MS Supply Chain Management Online vs. Traditional MBA

June 8, 2020

Several years ago, deans at business schools began to notice a trend: a growing interest in a specialized master’s degree. While traditional (full-time, 2-year) master of business administration (MBA) programs have been the go-to degree programs for professionals who want to move into organizational leadership positions, master of science (MS) degrees have become increasingly popular. In 2013, U.S. News and World Report noted the growing number of people pursuing a specialized MS for their postgraduate studies, rather than a traditional MBA. The trend has continued as professionals seek specialized master’s degree programs to advance their careers or move into specific industries.

For supply chain management professionals in particular, it is a huge advantage to earn a master’s degree with knowledge immediately applicable to their work, like the Master of Science in Supply Chain Management Online (MS-SCM – Online) from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business.

There are important differences between a traditional MBA and an MS-SCM. Though both require no specific bachelor’s degree and prefer candidates with some professional experience, there are points to consider if you’re trying to choose between a traditional MBA and an MS-SCM.

How to decide whether a traditional MBA or an MS-SCM is right for you

The decision regarding whether to earn an online master’s degree in supply chain management or a traditional MBA is nuanced. You may find aspects of both degree programs that appeal to you. Here are some additional considerations to help you choose.

You might want to choose an MBA if:

  • You want the on-campus experience of a full-time program. It is worth noting, however, that some universities offer accelerated options. There are many one-year MBA degree programs to choose from, like the Executive MBA – Global Supply Chain (EMBA-GSC) at UT.
  • Your primary interest is finance or accounting. An MBA is a great credential for a career in corporate finance, and even an accelerated program, like the EMBA-GSC, specializes in finance and accounting coursework.
  • You want the flexibility to take on vastly different roles within organizations. You may find different ways to use your talents during your career. Your past professional experience doesn’t have to narrowly dictate your future employment. An MBA is a practical credential that can help you qualify for a variety of organizational leadership roles.

On the other hand, a master’s degree in supply chain management may be a better fit for you if:

  • You already work as a supply chain professional and you’d like to advance your career. An MS-SCM will help boost you into a career track in organizational leadership.
  • You want to start a career in supply chain management. If you’d like to move into the dynamic field of supply chain management, an MS-SCM is a great way to start, even if you have no professional experience in the field.
  • You have a keen interest in data analysis and data-driven management practices. Supply chain management benefits from good data. If you are interested in harnessing data to help organizations make better business decisions, this specialized degree will give you the skillset you need to succeed.
  • You want to take advantage of one of the fastest-growing sectors in organizational leadership. When you earn a master’s degree in supply chain management, you focus your post-graduate studies on a fast-growing and lucrative field.

In addition, the quality of the professors and your cohort of students is an important factor. Consider the class makeup of MBA students and of MS-SCM students. Choose an institution with respected professors and a curriculum that will give you the skills you need to put your career onto an organizational leadership track. At Haslam, the Supply Chain Management Program has been ranked third in the nation by both Industry Week and Gartner, and our faculty research publications were ranked fourth in the world by the 2020 SCM Journal List.

As you explore programs, ask to connect with current students to find out more about the degree programs. And make sure to review the program’s business affiliations; those connections can provide valuable training and job opportunities.

Career path differences between a traditional MBA and an MS-SCM

Traditional MBA graduates can advance through the ranks at many organizations. Most people who are promoted to a VP or C-suite position have undertaken postgraduate studies and received an advanced degree. A master’s in business administration is a degree that gives you the flexibility to work in more than one industry or department throughout your career.

There is some overlap between the career options open to traditional MBA graduates and those with a master’s degree in supply chain management. Both degrees put you on track for organizational leadership positions. And, as more companies recognize the central role of global supply chains to modern industry, supply chain professionals with advanced degrees are being chosen for CFO, COO, and CEO positions.

Supply chain manager is only one of many positions open to you after you earn a master’s degree in supply chain management. A recent search on Indeed found more than 14,000 openings for supply chain manager positions. Job titles included Production Manager, Senior Procurement and Planning Manager, and Director, Supply Chain & Logistics. There has never been a greater need for supply chain professionals than there is today. Additionally, there are more than 350 supply chain management jobs listed at the Vice President level. Job titles included Regional VP Operation, VP of Engineering and Client Delivery, and VP of Supply Chain.

Supply chains are the beating heart of our economy. Employers value the skills that your MS-SCM carries with it. With a master’s degree in supply chain management, you will be ready to play a crucial role in organizational leadership for some of the most dynamic organizations in the world today.

Salary expectations for MS-SCM vs. a traditional MBA

Post-graduate studies will enhance your earning potential beyond what you could earn with just an undergraduate degree. Whether you get a traditional MBA or an MS-SCM, your degree tells potential employers that you have organizational leadership training and skills. If you want to be at the forefront of the vital, data-driven field of supply chain management, it’s a good career move to earn a master’s degree in supply chain management.

The salary you can expect after you earn a master’s degree in supply chain management or a master’s of business administration will depend in part on your years of professional experience before and after your degree. Most companies want at least five years of professional experience (and often 10 or more) before they will promote you to a VP role.

Within a specialty area, a specialized master’s degree like an MS-SCM will command a higher salary due to the high-demand skill set. Supply chain management is a growing profession and the job outlook for this field looks particularly favorable in 2020 and beyond. Many in the business world have a new appreciation of the importance of global supply chains to the economic health of the U.S. and the world.

Why earn a master’s degree online?

Traditional MBA and MS-SCM degree programs involve a two-year course of study for full-time students. However, if you decide to pursue postgraduate studies after you have already started your career, or if you require a flexible study schedule, an online program may be a better fit for you. There are various options to make it easier for you to earn your master’s degree online.

Accredited online degree programs are accessible to a wide range of students, thanks to federal financial aid programs. The U.S. Department of Education has resources to help you identify grant and loan programs that will help you earn a Master of Science degree online. In addition, the financial aid office at your educational institution can help you find the resources you need to make your dreams a reality.

Another benefit of online degree programs is that they allow you to choose from among the best universities in the country. You can choose the program that best fits your interests, without the need to relocate.

When you opt to earn a master’s degree online, you don’t limit your choices. In an online master’s program like the MS-SCM from UT’s Haslam College of Business, you can choose to complete your studies in anywhere from 18 to 24 months. The pace is up to you.

Differences between a traditional MBA and an online MS-SCM

Your postgraduate studies will cover some of the same material whether you choose a traditional MBA or an MS-SCM. Both programs will cover finance and organizational leadership. However, the coursework is quite different.

A typical traditional MBA program will include classes in business finance, economic forecasting, accounting principles, and marketing. MBA students receive training in management and organizational leadership principles. After you complete an online master’s degree in business administration, you will be well-qualified to take on a variety of corporate roles, from marketing to finance. You’ll study the latest best practices for business operations and management. Traditional MBA graduates are more attractive candidates than those with just an undergraduate degree.

An online MS-SCM is likely to also include coursework in finance, data analysis, operations, and management. However, each course you take to earn a master’s degree from this specialized degree program approaches the subject from the perspective of supply chain management. After you complete your MS-SCM, you’ll be equipped with more than just general management principles. You will gain actionable knowledge that will prepare you for a successful career in supply chain management.

Graduates who earn an MS-SCM face a variety of career choices. Supply chain management is central to a broad range of industries including healthcare, consumer products, and transportation. When you earn a master’s degree in supply chain management, your postgraduate studies (combined with your professional experience) allow you to pursue a career that will take you into top organizational leadership roles.

Why choose the Master of Science in Supply Chain Management Online?

The Haslam College of Business at UT offers a Master of Science in Supply Chain Management Online taught by some of the most respected academics in the field of the global supply chain. In the MS-SCM – Online program from Haslam, you get the opportunity to study with talented students from around the country and around the world. The degree program includes 10 courses (30 credit hours of study, and you can choose to complete your studies in 18 months or two years. You get to choose the schedule that works for you.

Are you ready to take on an organizational leadership role in supply chain management through postgraduate studies? The Haslam College of Business’s Master of Science in Supply Chain Management Online program is ready to help you gain the skills and the credentials you need to pursue the supply chain career of your dreams.