What Is Transportation Management?

Transportation managers enjoy fast-paced careers with positive job growth projections. Find out more about transportation management.

portrait of Meg Whitenton
by Meg Whitenton

Published August 16, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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What Is Transportation Management?
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Transportation management follows a product through the supply chain, from procurement to delivery. The role of managing the transportation of goods is critical to national and global supply chains and requires highly organized and efficient leaders. Managers with advanced project management, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills are drawn to this occupation.

Companies across many diverse sectors of business require skilled transportation managers, especially manufacturing, shipping, technology, and waste management. These industries rely on transportation managers, logisticians, and transportation engineers to maintain essential shipping and receiving supply chains. Explore careers in transportation management below.

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What Does a Transportation Manager Do?

Transportation managers and transportation engineers coordinate all aspects of the transport and delivery of goods. They use documentation and communication skills to follow a product through the supply chain, from procurement, to inventory, to delivery. Transportation managers are involved in all aspects of scheduling, budgeting, and trouble-shooting the delivery process.

Transportation managers must be adept at handling multiple tasks at once. They should possess excellent communication, negotiation, and analytical skills, and work well under pressure. Educated, experienced transportation managers often pursue logistics management or urban planning jobs.

Transportation, storage, and distribution managers earned a mean annual wage of $105,580 as of May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These professionals may aspire to advanced roles and higher pay in positions such as vice president of operations, earning an average salary of $133,100 as of July 2022, according to Payscale.

Where Do Transportation Managers Work?

Any company that ships and receives products requires an effective transportation management system. While transportation management duties may fall on general managers at smaller companies, most large corporations, especially in manufacturing, hire dedicated transportation managers to oversee a team or department.

Transportation managers are most concentrated in industries including warehousing and storage, trucking, and coastal and water transportation. According to Payscale, companies like J.B. Hunt, Amazon, and UPS are among the top employers of transportation managers.

Careers in Transportation Management

Transportation management includes occupations like transportation director, operations manager, and urban planner specializing in transportation.

Compared to logisticians and urban planners, transportation, storage, and distribution managers are top earners in their field. The BLS reports that transportation management employs nearly 145,000 workers nationwide, especially in the coastal transportation and automotive rental industries. California employs the most people in this sector with 23,420 transportation, storage, and distribution workers in the state.

The following are common careers in transportation management.

Logistician

Logisticians manage the supply chain, or entire life cycle from acquisition to delivery, of a product. Specific duties include supervising procurement, transportation, and inventory management. Employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in business or supply chain management, or a related field.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021)
$77,030

Career Outlook
30% projected job growth from 2020-2030

Degree Level
Bachelor's degree


Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Manager

Transportation, storage, and distribution managers include logisticians. These managers coordinate each phase of the supply chain of a product and also focus on ensuring that transportation and delivery methods comply with government regulations. While some employers may accept experience in lieu of a degree, most prefer at least a bachelor's degree.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021)
$98,230

Career Outlook
8% projected job growth from 2020-2030

Degree Level
No Degree Specified


Urban and Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners develop programs for how to use land to accommodate emerging communities and a growing population. Plans include civic services buildings, city parks, and long- and short-term housing. Urban and regional planners may specialize in an area like transportation planning. Most jobs require a master's degree in urban planning or a related field.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021)
$78,500

Career Outlook
7% projected job growth from 2020-2030

Degree Level
Master's degree

Education

Transportation managers typically need a bachelor's degree in business, logistics, supply chain management, or a related field for entry-level positions. Employers may accept candidates with an associate degree and extensive experience for jobs that include on-the-job training.

Graduates of a master's program such as an MBA may qualify for senior roles in transportation management, urban planning jobs, or teaching positions in community colleges or vocational schools. An advanced degree may also help professionals advance to executive jobs like CEO.

For professionals who hold a degree in an unrelated field, or wish to hone their skills, a certification in transportation and logistics can provide specialized training in the field.

Is Transportation Management Right for Me?

Transportation managers need wide-ranging skills in leadership and communication. The field of transportation management tends to attract successful multi-taskers who can keep their composure even under pressure. Transportation managers need advanced interpersonal skills and problem-solving abilities.

The best transportation managers are organized and strategic critical-thinkers. Candidates should be comfortable managing multiple projects simultaneously, and seamlessly shifting between tasks like negotiation, budgeting, and scheduling. Transportation management suits professionals seeking a diverse and challenging role in a fast-paced environment.

Transportation management could be right for you if you…

  • Can easily manage multiple aspects of a project at the same time.
  • Are organized and focused on reliably meeting deadlines to deliver goods and services.
  • Look for ways to constantly improve upon existing logistical systems and strategy.
  • Possess excellent critical-thinking and problem-solving skills for unexpected obstacles.
  • Can work closely with both suppliers and customers in a collaborative environment.
  • Understand the importance of excellent communication and customer service.

Frequently Asked Questions About Transportation Management

What degree do I need to work in transportation management?

While education requirements vary, most jobs in transportation management require a bachelor's degree. Graduates of a bachelor's degree can qualify for careers as logisticians or transportation managers. Urban and regional planners typically require a master's degree to enter the field.

Some employers may accept candidates with an associate degree or even a high school diploma and years of experience in supply chain management, for entry-level jobs. In some cases, employers will allow new hires to receive training on the job or continue working while completing a bachelor's degree.

How much money does a transportation manager make?

Transportation managers earn a mean annual wage of $105,580, according to the BLS. Candidates may earn more or less, depending on factors including their education, experience, and location. For example, aspiring transportation managers can also become logisticians or urban planners, earning median annual salaries of $77,030 and $78,500, respectively, according to the BLS.

California, Texas, and Illinois employ the largest concentrations of transportation managers. The top-paying locations for transportation managers are the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Can I get a transportation management degree online?

Yes, many schools feature online learning options for students interested in transportation management.

Some online programs include an experiential learning component such as an internship. Students may seek out additional hands-on experience to supplement their degree or pursue an education while working in the transportation industry. Employers do not differentiate between candidates educated on campus or online.

Is transportation management hard?

While a program's level of difficulty is relative, transportation management is best-suited to a particular type of student. Transportation management may seem "hard" to students who overwhelm easily, panic under pressure, or mismanage deadlines in the process of multitasking.

Job duties in this occupation require candidates to stay on task, follow a project through to its end, and meet deadlines. Students who find such tasks difficult in the process of earning a degree are likely not suited to a career in transportation management.

What are key skills for transportation managers?

Candidates for careers in this field should be organized, detail-oriented, and adept at problem-solving. This occupation also requires excellent negotiation, interpersonal, and diplomacy skills. Transportation managers increasingly rely on transportation management software to manage day-to-day tasks.

Transportation management jobs also require focus and stamina, to see a project through to its end. Key skills include the ability to shift tasks, resolve conflicts, and think creatively when faced with critical logistics issues. Professionals must also be skilled in the latest technology and transportation management systems.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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