By Scott Wilson
Global supply chains were a quiet success story for American industry until 2020. Developed over decades, the efficiency and optimization that came with overseas production and just-in-time shipping were a steady flow of the lifeblood into manufacturing plants, stores, and online shops across the country.
Then COVID-19 shut the world down, and supply chains started shattering like glass. Shelves emptied, businesses failed, and suddenly everyone, everywhere, got very concerned about toilet paper stockpiles.
Suddenly, supply chain management was in the spotlight. And it became clear, inside and outside the industry, that supply chain managers with the highest levels of training and most up-to-date knowledge are critical to ongoing operations.
A graduate supply chain and operations management certificate is one of the best ways to get that training and knowledge.
The Difference Between Certificates and Certifications in Supply Chain Management
Before you start down the road with a supply chain management certificate, you need to understand the difference between certificates and certifications.
Supply chain management industry certifications are typically offered by professional organizations like ASCM, the Association for Supply Chain Management, which awards certs like:
- Certified Supply Chain Professional
- SCOR (Supply Chain Operational Reference) Professional
- Certified in Production and Inventory Management
These certifications validate your professional experience and skills in those specific job categories. They usually require passing a test, providing proof of education, or a certain number of years of proven industry experience.
Certificates, on the other hand, are educational programs offered by colleges and other institutes that are designed to train you in those skills and knowledge areas in the first place.
Supply Chain Managers Keep the Gears of Modern Industry Turning
With everyone recognizing how critical supply chains are in the modern world, the profession is suddenly a hotbed of hiring activity in the U.S.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for example, American companies are hiring logisticians at a huge rate. The position is expected to grow by nearly 30 percent between 2021 and 2031, much faster than average.
Supply chain management is so important in modern industry that having a basic command of the field is important in many other management roles, too. Industrial production managers must factor supply chain considerations into their warehousing and staffing; construction managers count on them to keep workers hammering.
Depending on the corporation or the industry, these roles may take on some of the responsibility that logistics professionals ordinarily handle. They may need some of the same training to get the job done.
Salaries Get a Boost From the Kind of Supply Chain Expertise You Get From a Certificate Program
It pays to know what’s going on in the supply chain world.
The average salary for logisticians in 2021 was $77,030 per year according to BLS.
But the top ten percent, those most likely to have an advanced education and be in management positions, earned more than $122,390 that year.
Different industries also place different levels of importance on logistics and supply, and pay at different rates. According to BLS, these were the salary rates in the top five industries for logistics employment in 2021:
- Federal government – $88,710
- Management of companies and enterprises – $78,660
- Manufacturing – $77,740
- Professional, scientific, and technical services – $76,840
- Wholesale trade – $63,930
Related positions can also be high-paying jobs:
- Industrial Production Manager – $103,150
- Construction Manager – $98,890
- Architectural and Engineering Manager – $152,350
The kind of knowledge that comes with a supply chain management certificate can boost your salary prospects in any of them.
Choosing the Best Certificate Program for Supply Chain Management Training
Finding the right certificate program for supply chain management can be a tricky business. There are many different kinds of supply chains in every industry, and each has unique but critical features to be aware of.
Many of these certificate programs are offered by colleges and universities today. Choosing the right program for your goals can mean finding a school that has close ties or expertise with the kind of industries you plan to specialize in.
You’ll want to consider factors such as:
- Instructor background and credentials – If you’re looking to develop your expertise in aerospace supply chains, it makes a lot of sense to look for faculty who have real-world experience in that industry. You want to find professors who earned their spurs in logistics as well as establishing strong academic credentials through publication and research.
- Support and resources – Solid certificate programs should also offer you all the same support as other students, with advising services you can tap into for guidance, libraries for research, and projects or programs to help you network and connect outside the program.
- Reputation and ranking – The best universities aren’t hidden away; people know by graduate skills and reputation who is doing the best job at training supply chain professionals. You’ll find them at the top of rankings and mentioned frequently by people in the industry.
- Specialty accreditation – Since certificates in supply chain management are usually offered by business schools, it also makes sense to look at the gold standard in business school accreditation: a specialty accreditation from the AACSB, ACBSP, or IACBE. These accreditations cover many of the basic academic and professional expectations the industry has for logistics education.
Online Certificate Programs in Supply Chain Management Keep You on Track
Certificate programs are a golden match for flexible online class delivery. Most students are working professionals who have responsibilities outside the classroom. If you are trying to fit supply chain management training in with a budding professional career and family and personal obligations, online certificates make it easy.
That’s because they offer most coursework asynchronously. You get the best of both worlds with occasional online meetups for discussions and group projects, but for the most part you’ll be working on your own time. This means watching recorded lectures, putting questions up in online forums, or completing your assignments any time, day or night. That makes them easy to fit in to a lunch hour, or right after you get the kids off to school in the morning.
It also means that you have a wide selection of different programs from around the country to choose from. You can find the right fit for your professional goals without relocating.
The Right Certificate Can Update Your Supply Chain Skills or Offer an Introduction to the Field
Supply chain and operations management certificates offer a ticket for students who didn’t specialize in logistics to get the kind of focused knowledge they need to succeed in the field. These are typically graduate-level certificates, which means you are getting the same kind of coursework that a master’s degree in the field would offer. It also means you need to have an undergraduate degree behind you before you even consider signing up.
Rather than forcing you to take a whole master’s program just to get this specific logistics training, certificates package a handful of focused classes in a fast-paced, laser-focused program lasting only a few months.
This gives you a path to develop:
- A global perspective on logistics and shipping connections
- An understanding of measurement and continuous improvement processes
- A knowledge of systems theory and how operations and supply chains interact
It’s also important to understand that a certificate won’t make you an instant expert in the field. They can help round out your knowledge or bring you up to speed in advanced logistics practices if your undergraduate degree specialized in supply chains.
Supply chain management certificate programs are also a great choice if you happen to have a position that is highly dependent or closely related to supply chains, like operations, construction, or industrial production management.
Supply Chain Management Grad Certificate Curriculum Focuses on the Essentials for Managers
There is a lot of ground to cover in supply chain management studies, and certificates have to pack it into only a few classes. You’ll typically find courses such as:
- Operations and Project Management – Supply chains are only part of a larger business operating environment. Coursework in general operations and in project management develops your insight and skills in integrating major supply chain efforts with the general business activities they support.
- Global Supply Chain Design – Modern supply chains are often global in nature. Designing and managing them means developing an understanding of different transport modes, international shipping requirements and regulatory compliance, and macroeconomic factors. These classes will give you the overview of each of those key elements of supply chain design.
- Supply Chain Risk Management – Supply chains are often fragile, and an solid understanding of risk and mitigation is key in planning and operating them. These classes offer insights into crisis management, contingency planning, disaster recovery, and other keys to business continuity.
- Technologies and Cost Management – New technologies are constantly impacting supply chain costs and benefits. These courses will help you understand everything from green shipping methods to blockchain-based product tracking… and how to use them to keep your company ahead of the competition.
Some certificate programs might also cover industry-specific tools, or big-picture best practices programs like Six Sigma or Lean Supply Chain Management.
Whether you are looking to further develop your expertise as a logistics professional, or add a new set of skills to your game in a supply chain-dependent position, a fast and affordable graduate certificate can get you there.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market figures for Logisticians, Architectural and Engineering Managers, Construction Managers, and Industrial Production Managers represent national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed in September 2022.