Supply chain managers, also known as logisticians, analyze an organization's procurement, storage, and distribution process for products and services. They identify problems and research solutions, applying their skills in positions such as distribution manager, logistician, or operations research analyst. Many of these fields are lucrative and growing, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a 27% increase in operations research analyst positions by 2026.
A supply chain management bachelor's degree meets the entry-level educational requirement for many job titles. Graduates can also pursue certifications that increase their competitiveness in the job market and command higher salaries. This article outlines the process of identifying the best supply chain management schools, finding the right career, and succeeding with a supply chain management degree.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Supply Chain Management?
Earning a supply chain management degree allows professionals to pursue jobs in logistics, inventory management, and operations research analysis. The field rewards professionals with strong problem-solving and analytical skills who can improve an organization's logistics.
During a supply chain management degree, students complete classes in global logistics, inventory management, and warehouse management. They learn basic principles behind the supply chain process, using their analytical skills to solve problems in organizational distribution. Many programs incorporate internships or other hands-on experience so that students build valuable skills and create a professional network. Supply chain management schools typically provide job placement assistance.
The degree also prepares graduates for certifications, like the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional designation or the ISM Certified Professional in Supply Management title. These certifications increase competitiveness in the job market and may command higher salaries than uncertified professionals.
When choosing to earn a supply chain management degree, prospective students should consider the benefits of an on-campus program versus an online program. Students moving directly from high school into a bachelor's program may prefer an on-campus degree, as may students who can relocate to attend an out-of-state program. Working professionals and adult learners pursuing a career change may benefit from the flexibility of an online program where students arrange coursework around their schedule.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Supply Chain Management?
A supply chain management degree prepares graduates for a variety of career paths in business, manufacturing, and management. Many graduates take jobs as supply chain managers or logisticians, analyzing an organization's supply chain. Graduates also work as purchasing agents, acquiring products or services, and in the manufacturing and distribution process as industrial production managers and distribution managers. They also apply their knowledge as operations research analysts, identifying problems and creating solutions. These positions appeal to organized professionals with strong problem-solving skills and provide opportunities to advance to managerial positions.
Logisticians analyze and coordinate an organization's supply chain. The position may also be called supply chain manager. Logisticians help move products from the supplier to the consumer, from the acquisition to the allocation and delivery of products. A bachelor's degree in supply chain management qualifies professionals for logistician positions.
Median Annual Salary: $74,590
Projected Growth Rate: 7%
- Operations Research Analyst
Operations research analysts help organizations identify problems and create solutions. With a specialty in supply chain management, operations research analysts investigate issues around an organization's logistics, providing research to improve the supply chain. A bachelor's degree meets the educational requirements for the job.
Median Annual Salary: $81,390
Projected Growth Rate: 27%
- Distribution Manager
Distribution managers oversee the distribution process, including planning, directing, and coordinating the distribution of an organization's products or services. They must create policies to maximize efficiency and follow applicable laws and regulations. Distribution managers often work for air, rail, or ground transportation companies.
Median Annual Salary: $92,460
Projected Growth Rate: N/A
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Supply Chain Management Program
With so many supply chain management schools, prospective students may feel overwhelmed with choosing the right program. By considering several key factors, such as the cost, location, and time to completion, future supply chain management professionals can find the best program for their goals and interests.
The cost of a logistics degree varies depending on the institution, with in-state, public schools typically charging the lowest tuition. In addition to tuition, students should consider technology, course material, and housing expenses. Students can decrease expenses by applying for scholarships and grants or choosing a less expensive school. An online supply chain management degree, for example, may incur less commuting, parking, and childcare expenses.
During the research process, prospective students should consider the degree requirements for programs. Some requirements, such as internships or courses offered only once a year, may add time to the degree. Working students may benefit from part-time options to balance school with work. Many programs offer specializations that help graduates succeed in the job market, such as a concentration in retail or global supply chains. Students interested in a specialty may rule out programs that do not offer many courses in that area. Finally, students must choose an accredited institution for their logistics degree.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Supply Chain Management Programs
Colleges, universities, and programs undergo accreditation review to determine whether they follow the best educational practices. Institutions and programs that gain accreditation confer valuable advantages to students. For example, colleges and universities with regional accreditation qualify for federal financial aid, and many licenses and certifications only accept candidates with an accredited degree. And, an employer is more likely to hire a graduate from an accredited institution than an unaccredited institution.
Programmatic accreditation reviews a specific program, such as a business school or teaching degree, to ensure it meets professional standards in that field. Logistics degrees do not have a programmatic accrediting agency. Most bachelor's in supply chain management programs receive national or regional accreditation through the college or university, and they may hold programmatic accreditation as part of the business school.
Bachelor's in Supply Chain Management Program Admissions
Supply chain management schools admit students who meet prerequisites and demonstrate their ability to succeed in earning a logistics degree. Applicants must submit an application detailing their educational and professional background. Most schools set admissions requirements, such as a minimum GPA and test scores from the SAT or ACT. Admissions committees also use letters of recommendation and transcripts to evaluate a candidate's potential.
Some online bachelor's in supply chain management programs assign an admissions adviser to help prospective students navigate the process. Because admissions requirements vary, applicants should research the requirements for their chosen programs. Applicants may also wish to apply to multiple programs to increase their chances of admission. Prospective students should give themselves at least one month to complete their applications.
- Minimum GPA: Some bachelor's institutions set a minimum GPA for admissions, both for the applicant's high school GPA and any college credits. Transfer students may only receive transfer credits for courses that meet GPA minimums.
- Application: Prospective students submit an application listing their educational history and experience. Over 700 colleges and universities now accept the The Common Application, which allows students to submit applications to multiple schools at once.
- Transcripts: Most applicants must submit high school and college transcripts. Although, some transfer students do not need to submit high school transcripts depending on how many credits they have earned.
- Letters of Recommendation: Many colleges require letters of recommendation from academic and professional references. Applicants should give their letter writers at least three weeks' notice.
- Test Scores: Applicants typically must submit standardized test scores; most colleges accept either the SAT or ACT. However, some programs waive the test score requirement.
- Application Fee: Most institutions charge an application fee to review the application material; students can apply for a fee waiver through the college or university.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Supply Chain Management Program?
A logistics degree covers every step of the supply chain, from procurement to distribution. Within the degree, students may specialize in transportation, warehousing, or retail supply chains, building valuable skills that translate to career paths. Before enrolling in a program, prospective students should consider the required courses, time to completion, and the certifications they can earn after graduation.
|Global Supply Chain||Students in this concentration gain deep knowledge of the global economy, global business practices, and importing and exporting processes. They also study global regulations and working in various national contexts.||Logistician, transportation manager, purchasing agent|
|Transportation||Students who concentrate in transportation learn how to manage the distribution of goods and services during the supply chain process. Students study modes of transportation, transportation technologies, regulations on transportation, and transportation productivity measurement.||Transportation manager, operations research analyst|
|Retail Supply Chain||A concentration in retail supply chains covers retailing, marketing, franchising, and marketing research. Retail supply chain students also study how to sell to retailers or include retailers in the supply chain process.||Purchasing agent, buyer, logistician, retail analyst|
|Warehouse||Students who concentrate in warehousing focus on the process of acquiring, storing, and distributing goods. They study strategies behind creating efficient warehousing systems, learn how to measure warehouse productivity, and study the regulations that affect warehousing and transportation.||Warehouse manager, distribution manager|
|Production||In this concentration, students analyze production processes, learn management skills, and build inventory control and distribution abilities. They also study where the production process interfaces with other steps in the supply chain.||Industrial production manager, logistician|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Supply Chain Management Program
A logistics degree introduces students to the principles of procurement, inventory management, warehousing, and transportation. Each school sets its own curriculum, but students earning a supply chain management bachelor's degree typically complete a version of the courses listed below.
- Introduction to Supply Chain Management
This course introduces students to basic principles of supply chain logistics, including cost management, handling, warehousing, and inventory control. Students also learn about industries that rely on logistics management.
- Logistics and Transportation
Classes on logistics and transportation study the development of global transportation networks, regulations on transportation, different modes of transportation, and transportation management skills. The course may also cover future transportation technologies. Students learn the skills required to work in transportation management and logistics.
- Inventory Management
Inventory management courses cover the strategic importance of inventory in the logistics process, emphasizing regulations, material handling, procurement, outsourcing, and inventory control. The class also provides analytical tools to measure inventory productivity. The course prepares students to work in purchasing or inventory management.
- Warehouse Management
This course provides an overview of warehousing in the logistics process, including warehouse strategies, inventory control, measuring warehouse productivity, and relevant regulations on warehousing and transportation. The course prepares graduates to work in transportation or distribution management.
- International Supply Chain Management
Courses in international supply chain management cover the global logistics environment, overseas transportation by air and boat, and the government's role in global logistics. Students also study transportation to Canada and Mexico, the exporting and importing process, and the role of intermediaries. The course prepares students for careers in global logistics management.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Supply Chain Management?
Typically, a bachelor's degree requires four years of full-time study and 120 credits to complete. Several factors influence the length of a bachelor's program, including degree requirements, program structure, and internship requirements. For example, some programs may only offer required courses in certain semesters, which can lengthen the time to completion for students who deviate from the major's intended schedule. Internships may also add time to the degree.
Students can finish their bachelor's degree in less time if they choose an accelerated option or transfer credits. Alternatively, students balancing work or family obligations with school may prefer a program that offers part-time tracks. A part-time option also lowers annual educational expenses, although it can add years to the degree.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Supply Chain Management?
The cost of a supply chain management bachelor's degree varies depending on the school and the student's financial aid opportunities. In general, in-state, public schools charge the lowest tuition, with an average tuition rate of $9,970 per year in 2017-2018, according to College Board. By comparison, public schools charge out-of-state residents over $25,000 per year in tuition, and private school tuition can exceed $35,000 per year.
In addition to tuition costs, supply chain management majors should also consider technology and housing expenses, as well as other related costs. Students may lower costs by applying for scholarships and grants, and by choosing less expensive programs.
Transfer credits can also lower the cost of a supply chain management degree. For instance, students who fulfill general education requirements at a community college can lower tuition expenses. Incoming supply chain management majors with transfer credits should choose a school that offers more lenient transfer policies to save money.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Supply Chain Management Prepares For
- Certified Supply Chain Professional
Offered by APICS, the CSCP designation recognizes professionals with business and educational experience. Candidates with a bachelor's degree must hold two years of relevant business experience and pass an examination, which may take up to six months of study. APICS members receive a discount on the exam fee.
- Certificate in Production and Inventory Management
APICS also offers the CPIM for professionals with at least two years of experience in inventory management or a related field. Applicants must pass five exams based on different study modules, with discounts on study materials for APICS members.
- Certified Professional in Supply Management
Offered by the Institute of Supply Management, candidates for the CPSM must have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and three years of professional experience in the field. Applicants must pass three exams to earn the certification. ISM members receive a discount on the exam fees.
Offered by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, the SCPro designation recognizes supply chain professionals at three levels. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university to take the exam, and CSCMP members receive exam fee discounts.
- Certified Six Sigma Black Belt
Offered by several organizations, the CSSBB recognizes specialists in the Six Sigma management philosophy who can demonstrate their knowledge. The certification process may require evaluations of projects, work experience, signed affidavits, and training. Applicants often must complete training materials and pass exams.
Resources for Supply Chain Management Students
Offered by APICS, the career resources site provides job postings, career coaching, and career planning guides for students and professionals. The site also offers a mentor center.
The Institute for Supply Management career center posts job openings and internship opportunities for supply management job seekers. The site also provides career coaching and reference checking for members.
A publication dedicated to supply chain management, SCMR publishes columns, features, and case studies on top companies. Their writers include business school professors, industry analysts, and supply chain management professionals.
A weekly publication with news, information, and commentary on the supply chain field, Supply Chain Digest offers resources aimed at professionals in supply chain and logistics management.
An online forum dedicated to connecting supply chain professionals, Supply Chain Brain features articles, blogs, podcasts, and whitepapers for people in the field.
Professional Organizations in Supply Chain Management
Professional organizations help supply chain professionals connect with colleagues, find jobs, and stay up-to-date in their field. Many of these organizations offer certifications to increase competitiveness in the job market, provide continuing education resources, and host annual conferences and events for networking opportunities. They also provide services for students, such as job boards, career counseling, and mentorship opportunities. Students who join professional organizations may benefit from membership discounts.