Jobs and Career Paths in Supply Chain Management and Logistics

Senior business woman explaining business matters to her team in a boardroom. Mature manager planning new strategy with colleagues in meeting.

As the supply chain has evolved over the past decade, so has the role of the people who manage it. Higher education programs have evolved along with the industry, and programs are offered to get supply chain professionals ready for the workforce. However, as you are planning your supply chain management career path, it’s important for candidates to understand how supply chain professionals function and interact on a day-to-day basis and, more importantly, what skills hiring companies are looking for and how you can obtain them.

Organizations across a wide variety of disciplines benefit from a well-functioning supply chain. Proper management is crucial, and companies are willing to invest the necessary resources to improve logistics and operations. Therefore, the supply chain management career path has a positive outlook, and the necessary training and education is readily available for professionals who are looking to make a career change or are simply interested in advancing their career.

What does a supply chain manager do?

If you're not familiar with the supply chain industry, you may be asking—what is supply chain management and what does a supply chain manager do? Business Dictionary defines supply chain management as the "management of material and information flow in a supply chain to provide the highest degree of customer satisfaction at the lowest possible cost." Chain management goals can only be achieved if supply chain partners are willing to work in collaboration with one another to plan, source, make, and deliver goods and services. Virtually every person on the planet is affected by the supply chain. Businesses rely on the supply chain to grow their brand and increase profits, while consumers rely on the supply chain to deliver on its promise so they can purchase and partake in products and goods that sustain their lives.

Although the supply chain has existed for some time, supply chain management has experienced change, and chain management experts predict that these changes will continue to occur as technology advances. While the amount of available data increases on a daily basis, companies implement the use of AI and machine learning to improve internal operations and make important business decisions that impact the bottom line.

According to Shay Scott—Executive Director of Supply Chain and Operations Programs and Executive Director of the Global Supply Chain Institute at the UT Haslam College of Business—supply chain management is swiftly changing. In Scott's March 2019 speech, he explains, with new mission-critical trends that have emerged in supply chain management within the past two decades—thanks to AI, digital platforms, and transparently immersive experiences—the supply chain has "transformed itself from disparate functions into an integrated amalgam. Supply chains must not only deliver customer value profitability but also work almost every area of the business to do so—customers, suppliers, sales and marketing, finance and senior leadership.”

As a result of these changes, great opportunities for supply chain managers have come along. Improved technology has resulted in supply chain managers expanding their scope and finding careers within a variety of disciplines. Then—you may ask—what does a supply chain manager do across various industries?

According to the Bureau of Labor (BLS), supply-chain management is used in a variety of fields such as manufacturing; federal government; professional, scientific, and technical services; management of companies and enterprises; and wholesale trade. A logistician—which is a chain management role that is responsible for the analysis and coordination of the entire life cycle of a supply chain—typically carries the following duties, according to the BLS:

  • End-to-end product lifecycle management
  • Oversee and direct operational functions involving materials and products
  • Build strong business relationships with all necessary stakeholders
  • Get to know clients on a personal level and understand their needs
  • Lead logistics teams and improve disruptions in the supply chain operation
  • Create efficiencies and develop cost-effective strategies

A day in the life of a supply chain manager typically includes the following:

  • Design, implement, and monitor transportation routes
  • Oversee purchasing, material and inventory planning, shipping, and receiving
  • Coordinate with purchasers, sellers, customers, and employees
  • Identify and quickly resolve issues, especially those that are time-sensitive

Working in supply chain management allows business leaders the opportunity to work in a variety of industries and disciplines. It also provides the opportunity to better understand the concept of trade and how goods and services are shared and used as a negotiation tactic across the world and through a number of political climates. Supply chain managers typically work in fast-paced environments and are responsible for implementing the most efficient and cost-effective strategies.

As AI and data analytics have found a seat at the supply chain table, supply chain managers have become a valued part of a company's C-suite. Therefore, careers in supply chain management are flourishing and choosing to pursue a supply chain career can result in a fulfilling and lucrative profession.

Kinds of careers in supply chain management

Deciding to pursue a career in supply chain management can be difficult. However, obtaining a graduate degree in supply chain management—such as the Master's in Supply Chain Management (MSSCM) program at UT Haslam—exposes you to a variety of networking and project-based opportunities that will enable you to decide on an area that interests you most. Of the 2018 supply chain graduate cohort, some of the most common job titles upon graduation included: operations supervisor; inventory analyst; account manager; logistics analyst; and supply chain associate.

Attending a graduate program will also give students the opportunity to explore a variety of companies to determine which one is the best fit. Some of the top hiring companies for the 2018 supply chain graduate cohort included: J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc.; PepsiCo/Frito-Lay, Inc.;; DHL Supply Chain; International Paper; and Georgia-Pacific.

Annual salaries and opportunities to advance can differ from one job to another due to the kinds of careers in supply chain management and the seniority level at which you are working. For example, if you work in a small warehouse, it may take longer before you are eligible to be promoted to a position that offers a higher salary; whereas, working at a headquartered office for a large company may provide earlier upward mobility.

A supply chain professional's salary also depends upon their level of education. Typically, those with a bachelor's degree will secure an entry-level position, whereas those with a graduate supply chain management degree like the MSSCM at UT Haslam may have the opportunity to begin their supply chain career at a senior level. Payscale reports that individuals who possess a bachelor's degree in supply chain management earn an average annual salary of $66,000, while those with a master's degree in supply chain management earn an average annual salary of $74,000. Furthermore, Haslam's 2018 MBA graduate cohort—considering only those who entered the supply chain industry workforce upon graduation—earned an average of $90,000 per year, with the highest salary reaching $112,000 per year.

As a supply chain manager, it's critical that your skills—analytical, relational, strategic, and technical—evolve and grow as the industry shifts and takes on new operational strategies. Every part of the supply chain, such as warehouse operations, requires a new way of approaching supply chain management, so ensuring you have received proper training and instruction is paramount to your success as you pave your career path as a supply chain manager.

Career path for supply chain managers

Initiating a career path for supply chain managers can vary depending on a number of factors. Honing educational and professional backgrounds, supply chain management employees must understand the end-to-end process in order to understand and work toward a higher goal and purpose while completing each detailed job. Whether you coordinate a global supply chain operation or lead a group of distribution managers, the goal is to deliver the highest quality product that fulfills consumer needs.

The career path for supply chain managers can commence with a bachelor's degree and an entry-level position, while subsequently working your way up the professional ladder. Another route includes pursuing higher education and—upon graduating—moving to a senior level or executive position, depending on your years of experience once you complete a graduate program.

It's important to bring immediate value to your industry, and in order to achieve this goal and maintain a successful and fulfilling supply chain management career, supply chain professionals should consider pursuing a renowned supply chain management graduate program. But how do you choose the right graduate program? There are several factors to review when choosing the best supply chain management program:

  • Relevance: The best supply chain management graduate programs will offer a rigorous course of study. It's also important to ensure that you will gain real-world experience with a capstone project or hands-on learning.
  • Online Learning: With online learning, you have the flexibility to learn at your own pace and won't have to put life or your career on hold. Online education allows students to benefit from the relationships developed with both classmates and instructors. Online faculty hold office hours and answer questions in real-time.
  • School Ranking: Rankings can help you determine how industry leaders, companies, and alumni view a program.
  • Faculty: Supply chain management programs should secure faculty that are highly regarded industry experts. It's important that the faculty bring real-world experience to the classroom, including current and former supply chain executives.
  • Community: While many supply chain management graduate programs are offered online, you must confirm that the program maintains a close community of cohorts that receives proper attention and assistance from university faculty and staff.
  • Alumni Network: Maintaining lasting relationships that stem from a graduate program is invaluable. Graduate school is also a great time to secure mentorships that will continue throughout your career. This is why it's paramount that supply chain management programs maintain a strong network of successful alumni.
  • Financial Opportunity: An MS in Supply Chain Management is an investment in your future, and it's important to determine your return-on-investment by researching the success of previous students and prescribing your potential outcome.

Steps to becoming a supply chain manager

The first step in achieving a successful supply chain management career is to research the industry to ensure that you have a comprehensive perception of the supply chain process. From procuring raw materials to delivering manufactured goods, it's important to first understand where you can find the most in-demand supply chain management jobs so you have a clear vision with respect to how you can reach your goals.

The next steps to becoming a supply chain manager include diving into what supply chain executives are looking for when it comes to the most qualified candidates. A study conducted by McKinsey found that supply chain managers are expected to have cross-functional skills. They must be dynamic and of high emotional intelligence, as they are required to communicate and work with people across various teams and throughout multiple disciplines.

Once you understand the demand of the field and what hiring managers are looking for, supply chain professionals must ensure that they have a strong resume that satisfies the desired qualifications in the supply chain industry. According to McKinsey, university education is a critical component for all supply chain professionals. If you don't have a bachelor's degree that supports the field of supply chain management, you may consider obtaining an online MSSCM to advance your knowledge that is specific to supply chain concepts, functions, and enablers. Haslam's online MSSCM does exactly that, as the program goals include: career readiness; real-world problem solving; online learning and flexibility; and access to industry leaders.

Haslam carefully considers, collects, and distributes a wide variety of resources for supply chain graduate students who are seeking career assistance. Haslam's reputable sources play a part in bringing graduates closer to a rewarding and lucrative career because it provides insight that will enable students to prepare for the supply chain industry. Haslam's career resources include some of the following areas:

Start your supply chain career at the UT Haslam College of Business

Haslam offers an excellent MS in Supply Chain Management, which is offered completely online, so you don't have to put your life on hold while advancing your career. In addition to the many resources offered by Haslam, one of the most important and inherent career resources for all online MSSCM graduate candidates is the Global Supply Chain Institute (GSCI). The online MSSCM is taught by the same expert faculty members that are recognized through the GSCI as leading experts in the field of supply chain management. The GSCI maintains more corporate partnerships—with Fortune 100 companies such as Amazon, Dell, FedEx Services, Pepsico, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Walmart, and more—than any other supply chain management program and hosts the Supply Chain Forum twice per year.

Through the GSCI, online MSSCM candidates build relationships through these corporate partnerships and events, thereby expanding their network and job opportunities.

Additionally, Haslam also offers an Executive MBA for those looking to expand the global supply chain discipline (and their own value) within their company. With minimal time away from work and access to unparalleled faculty, those pursuing the EMBA can do so in less than a year.

Learn more about the GSCI, Haslam's online MSSCM, and the EMBA in Global Supply Chain today.