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Your path to a supply chain management career
15th May 2022 By IEPS
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Your path to a supply chain management career

Play a pivotal role in how goods and services are produced, distributed, and delivered to their destination

The U.S. supply chain accounts for 37% of all domestic jobs, according to the Harvard Business Review. Every supply chain consists of multiple steps, each with distinct responsibilities. Those entering this field have a number of focus areas to explore, including logistics, distribution, inventory management, quality assurance, transportation, and warehousing.

This work also brings high visibility, since what you do can directly impact a company’s financial success and reputation with the public. We’ve developed this guide to equip you with the information you need to understand the supply chain management career path.

Why pursue a career in supply chain management?  

Starting on a path in supply chain management can lead to an enriching career. Jobs are varied enough that you can easily find a position that aligns with your individual strengths and qualifications. Keep reading to learn about some of the benefits of working in this field.

Supply chain management career outlook

As more organizations expand their business operations, the supply chain management career outlook is on par with the average projected growth for all occupations — 4% from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Supply chains, which are becoming increasingly global and complex, are being disrupted and transformed by technology. The outlook is brightest for professionals who are up on the latest trends and have experience with modern software and tools.

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Opportunities for advancement with education

The majority of supply chain management positions are open to those with a bachelor’s degree and don’t require a master’s degree. Logisticians gain a great deal of experience on the job and can usually be considered for advanced positions within five years of hiring. In addition to logistics managers, there are also jobs available for purchasing managers, distribution managers, and operations managers.

Supply chain management salary

High demand in this field means generous supply chain management salaries. The BLS reports that logisticians earned a median annual salary of $74,750 as of May 2019. Salaries may vary based on education, experience, job location, and industry. For example, logisticians working in the federal government earned a median annual salary of $85,450 while those working in wholesale trade earned $65,820.

Analysts are typically offered even higher salaries than logisticians, with operations research analysts having earned a median salary of $84,810.

Ability to solve new challenges

Working in supply chain management, you’ll be met with new challenges every day that require quick action. As a result, you’ll become a better communicator, critical thinker, and decision-maker and build new skills that can position you for future advancement.

Opportunity for travel

Supply chain managers must be able to travel from site to site to confirm that all processes are running smoothly. If your organization has a global reach, this may include international travel.

Industry trends in supply chain management

When you know what’s happening in the industry, you can focus on obtaining the most up-to-date skills. Below we’ve provided a snapshot of current trends.

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Depending on your exact supply chain management career path, there may be some variation in the journey, but several aspects will overlap.

Education

As an aspiring professional, your first step in how to become a supply chain manager is to earn a postsecondary education in a relevant field of study, such as a bachelor’s in business, finance, or supply management. With a bachelor’s, you’ll be prepared for most entry-level positions across different sectors, but to advance your career, you may need further education.

If you want to position yourself for optimal professional opportunities, a graduate-level supply chain management degree will be helpful. This can come in different forms, such as a master’s in management and leadership specializing in global supply chains or a master’s in business administration with a concentration in supply chain management.

Licensure

Various certifications and licenses are available depending on your specialization, and all of them can help you stand out amid your competition. These usually require a few years of on-the-job experience before you can earn them.

One example is certification through the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), a global leader of supply chain training and certification for over 60 years. Its network of thought leadership can enhance your understanding of all aspects of supply chain work.

Supply chain management careers

Supply chain management truly offers something for everyone, whether you prefer to work in the office doing data analysis and planning or out in the field.

Individuals who work within a supply chain can be involved in scheduling, purchasing, inventory management, quality control, distribution, warehousing, packaging, assembly, and more. At the management level, this means ensuring that your part of the supply chain is performing its duties effectively and efficiently.

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Supply chain management internships

Many organizations offer internships related to the supply chain management industry, such as:

  • Shell
  • Ferrero
  • Sherwin-Williams
  • Siemens AG

Popular areas in supply chain management

  • Logistics
  • Storage and distribution
  • Operations
  • Purchasing
  • Inventory control
  • Planning
  • Repairs, maintenance, and recycling
  • Packaging and delivery

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What kinds of positions are available for a career in supply chain management?

You’ll likely take on a few different roles at varying levels throughout your supply chain management career, as you develop skills, accumulate experience, and narrow the focus of how you want to specialize.

Entry-level roles

A bachelor’s degree is a must to qualify for an entry-level position in this industry. Many online programs offer a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialization in supply chain management.

Focused supply chain management degrees are also available. Upon receiving your degree, you may be able to gain industry experience through one of the following positions:

  • Logistician, $74,750
  • Logistics analyst, $58,713
  • Supply chain planner, $64,844
  • Purchasing agent, $69,600

Advanced supply chain management jobs

Pursuing an education in this field can help prepare you for advanced positions by allowing you to hone hard skills in areas such as production management, inventory control, chain of operations, and global supply chain logistics.

Studying supply chain management can also equip you with the knowledge to become professionally certified through ASCM, which offers endorsement options for professionals looking to advance into the following types of supply chain management careers:

  • Purchasing manager, $121,110
  • Logistics manager, $114,670
  • Distribution manager, $94,775
  • Operations manager, $100,780

Top skills and digital tools in supply chain management

You’ll be required to master a combination of different skill types to excel in supply chain management. We’ve compiled the top technical skills and soft skills that employers are looking for in supply chain professionals.

Fastest-growing skills

Business and supply chain competencies make up 80% of the fastest-growing skills in this industry; basic technical skills make up the remaining 20%.

Top Skill

Projected Posting Growth (2018-2023)

Microsoft Office and productivity tools

44%

Advanced Microsoft Excel

37%

Supply chain planning

28%

Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

25%

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

25%

Basic customer service

23%

Leadership and management

22%

Performance management

15%

Source: Burning Glass Technologies Occupational Insights, 2019

Technical skills

Among the top and fastest-growing technical skills are:

  • Data science
  • Supply chain knowledge
  • Supply chain management
  • Project management

Soft skills

The following soft skills are also valued by employers:

  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Teamwork/collaboration
  • Organization

Emerging skills

Knowledge of federal regulations and escalation management, among other skills, will become more important over the coming years.

Emerging Skill

Projected Posting Growth (2018–2023)

Business communication

43%

Defense federal acquisition regulations

24%

Transportation management systems

13%

Escalation management

12%

Third-party logistics (3PL)

8%

Supply chain coordination

3%

Source: Burning Glass Technologies Occupational Insights, 2019

Supply chain management industry groups 

Joining an industry group can be a great way to increase your employability. These associations provide valuable career development and networking opportunities.

Here are some industry-specific groups you may wish to consider:

Advance your career in supply chain management

Supply chain management offers an array of opportunities in warehouses, distribution centers, manufacturing plants, and office settings.

Professionals can oversee on-site operations or work in a business setting to organize the processes that enable supply chains to operate effectively. Salaries and benefits are competitive because of the high demand for qualified professionals to oversee each step of the chain.

There are also multiple opportunities to specialize as you proceed down your supply chain management career path. With the use of advanced technology on the rise, managers and analysts who are trained in big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence will be highly desirable to potential employers. With respect to soft skills, managers should be excellent communicators, strong critical thinkers, and quick learners.

If a career in supply chain management sounds like it might be a good fit for you, we can help you take your next step with our recommendation engine designed with your future in mind.