All businesses have to be fully aware of their supply chain. This is the system that is used to create a product and get it to their customers, from start to finish. This includes things like sourcing raw materials, manufacturing a product, and shipping it to stores. It is vital for the supply chain to be properly organized for a business to be profitable.

Managing the Supply Chain

Supply chain management is all about making sure operations are at maximum efficiency, increasing speed and thereby profits, without compromising the quality of the products. Speed is perhaps the most important element, because customers have become used to receiving things straight away. However, the faster something is made, the more expensive it tends to become, which is where excellent efficiency comes in.

A supply chain that is cost effective is able to deliver a product in a way that is both quick and affordable, while at the same time making sure that the quality remains high. To achieve this, a wealth of complex logistics tools are utilized, many of which are now electronic. A variety of software packages have now been created in order to facilitate supply chain management. Most of those have been filled with complex algorithms, and the role of the supply chain manager is to provide it with data, which it then analyzes to make recommendations. However, a good manager will be able to do that manually when need be as well.

Opportunity

The primary way by which all businesses compete with each other is by lowering their prices. However, sometimes prices are already as low as they can go. After all, businesses have costs to meet and profits to make as well. What supply chain management does is ensure a business has a competitive advantage over other businesses, without having to lower prices so much that the operation becomes unsustainable. They may, for instance, increase speed by finding a new delivery system, which is something that is greatly appreciated by the average consumer.

Being efficient has a wealth of benefits. A supply chain manager will determine whether any steps in the full supply chain process are redundant and remove these. They will also negotiate better agreements with retailers and suppliers, often by offering them something beneficial in return.

Large global companies often have entire supply chain departments. This is generally not possible for smaller businesses. However, even the smallest business could do with the expertise of someone who has the knowledge and skills in supply chain management, as it will help them become more profitable overall. In fact, many small companies find that the cost of hiring a supply chain manager is an investment that offers them a rapid and return. Through the work of the supply chain manager, their business can a lot more efficient and, thereby, a lot more profitable.

Career Paths

There are many career paths available for someone with skills and knowledge in supply chain management. According to Payscale.com, the most popular roles and their average annual salaries are:

  • Operations manager: $67,653
  • Supply chain manager: $72,931
  • Software engineer: $76,000
  • Logistics manager: $68,164
  • Account manager: $55,000
  • Warehouse supervisor: $50,908
  • Supply chain analyst: $55,000

Salaries

Job role is one key factor that influences how much someone earns. There are many other factors that influence salary, however, one of which is salary. According to Payscale.com, the following cities attract the following average salaries for a supply chain management specialist:

  • Atlanta, Georgia: $78,006
  • Chicago, Illinois: $92,489
  • Houston, Texas: $60,173
  • Dallas, Texas: $77,226
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: $60,397
  • St. Louis, Missouri: $76,544
  • Miami, Florida: $63,731

Employers

Different employers pay very different salaries. Supply chain managers can be found anywhere, from organizations like Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals and other Fortune 500 companies, to small mom and pop stores that have just set up. There are great variations in salaries depending on where you work. Payscale.com has reported the following average annual salaries by employer:

  • XPO Logistics: up to $139,476
  • C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc.: between $36,241 and $119,195
  • U.S. Army: $55,000
  • U.S. Air Force: $49,057
  • Ryder Systems, Inc.: $65,000
  • DHL: $80,000
  • World Wide Technology, Inc.: $62,000
  • Chep Equipment Pooling Systems: $65,000
  • Ryder Integrated Logistics Inc.: $57,000
  • Home Depot Inc.: $73,877

Bachelor’s Degree

Supply chain management courses at the bachelor’s degree level focuses on logistics. Students gain a good insight on controlling flows, planning methods, and market needs. This enables them to analyze the existing logistical systems, develop new ones, and implement this. At bachelor’s degree level, you will also gain experience in analytical, organizational, planning, and management skills, as well as being trained in relevant technology.

Master’s Degree

At the master’s degree level, supply chain management becomes far more advanced and specialized. Students develop excellent quantitative skills, focusing on statistics, probability, linear algebra, and calculus. There are two main degree types to choose from at master’s level in the field of supply chain management, which are the:

  • Master of Engineering in Supply Chain Management (MEng-SCM), which is a research degree and prepares students to move on to doctorate studies, being the Ph.D. in supply chain management.
  • Master of Applied Science in Supply Chain Management (MAsc-SCM), which is a practical degree that prepares students to work in the field of supply chain management.

Online Degrees

A lot of people who want to study towards a degree that makes them skilled and knowledgeable in supply chain management, particularly at the master’s degree level, look into online education opportunities. This is understandable, as it gives them the freedom to study at a time and pace that is convenient to them, and may even enable them to continue to work. There are numerous schools across the country that offer an online master’s in supply chain management. One popular option is the Penn State World Campus. It is important to note that it is vital when you decide to study online, to choose a program that is properly accredited. This ensures that the curriculum meets the minimum standard, although most schools will even exceed them.

Admission Requirements

Every school sets its own specific admission requirements. That said, at the master’s degree level, the requirements tend to be reasonably similar, and include:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Transcripts
  • Prerequisite courses
  • GMAT/GRE
  • A certain GPA
  • Letters of reference
  • A current resume

Curriculum

The curriculum will vary depending on the school you go to. This is why accreditation is so important, as it ensures that the curriculum of the school you go to meets the required standards in the field of supply chain management.

At the bachelor’s degree level, the core curriculum may include:

  • Business management
  • Economics
  • Information systems
  • Financial accounting
  • Supply chain management
  • Business statistics
  • Project management
  • Managerial accounting
  • Commercial law

At the master’s degree level, you can expect to see the following as part of the core curriculum:

  • Analytical methods for supply chain management
  • Supply chain leadership
  • Business writing for supply chain management
  • Logistics systems
  • Database analysis for supply chain management
  • Supply chain financial analysis
  • Leading global teams
  • Supply chain software
  • Global supply chain management
  • System dynamics
  • Economic analysis for business decisions
  • Management accounting and control
  • Operations strategy

Some schools will offer these courses as elective courses, particularly if they offer the degree with certain specializations.

Specializations

There are different specializations to choose from within the field of supply chain management. In some schools, you can complete a master’s degree in supply chain management with a concentration in any of these areas, which will be stated on your degree. Others simply offer elective courses so that you can increase your knowledge. Common specializations include:

  • Logistics
  • Operations
  • Planning
  • Sourcing
  • Management strategy

Financial Assistance

Completing a degree, particularly at the master’s degree level, requires a significant financial investment. Not only do you have to pay for your tuition fees and materials, you are likely to also not be able to work as much, which means you will see a reduction in income. Although this should only be temporary, it is still costly.

Luckily, financial assistance is available. Most schools are linked to the student finance office, as well as offering their own scholarships and grants. Alternatively, there are outside financial options available as well, including the:

  • ACI-NA Commissioners Scholarship Fund
  • Chad Jones Memorial Scholarship Program
  • CSCMP Future Supply Chain Star Scholarship
  • David R. Parsley Endowed Scholarship Fund
  • Davis-Kassa Scholarship Program
  • Harvey P. Sommerer Memorial Scholarship
  • Howard Bernstein Industrial Distribution Scholarship
  • ISM Pharmaceutical Forum Supply Chain Management Scholarship
  • ISM-Pittsburgh Supply Chain Management Scholarship
  • James Greathouse APICS Certification Professional Scholarship
  • John J. Murphy Supply Chain Scholarships
  • L.L. Waters Scholarship Program
  • National Defense Transportation Association Scholarships
  • Procurify Sustainable Supply Chain Scholarship
  • R. Gene Richter Scholarship Program
  • Rhoda Isaacs Scholarship
  • Seth Bonder Foundation Scholarship
  • Supply Chain Summit Scholarships
  • Tauber Institute for Global Operations Scholarships
  • W.T. “Tom” Hall Supply Management Practitioner Scholarship

Most of these scholarships are available to specific students. They must, for instance, go to a college or university in a certain state, be of a specific gender or ethnic background, demonstrate financial need, and so on. Do also check whether your employer has any systems in place to sponsor your degree program. It is common for companies to invest in their employees, often in return for a guarantee that they will remain with the company for a certain number of years. Another reason why it is so important to check with your employer, is that they may be able to provide you with time off in order to study towards your degree.

Certifications

If you want to truly advance your career in supply chain management, then you may want to consider completing additional certification as well. Do remember, however, that these certifications can be costly. Not only is the cost of the exam itself expensive, you also need quite a few months to prepare for the certification. It is, however, common for employers to pay for this certification and/or to give you some time to prepare for it.

Popular certifications within supply chain management include the:

  • APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management, which focuses on a variety of international business subjects. These include production planning, forecasting, master scheduling, and materials management.
  • APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional, which focuses on external subjects, including the extended supply chain. The focus is also on every partner within the overall supply chain, from the supplier of the raw materials, to the customers at the end of it.
  • APICS SCOR Professional, which is designed for those focusing on global logistics and supply chain management. It uses the internationally recognized SCOR (Supply Chain Operational Reference) model.
  • APICS Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution

Certifications are time limited. This means that, in order to keep your certification valid, you will have to complete certain continuous education credits. The organizations that offer the certifications also list the specific requirements that you have to meet to retain your certification.

Associations

In order to advance both your career and knowledge, and to increase your networking opportunities, you should consider joining a professional association. Some of the best known organizations in relation to supply chain management include the:

  • APICS – The Premier Association for Supply Chain Management
  • Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP)
  • Institute of Supply Chain Management
  • International Federation of Purchasing and Supply Management

If you want to become involved in the world of supply chain management, you have a long and interesting career ahead of you. The field is hugely important, as supply chains affect every level of society, from an individual’s ability to have a fresh coffee for breakfast, to a Fortune 500 company’s ability to deliver its services. And since the financial crisis of 2007/2008, being able to save costs in various locations has become more important than ever. The supply chain manager is the person companies look to in order to make a business more efficient and less costly, and it is to them they look in order to avoid workplace redundancies as well. As a supply chain manager, you are guaranteed to have an excellent and varied career prospect ahead of you.

References

Henry Steele
Henry Steele
Henry is Editor-in-Chief of Business Student.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

BusinessStudent.com provides students of business with the opportunities to get ahead in their career.