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How to Become a Supply Chain Manager: Best Online Degrees

Learn how to become a supply chain manager

A career in supply chain management places you at the forefront of the world’s intricate goods network. The global and national supply chain brings goods and materials to our home and work. It’s responsible for the groceries in our cupboards, the fuel in our vehicles, the clothes on our back. From toys to light bulbs to life-saving medical supplies, the supply chain is critical to our every day life, even if we take it for granted.

If you are organized, bright, and a good communicator, you may have the traits to become a successful supply chain manager. This is a complex career, full of daily frustrations and relentless challenges, but it can also be one of the most important and rewarding jobs in our entire economy.

If you want a career in supply chain management, this article will show you how! It will describe what is a supply chain manager, and show you the basic supply chain manager responsibilities. It will also describe the importance of supply chain management and help you understand the supply chain manager starting salary.

Is supply chain management a good career for you? Keep reading to find out!

How to Become a Supply Chain Manager

There are the basic steps for how to become a supply chain manager:

  1. Get an associate or bachelor's degree that prepares you for a career in supply chain management
  2. Complete a master's degree (optional)
  3. Complete supply chain certification (optional but highly recommended)
  4. Work in a supply chain salary entry level position
  5. Apply for supply chain management jobs

What is Supply Chain Management & Why is It Important?

If you enjoy complex challenges, if you enjoy dealing with hundreds of moving parts and finding a solution to problems, then a career in supply chain management may be perfect for you. But what does a supply chain manager do? Supply chain managers are the professionals who help ensure an efficient business and a thriving economy. They are important to virtually every industry, as they analyze and coordinate supply chains to ensure everything moves smoothly.

Many people wonder: “what is supply chain management and why is it important?” This might sound simple, but supply chain management is one of the most complex careers possible. What is the importance of supply chain management? It’s important because it impacts every aspect of our lives. For that reason, it requires a meticulous attention to detail. Because they are so important, the supply chain management outlook is very strong.

What is the supply chain manager definition? To understand a supply chain manager job description, it helps to understand a supply chain. Simply put, the supply chain is a network between a company and its suppliers to create, manufacture, and distribute products to a final user. The supply chain includes the various people involved in moving good and materials, as well as the steps it takes to move an item from a raw material to a final product in the hands of a customer.

A supply chain will include numerous components, including:

  • Producers
  • Vendors
  • Warehouses
  • Transportation
  • Distribution center
  • Financing support
  • Customer service

In the end, a good supply chain results in lower costs for everyone, including the consumer.

Supply Chain Management Job Description

The supply chain manager duties will vary, but they are generally responsible for the coordination, organization, and management of logistics tied to the lifecycle of a product. They may schedule pickup of goods, calculate the time it will take to move from raw material to a finished product, or communicate with end users to let them know when a product will arrive.

So what is the supply chain management job description? What is a supply chain manager? They are responsible for creating business relationships between suppliers and clients. They must be able to network so that the right people are in the right place at the right time. They must also direct the movement of raw materials, supplies, and products, so good leaderships is crucial. A supply chain manager job description is complex, just like the position itself, which is why an education or certification is so important. A supply chain manager responsibilities include many aspects of the supply chain.

Supply Chain Management vs. Logistics

These two terms are similar, and they are often used interchangeably. However, there are some key differences between the two. Supply chain management generally refers to the entire supply chain from start to finish, while a logistician, by most definitions, applies specifically to the movement of goods. Essentially, a logistician ensures there is little to no delay in the delivery of a product. As you can see, the supply chain manager definition is slightly different than a logistician.

Supply Chain Manager Education Requirements

There are very few supply chain manager education requirements. However, the process for how to become a supply chain manager often starts with an education. People in careers that involve the supply chain generally have at least a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management, economics, engineering, or business, although there are many different majors and minors that could be applied to this position.

For a career in supply chain management, a bachelor's degree will be required in most cases. This education, which takes four years to complete, will prepare you for the many challenges of supply chain management. However, it is possible to work in a variety of positions with an associate's degree, which takes about two years and generally costs much less.

Best Degrees for Aspiring Supply Chain Managers

If you are wondering how to become a supply chain manager, these educations could be an excellent choice:

Logistics
A bachelor’s degree in logistics is one of the top supply chain management degree options. It will cover a wide variety of topics that relate to supply chain management. Courses may include consumer sales, distribution channels, logistic software, procurement, and the proper handling of different materials, such as hazardous materials or perishables.

Supply Chain Management
Perhaps the most obvious education, a bachelor’s in supply chain management will help you develop the right skills to manage the people, processes, and equipment of a supply chain. Classes may include professional communication, operations management, global supply chains, negotiations, and more. View the most affordable online supply chain management degrees.

Economics
While economics may not give you overall management skills, it can help you understand the numerous details involved in supply chains, making it a useful supply chain management degree. This gives you a strong foundation for your career in supply chain management. An economics degree will cover a variety of subjects that can be useful to a supply chain career, including business calculus, microeconomics, cost accounting, and econometrics.

Business Administration
This could be the best supply chain manager degree. A business administration degree is an education that prepares you for a business career, which can certainly include supply chain management. In fact, you may be able to find a business degree with a focus on supply chains or logistics. Classes might include management across a supply chain, strategic planning and forecasting, and global issues that impact supply chains.

With one of these degrees, you’ll easily meet the supply chain manager education requirements.

Graduate Supply Chain Education: A Smart Choice

Most aspiring supply chain managers will find value from a master’s degree, especially those who chose an undergraduate major that was not specifically supply chain management. A master’s in supply chain management will expand your expertise during two years of further studies after your bachelor’s degree.

An MBA, or “Master’s of Business Administration,” is another graduate-level degree that enhances your understanding of management and important business principles. For supply chain managers, an MBA with a focus on supply chains and logistics would certainly boost your career potential.

Supply Chain Certification

Supply chain management certification is not required to work in these careers. However, certification helps build your skills so you can become one of the strongest contributors to the global supply chain. Best of all, if makes you an extremely attractive job candidate, both for new companies as well as promotion within the best companies for supply chain jobs.

Here are three of the top certifications for how to become a supply chain manager:

APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)

Offered by the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), this supply chain management certification focuses on demand management, risks to the supply chain, and supply-chain technology. The APICS offers a large learning system to help you prepare for the certification exam. This program allows you to learn about the exam process, purchase the exam for completion, then schedule the CSCP exam at a date that works best for you. While education is not required, most people will want a degree in a related field or industry experience before enrolling in this supply chain management certification program.

APICS Certified in Planning and Inventory Management (CPIM 7.0)

The CPIM supply chain certification is also offered by The Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), one of the most recognized organizations in the industry. By teaching you how to better manage inventory, this education helps increase profits for a company. The ASCM allows you to customize your study style so you can learn with self-study, instructor-led, or instructor-supported options.

Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM)

Administered from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), the CPSMcertification is a credential that surpasses the demands of the global supply chain, giving you the tools needed to meet the complex supply chain manager responsibilities and challenges. To gain entry into this certification program, you’ll need a passing score on three exams and five years of full-time employment in supply chain management. If you do not have five years of experience, three years of full-time experience and a bachelor’s degree is acceptable.

Entry Level Supply Chain Positions

If you are wondering how to become a supply chain manager, you should first understand some of the entry-level positions. Regardless of the industry, management almost always requires experience. Supply chain manager jobs are no different, so here are a few options that deliver the experience you need. These jobs will build your experience and help you understand what does a supply chain manager do. You’ll have to earn a supply chain salary entry level, but they are still an excellent start.

Dispatcher

The supply chain management career outlook is strong, and working as a dispatcher could provide entry into the career. A dispatcher is simply someone who directs the movement of personnel and products. They usually work from a centralized location, take in information, and then relay this information to drivers or transportation professionals. Dispatchers need to be organized and have excellent communication skills, and they are employed by numerous industries, including law enforcement, taxi companies, shipping firms, and airlines.

Cost Estimator

A cost estimator uses scores of information to predict the costs of a service, product, or completed project. In the supply chain, a cost estimator may use their mathematical and information-gathering skills to estimate the cost of shipping a product through one port or another or using one type of transportation compared to another. Supply chain manager duties include keeping costs low, so this can be a very useful starting position. This is a wonderful start for your career in supply chain management.

Purchasing Agent

The best companies for supply chain jobs want to hire people with an understanding of costs and expenses. For this reason, they may prefer candidates who have experience purchasing products and materials for a company. These professionals find the best prices, negotiate agreements, and have a strong working knowledge of the overall supply chain. This position is also a great way to launch your career in supply chain management.

The supply chain management salary entry level for these jobs is likely lower than top manager salaries, but they will build your experience and, most likely, bring in a solid, reliable income.

What’s It Like to Work as a Supply Chain Manager?

Is Experience Required?

If you are wondering how to become a supply chain manager, one of the most important considerations is experience. Supply chain management jobs almost always require previous experience, usually at least 5 years. While a supply chain manager degree may prepare you for the career, previous experience will give you a thorough, real-world knowledge of the industry, which is something you simply can’t gain in the classroom.

Pros & Cons

There are many benefits to working in this career, but the high pay, excellent growth, and unique challenges are often seen as the main benefits. The supply chain management career outlook is excellent, but this is not the only advantage.

This career brings something new every day. When you work in the supply chain, your daily operations can change at a moment’s notice, and it’s up to you to find unique and creative solutions to complex problems. The satisfaction of identifying an issue, brainstorming a solution, and coming to a good result is extremely satisfying for supply chain manager jobs.

But there are downsides as well. There are countless supply chain manager duties, and it’s often up to you to deal with a barrage of daily challenges. Things that are far from your control, such as strikes, storms, or product failures (and, we might add, viruses!), could create a disruption to your perfectly-planned supply chain. Dealing with these issues can create massive stress and frustration, so you need to be prepared for these problems.

Salary

Is a supply chain degree worth it? If you go by salary alone, the answer is yes. A supply chain manager salary can be one of the top salaries in the country. These experienced professionals are in high demand, and the best companies for supply chain jobs are willing to reward their managers with outstanding wages and bonuses.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is one of the best resources for salary information, and while they don’t supply data on supply chain managers, they do supply information on logisticians, which is a very similar career. According to their latest information, the median salary for a logistician is $76,270, which is well above the national median of $41,950. Even the supply chain manager starting salary can be high, but the top 10% in this career earn over $122,000, so there is certainly the chance for excellent pay.

Data from the BLS appears to line up with information from other sources. Payscale, for example, says the average salary for a supply chain manager is $84,100. Salary.com says that the average salary for “supply chain and logistics managers” is $112,110, while Indeed says the average supply chain manager salary is over $88,000. A supply chain management salary entry level may be lower, but there is clearly room for high earnings.

Some companies will surely pay more than others. A supply chain manager salary Amazon pays, for example, may be higher than other companies.

So is supply chain management a good career? From the perspective of salary, it certainly can be!

Job Outlook

Supply chain management job growth is expected to be high. According to the BLS, the expected job growth for logisticians between 2020 and 2030 is 30%. For comparison, the expected growth for all jobs is 8%. It seems reasonable to assume that if logisticians are growing at this rate, supply chain management job growth will be high as well. The supply chain management career outlook is certainly positive!

This growth will be driven by an increasing demand to move products as efficiently and quickly as possible. E-commerce is only going to grow, and companies of various sizes will need high-quality professionals to help them maintain a smooth, seamless supply chain. Top companies are hiring, and the supply chain manager salary Amazon provides, for example, could be very high.

Become a Successful Supply Chain Manager!

Is a supply chain degree worth it? It certainly can be when you find the right program!

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