Supply chain management (SCM) is the oversight of materials, information and finances as they move from supplier to consumer. SCM professionals essentially manage the entire lifecycle of a product: how it's acquired, distributed, allocated and delivered.
Many major industries, retail, tech, manufacturing, and even the federal government, have a need for qualified supply management experts, making it one of the most in-demand jobs in the marketplace today. Opportunities range from day-to-day, on-site management of people and product flows to office-type positions in charge of supply management, demand forecasting and inventory control. Professionals who thrive in an ever-changing environment and are looking for a rewarding career shift will feel at home in this position. An online master's in supply management will give prospects a major boost in the marketplace and allow them to command a high starting salary (and negotiate a big signing bonus).
What are the best supply chain management programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||University of Southern California||Los Angeles, CA|
|2||University of Washington||Seattle, WA|
|3||Boston University||Boston, MA|
|4||University of Maryland, College Park||College Park, MD|
|5||Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey||New Brunswick, NJ|
|6||Georgia College and State University||Milledgeville, GA|
|7||Michigan State University||East Lansing, MI|
|8||Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University||Daytona Beach, FL|
|9||Indiana University Bloomington||Bloomington, IN|
|10||University of St. Francis||Joliet, IL|
Employment of logisticians in government and contracting firms is expected to jump 22% by 2022, according to the BLS.
- IS A MASTER'S DEGREE IN SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT WORTH IT?
Generally, a bachelor's degree is required for most supply chain management positions. However, a master's degree combined with experience in the field can give candidates a competitive edge. Read more here..
- WHAT IS A SUPPLY CHAIN DEGREE?
A supply chain management degree trains students to oversee materials, information, and finances as they move from supplier to consumer. Read more here..
- WHAT CAN I DO WITH A SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT DEGREE?
With a supply chain management degree, you can oversee the entire lifecycle of a product, from the initial allocation of materials to final product delivery to clients. Read more here..
- HOW TO GET INTO A SUPPLY CHAIN WITHOUT A DEGREE
Supply chain management is a competitive field, which gives educated professionals an advantage. Along with certification, individuals without a degree may need significant experience in the field to succeed. Read more here..
- WHAT IS A SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT DEGREE GRADUATE SALARY?
Salaries for supply chain managers depend on years of experience and the field in which they work (e.g., wholesale, retail, or manufacturing). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents was $64,850 in 2016. Read more here..
Accredited Online Master's in Supply Chain Management Programs
University of Southern California
|Los Angeles, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 92%||
USC delivers several online programs through the Blackboard platform, including an online master of science in global supply chain management. Most students complete this part-time, 30-credit program in 16 months. Program graduates can find work in logistics, procurement, and demand planning.
Program coursework covers topics like enterprise-wide information systems, sourcing and supplier management, and applications of Lean Sigma Six. Students also learn to create sustainable supply chains in an ever-changing international economy. To earn their online master's degree in supply chain management, distance learners must complete two experiential modules in Los Angeles and Singapore.
Applicants should have a competitive GPA and three years of full-time work experience. Online students do not need to submit standardized test scores for admission.
University of Washington
|Seattle, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 84%||
UW provides career-focused certificates and degrees through its Professional and Continuing Education platform, including an online master's in supply chain transportation and logistics that part-time students can earn in two years. Throughout the program's 43-quarter-credit curriculum, learners gain the analytical and quantitative skills needed to succeed as commodity managers, sustainability analysts, and import/export agents.
Required courses in the program include inventory management and freight transport. Students also learn to use IT systems to evaluate organizational performance and cut costs. This online master's program requires students to attend a one-week residency at the school's Seattle campus.
UW admits a cohort of about 30 students each fall. In addition to a minimum 3.0 GPA, applicants should have 3-5 years of relevant work experience. The university does not require GMAT or GRE scores for admission.
|Boston, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 88%||
BU has offered award-winning online academic programs since 2002. Today, the institution serves approximately 3,200 distance learners through flexible programs like an online master of science in supply chain management.
Students can complete BU's 40-credit supply chain management program in 18 months, choosing from a fully online curriculum or a hybrid learning experience. Required courses in the program include financial concepts, operations management, and strategic decision-making. Students take advanced classes in one of three concentrations: global business, quantitative approaches, or logistics management.
BU accepts applications on a rolling basis. Students interested in earning this master's in supply chain management must submit transcripts, a personal statement, a resume or CV, and three recommendation letters. The university charges competitive tuition rates and offers a variety of scholarships, grants, and graduate assistantships.
University of Maryland, College Park
|College Park, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 86%||
The flagship institution for the state's university system, UMD serves approximately 41,000 students. The school's graduate offerings include an online master of science in supply chain management. Students complete the program in 1-2 years, gaining the specialized skills needed to work as corporate buyers, key account specialists, and logistics officers.
The program's 30-credit, non-thesis curriculum covers topics like project management in dynamic environments, data-driven decision-making, strategic negotiation, and risk assessment. Participants can obtain the Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt designation from the International Association for Six Sigma Certification.
This master's in supply chain management program only admits students for the fall semester. Applicants should submit a personal essay, one letter of recommendation, and a current resume. UMD also recommends that applicants submit GMAT or GRE scores. UMD's supply chain management program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
|New Brunswick, NJ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
Rutgers uses the Canvas platform to deliver 17 fully online undergraduate and graduate degrees, including an online master of science in supply chain management that students can earn within one year. By completing this 30-credit program, graduates gain transferable leadership and technical skills that allow them to work in a variety of industries.
Program coursework covers topics like global procurement, business-to-business marketing, and Lean Sigma Six. Students also examine the key roles enterprise resource planning systems play in business endeavors. Students can choose to attend a "mini-MBA" residency to expand their professional network and earn a digital supply chain management certificate.
Students can enter the program at one of three start dates per year. The program prefers applicants with a minimum 3.0 GPA and reasonable experience with supply chain concepts. However, applicants do not need to submit standardized test scores.
Georgia College and State University
|Milledgeville, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
Georgia College is a public liberal arts institution that provides academic programs to approximately 7,000 students. The college's graduate programs include a fully online master of logistics and supply chain management. Participants gain the business and technological skills needed to implement enterprise strategies that can enhance organizational performance.
This master's in supply chain management program operates a cohort-based format in which all students take two classes each semester in a lockstep sequence. The 30-credit curriculum includes courses in international trade environment, distribution and inventory control, and purchasing and materials management. Learners can use the program's three required electives to pursue their own professional interests.
Georgia College grants GMAT/GRE waivers to applicants with a minimum 3.15 undergraduate GPA and a bachelor's degree from a school accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The program accepts new students in the fall.
Michigan State University
|East Lansing, MI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
MSU delivers 10 online certificates and degrees through the Desire2Learn platform. Graduate students may enroll in a flexible master of science in supply chain management program. Throughout the program's 31-credit curriculum, students develop the analytical and IT competencies necessary to implement integrated enterprise strategies.
Required courses in the program include distribution fulfillment, strategic sourcing, and logistics operations methods and systems. This supply chain management program uses a hybrid format and requires learners to attend three collaborative weekend residencies at the school's East Lansing campus. The program culminates in a research project.
Prospective students need a minimum 3.0 GPA and two years of professional supply chain experience. Admission requirements include a detailed resume, three recommendation letters, and two personal statements. The program does not accept transfer credits.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
|Daytona Beach, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 19%||
Based in Daytona Beach, Florida, Embry-Riddle serves more than 14,000 students through its Worldwide Campus. The university offers an entirely online master of science in logistics and supply chain management that delivers all coursework asynchronously through the Canvas platform.
Core courses in the program include transportation management, global logistics, and information analysis and visualization in decision-making. The curriculum includes a unique focus on production and procurement in the aviation/aerospace industry. Graduates are prepared to pursue professional certification from organizations like the Association for Operations Management.
Applicants must submit a statement of objectives, three recommendation letters, an up-to-date resume, and GMAT or GRE scores. Embry-Riddle supports distance learners by offering several financial aid opportunities and a generous transfer credit policy. This supply chain management program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
Indiana University Bloomington
|Bloomington, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 78%||
IU offers over 140 online certificates and degrees to distance learners, including a fully online master of science in global supply chain management. This program prepares students to pursue careers as purchasing agents, production managers, and logistics analysts.
The program's 30-credit curriculum includes required courses like sustainable operations, inventory management and system distribution, and strategic marketing. Students also examine the entire project cycle, learning best practices in sourcing and enterprise planning. IU also offers a dual-degree track that allows students to earn online master's degrees in supply chain management and business management concurrently.
Applicants must submit GMAT or GRE scores, a 500-word personal statement, a resume, and three recommendations. Prospective students must also complete an interview. IU provides a tuition discount to Indiana residents.
University of St. Francis
|Joliet, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Located in Joliet, Illinois, USF offers 20 flexible graduate programs, including an online master of science in management with a supply chain management concentration. Full-time students can graduate in 15 months. Learners may complete a fully online curriculum or engage in hybrid learning by taking some classes on campus.
The program's 36-credit curriculum includes courses like performance measurement, leading continuous improvement, and applied research and evaluation. As part of their concentration, students learn to apply logistics analysis principles to implement sustainable supply chains across international markets.
USF maintains fall, spring, and summer start dates. Applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA and two years of relevant work experience. This program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
Interview with an Expert
Shay Scott, Ph.D., is executive director of the Global Supply Chain Institute and serves on the faculty of the department of marketing and supply chain management at the University of Tennessee. In this capacity, Scott works closely with the institute's corporate and institutional partners to advance the knowledge and practice of supply chains globally.
- Why did you choose a career in supply chain management? Was this something that always interested you?
Supply chain management provides an unparalleled variety of challenges and opportunities, which drew me to the field. I began my career in construction management after completing an engineering degree. My experience in construction opened my eyes to the potential for an organization to create sustained, competitive advantage through supply chain management. In the twenty years since I made that decision, the field has continued to develop and allows me to use both my analytical skills as well as my relational and leadership skills.
- Why did you earn an MBA in supply chain management? Was it required to meet your career goals? Could you have achieved your goals with a lower degree?
In my case, returning to school in an MBA/MS industrial engineering double degree program provided the best opportunity to transition from a project manager in construction to a supply chain management role. While it would have theoretically been possible for me to make this transition, it is highly unlikely that I would have been able to secure four job offers for great supply chain roles without the advanced degree.
And even if I had been able to make the career switch, I would have likely still needed to pursue a degree to advance my skills in business and supply chain, as my undergraduate degree in civil engineering had not focused in this area.
- What advice would you give to supply chain management students who want to get the most experience they can out of their studies? What types of extracurricular activities, internships, etc. should they consider during college?
Be deliberate about how you connect classroom learning with opportunities to gain wisdom from industry experts and real experience through projects, internships, or working while attending school. Be proactive in asking people for counsel and assistance as most people, whether faculty or industry professionals, are happy to assist if you approach in a thoughtful and prepared manner.
Be cognizant of the bigger picture of becoming a good leader and a good all-around businessperson, as that — combined with your supply-chain-specific skills — will enable a fulfilling career.
- What advice would you give to supply chain management students who are debating whether to earn their degrees online or on-campus?
It is not a question of one being better than the other, as there are surely strong and weak programs taught online and in traditional classrooms. The question is one of fit. If you have a job that is helping you to build experience, I would recommend staying in that role and pursuing a program in a flexible format, such as online. This will provide context for your learning, enabling you to apply concepts and tools on the job; research shows that you will retain more with this approach.
We have designed our online format MS-SCM program at the University of Tennessee to support this approach by crafting assignments and assessments that foster immediate application and results in the workplace. This is an excellent way to get promoted by adding value for your employer.
If you are in a position to dedicate yourself completely to school (as I was with my career transition), on-campus programs can provide a wonderful experience. For example, our tri-continent MS-SCM program at the University of Tennessee allows on-campus students to study for a semester in Europe and Asia in addition to their time on our campus.
- What is professional development like in your field? Do most professionals pursue these types of opportunities?
Supply chain management is a young field, so professional development is a must to simply keep up with reasonable best practices. It is essential if you want to position yourself as a strong performer.
Given the relative immaturity of the field, high variation exists in the quality of development opportunities, so you need to carefully ascertain whether the activity is truly contemporary and best practice or simply an organization bent on capitalizing on the rapid growth of supply chain management. Look for strong connections with industry leaders and a strategic view that supply chain supports the customer and overall business.
While most people have typically pursued an MBA, the rise in the specificity and complexity of supply chain is driving individuals and employers toward MS degrees. Look for a degree that balances the analytical and business skills, as many programs tend toward technical content and miss the overall benefit that supply chain management done well brings to a business. Many so-called "supply chain development opportunities" are still rebranded and outdated functional approaches.
- In your opinion, are there any changes that need to be made in how colleges teach supply chain management? If so, what are those changes?
The supply chain management field has developed over the past 20 years, so it is quite new when compared with most areas of study, such as finance, marketing, or accounting. The crux of SCM is that businesses create advantage by considering the overall picture of how they deliver products and services to their customers. This integrated approach is very different — indeed, the polar opposite — of the functional approaches that existed 20 years ago.
As you might expect, many schools have remnants of these outdated functional approaches in their programs. For example, supply chain is not simply a process to be optimized. Rather, it is a giant strategy game that is won by making the correct decisions to position an organization to best serve its customers, do so profitably, and in a superior way to the competition. This means that schools must have a curriculum that not only teaches the functions but also the strategic concepts and enablers.
In addition, students need access to real-world situations and should have an opportunity to apply this learning. Advances in supply chain management are not happening in the corner of a sterile lab; they are happening in industry. For a school to properly prepare a student, they must have a finger on the pulse of what industry is doing and quickly incorporate this into their curriculum.
If advances are in industry, you might question why a student would return to school. Research shows that a formal learning environment and the employment of sound frameworks is essential to properly catalogue and utilize new knowledge. You won’t get that from pure on-the-job learning.
- Any final thoughts for us?
It is an exciting time to be in supply chain management. The emergence of integrated supply chain management as a field — and the success of companies who do it well, like Amazon, Apple, Zara, Dell, and Walmart — is nowhere close to its peak. Technological advances are ushering supply chain into the digital age and will create additional disruption and opportunity.
For someone who wants to have impact, work in a fast-paced and changing environment, engage with diverse groups of people globally, and position themselves to make a mark on society, I would recommend that you consider supply chain management.
What Else can I Expect from an Online Master's in Supply Chain Management Program?
Students pursuing a master's in supply chain management online should know that the program will vary slightly between schools. The cost, number of credits required, time of completion, courses offered, capstone projects, and extracurricular requirements are different for every program.
CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
|Concentration||Description||Careers this concentration prepares for|
|Supply Chain Management/Operations||The most common concentration for a supply chain management degree online is supply chain operations or management. Combining business and leadership skills with problem solving, planning, and coordination, a supply chain operation concentration prepares students for a leadership career in the field.||Operations supply chain manager, operational analyst, quality assurance specialist, operations consultant, supply chain administrator, warehouse manager|
|Logistics||An online logistics degree focuses more on the theory and science of supply chain management than the daily realities. Logistics is often combined with practical supply chain management skills for a well-rounded education.||Master scheduler, logistics consultant, research analyst, industrial engineer, supply chain manager|
|Global Supply Chain Management||Specializing in global supply chain management allows students to focus on the complicated world of international trade, industrial shipping, and global logistics strategy.||International supply chain manager, international logistics consultant, supply chain management analyst|
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
Individual courses vary among online master's in supply chain management programs. Some schools take a more business-heavy approach in their curriculum while others focus on the science of supply chain management. Below is a list of courses you may encounter.
- Supply Chain Management: With introductory and advanced classes, most schools feature several core requirements in supply chain management. Classes focus on how to combine supply and demand management for optimal business results. Case studies are often used to teach the framework of supply chain management.
- Operations Planning: Part of supply chain management is to keep all of the operations running smoothly. Often paired with organizational theory courses, students learn various strategies for managing logistics operations.
- Business Law: Particularly important in international industries, business law is critical to any supply chain management. Students will learn the legal and ethical requirements necessary for importing, exporting, and more.
- Logistics/Transportation Analysis: Trains, trucks, and ships are the critical links in the supply chain. Master's in supply chain management online students must learn how to analyze current transportation and logistical systems and optimize them for better efficiency.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT?
One factor for the completion time of a supply chain management degree online is whether it is taught completely online or with hybrid components. Some of the best online programs require some campus component, which may impact student's schedules.
Other major completion time factors include credit requirements, whether the program is taught with a cohort or allows personal pacing, and the type of degree. Some supply chain management degrees are part of an MBA while others are professional graduate degrees. Most master's in supply chain management online degrees require 30 credits and are completed in about two years.
CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSES A MASTER'S IN SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT PREPARES FOR
A certification can open up other career pathways. Some require students to study and pass exams, while others have prerequisites requiring graduates to have worked in the industry for a certain amount of time.
- Certified Professional in Supply Management: Given by the Institute for Supply Management, the CPSM requires experience and exams. The CPSM rewards a specialization in "purchasing and procurement."
- Certified in Production and Inventory Management: Requiring five exams, The Association for Operations Management (APICS) credential is among the most important certifications. It can be used in a variety of careers and paired with other certifications. CPIM-holders are certified experts in the field of inventory management.
- Certified Supply Chain Professional: APICS' CSCP certificate is the most general and comprehensive, requiring experience and an exam. The CSCP represents proficiency in a wide range of areas.
Accreditation for online Master's in Supply Chain Management degrees
The best online master's in supply chain management or logistics degrees are either accredited nationally or regionally. Nationally accredited schools are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA). This nongovernmental industry group accredits schools based on a series of criteria proving that it's academically and operationally proficient. National accreditation is used for vocational learning, distance education, and continuing education.
Traditional brick and mortar universities are typically regionally accredited. There are six regional accrediting agencies in the U.S. These agencies are run by leaders in peer institutions and approved by the CHEA and the Department of Education (DOE). Regional accreditation is typically more valuable and sought after by employers.
Some programs are individually accredited by industry groups. The DOE does not accredit schools. The department acts as an oversight body, recognizing legitimate actors and ensuring proper accreditation practices. You can find a list of accredited schools and programs on the DOE's website or on CHEA's.