organization and efficiency to really consider supply chain management as a viable career prospect. Fortunately, you will have a diverse range of advancement opportunities should you pursue the field.

Salary Outlook and Opportunities

This is an enormous and growing industry, and companies are implementing an ever-evolving spectrum of information and management systems to remain competitive.

Many are beginning to outsource fulfilment services to keep up with demand, so there are plenty of new positions being created. Some of the more standard job roles are listed below.

Supply Chain Manager

The supply chain manager is primarily responsible for promoting teamwork between the sales and customer service teams. They develop policies on operational procedures and maintaining inventory levels, and generally have access to the highest earning potential by comparison.

Average salary: $51,252 – $113,190

Median pay: $81,378


These professionals work with internal customers and external suppliers to coordinate the purchase of products and services. Buyers are responsible for evaluating and selecting suppliers, identifying supply sources, negotiating contracts and managing supplier relationships.

Average salary: $35,465 – $71,423

Median pay: $49,616

Materials Managers

Graduates who find work as materials managers are responsible for inbound inventory levels, coordinating purchasing and manufacturing, and deal with suppliers to ensure the cost-efficient delivery of all materials and components used by organizations.

Average salary: $45,253 – $97,506

Median pay: $70,181

Supply Chain Analyst

If you’re interested in using quantitative and analytical methods to develop and perfect supply chain processes, you’ll find this a rewarding career. You’d be responsible for analyzing the performance of supply chains, identifying any potential problems, and developing recommendations in support of management.

Average salary: $41,017 – $74,477

Median pay: $55,387

Logistics Manager

The primary responsibility of a logistics manager is to oversee the internal operation of a company’s logistics department and manage its staff. They are also responsible for coordinating the storage of inventory and ensuring materials are properly distributed to their next destination.

Average salary: $40,006 – $92,486

Median pay: $61,563

Purchasing Manager

Purchasing managers are involved in all facets of a company’s business. They find cost-saving alternatives, implement corporate strategies, and are often called upon to review new project proposals and maintain constant interaction with marketing and sales teams.

Average salary: $41,416 – $93,513

Median pay: $62,205

Opportunities and Potential Pathways

Students should be aware there is no standard career path as upward mobility remains an attractive aspect of the industry, though your personal interests and skill set are largely going to influence your decisions.

At one end, you’ll find operations-focused positions that involve action-oriented managerial responsibilities at distribution terminals. At the other, jobs are created around more traditional office working environments with graduates working in analytical capacities.

But what are the prospects for students in their final year?

According to Dr. Chris Caplice, executive director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, 97 percent of student completing a master’s degree in SMC had one or more job offers by the time they finished, 93 accepted offers at graduation and 100 percent accepted offers within three months of graduating.

Of course, these figures will vary state by state and from college to college. However, any of the companies listed in the annual Supply Chain Top 25 Ranking will be looking to the next generation of managers and logistics experts to keep the world economy turning.

College Degrees and Popular Majors

While having a relevant education is essential for those determined to enter the workforce immediately after graduation, it’s also important for students to undertake those degrees they find appealing.

Given the broad scope of the field, a broad range of majors exist, some of which use interchangeable terms when describing management, logistics and operations in the title.

For reference, students may find the following majors helpful:

  • supply chain management
  • organizational management
  • global supply chain management
  • business process management
  • project management and sustainability
  • operations and project management
  • small business management

This list is by no means a comprehensive one and is intended to be used as a guide only. Generally, if your college offers any courses in business management, you’re likely to encounter subjects relating to the supply chain.

Education and Training

Aside from ensuring the college degree you elect to study is nationally recognized, recent graduates and supply chain management professionals can further distinguish themselves by earning an industry-recognized certification.

For those in the early stages of their career, it can be difficult to make an informed choice; however, there are three supply chain certifications that can help you land a job in the industry.

We’ll focus on the Association for Operations Management (APICS) and the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) which provide training services and recognize the following designations:

  • CPSM: The Certified Professional in Supply Management designation offered by ISM, will set you apart as an expert in critical areas of global supply chain management
  • CPIM: The Certified Production and Inventory Management certification as offered by APICS, has a reputation amongst thousands of employers worldwide.
  • CSCP: The Certified Supply Chain Professional designation also offered by APICS, is the most widely recognized credential in the supply chain industry.

Earning these particular certifications demonstrates a clear level of commitment to your chosen field and career as a whole. In these cases, you will need to complete a series of exams before certification can be awarded.

Exploring careers in business? Be sure to check out the entire series of career exploration posts!

A Career in Real Estate 

A Career in Marketing

A Career in Business Law

A Career in Finance

A Career in Accounting

A Career in Insurance

A Career in Supply Chain

A Career in Human Resources

A Career in Management

A Career in Sales

A Career in Consulting

About the Author

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer, blogger, and aspiring world traveler. Sarah is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a site on which she shares advice for young professionals on navigating the work world, and finding happiness and success at work. For more on all things career follow her @SarahLandrum

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