If you’ve been thinking about starting or transitioning into a career in supply chain or logistics, there’s never been a better time.
Since the COVID-19-induced global supply chain disruption, organizations have turned focus to improving the efficiency and resiliency of their supply chains, increasing the demand for skilled talent across all levels.
In this guide, you’ll learn why a career in supply chain offers tremendous room for growth, tips for breaking into the field, and skills that can help you accelerate advancement.
Table of Contents
- Why Choose a Career in Supply Chain Management or Logistics?
- Supply Chain Management and Logistics Career Paths
- Supply Chain Management and Logistics Jobs and Skills
- How to Start a Career in Supply Chain Management: 3 Tips
Why Choose a Career in Supply Chain Management or Logistics?
In the wake of the pandemic, it’s processes, not products, at the center of innovation. Supply chain and logistics careers offer a front-row seat to the entire process of planning, sourcing, producing, and transporting goods to consumers, with ample opportunity to both diversify your skillset and choose an area of specialization that fits your strengths.
Supply chain and logistics professionals also enjoy higher salaries and stronger career opportunities compared to averages for most jobs.
1. A Future-Proof Career
In Gartner’s 2019 Digital Talent Gap Survey, only 27% of supply chain leaders said they had the talent needed to meet current supply chain performance requirements. Since the pandemic, this demand has only accelerated, compounded by the urgent need to digitize and restructure disrupted operations and re-strategize for a more resilient future. Supply chain and logistics professionals equipped with strong technical and analytical skills will be well-positioned for impactful, high-growth careers.
2. Climbing Salaries
Over the past decade, supply chain management and logistics salaries have been steadily climbing. According to 2020 survey data from the Association For Supply Chain Management (ASCM), supply chain and logistics professionals with a bachelor’s degree reportedly earn a median salary of $78,750. In the same survey, 91% also reported receiving additional bonuses on top of their base salary.
Experience is the biggest factor in determining salary. The median salary for entry-level supply chain professionals is $60,000, and that number can jump upwards to $90,000 for those with five to ten years of experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that logistics professionals earn a median salary of $76,270, and logistics managers and directors with 15 or more years of experience earn an average salary of $123,800 to $168,670.
3. Strong Job Satisfaction
2020 survey data from the ASCM reported that 88% of supply chain professionals felt optimistic about their careers. Logistics professionals report even higher career satisfaction rates, with roughly 94% of respondents stating satisfaction with their job. Survey data from the 2019 Young Professionals In Supply Chain found that a majority of young supply chain professionals felt challenged and supported by their managers and peers, and an astounding 70% of respondents felt their companies offer a fairly good chance for promotion.
Supply Chain Management and Logistics Career Paths
According to data from the APICS Foundation, most supply chain professionals hold multiple roles across the supply chain as they advance in their careers. The nonlinear nature of the field of supply chain is a result of the importance of understanding supply chain processes from end to end.
However, that’s not to say that supply chain professionals can’t choose to specialize in one domain. In the image below, find a few examples of the possible supply chain management career paths.
As shown in this image, it’s possible to stay in one function of the supply chain or move across different areas as you move towards the c-suite. For example, you can start your career as a logistics resource planner, move up to logistics manager, then logistics director, and lastly enter the c-suite as chief supply chain officer.
At their core, these flexible pathways rely on fundamental business, operations, and project management skills—all of which are excellent entry points into the field. Areas like marketing and information systems also offer valuable transferable skills that, paired with supply chain fundamentals and other critical skills, prepare professionals to thrive in supply chain roles.
"Companies want people with diverse backgrounds. They’re willing to train someone with an information systems background and turn them into a supply chain manager."
“Companies want people with diverse backgrounds,” said Ed Anderson, Jr. Centennial Professor for the Management of Innovative Technology at the University of Texas, Austin. “For example, they’re willing to train someone with an information systems background and turn them into a supply chain manager.”
Supply Chain Management and Logistics Jobs and Skills
Supply chains are vital to the health of many types of organizations, with roles spanning from supply chain managers to fork-life operators. These jobs are very much in demand, particularly in logistics, where there is a shortage of drivers and service technician positions.
The focus of logistics is the transportation and distribution of goods. From warehousing to inventory management to fleet management operations, logistics holds jobs for people of all experience and educational levels.
The skills and education requirements vary depending on the job title. Supply chain management roles such as procurement or purchasing managers often require a secondary degree and experience in multiple functions of the supply chain. These jobs generally have the highest salaries, but they also demand the most expertise.
Supply chain management and logistics share overlapping skill sets. They both demand a general understanding of all supply chain functions and components, and they both require a strong command of soft skills. Additionally, as supply chain activities shift to more strategic, high-level tasks, there is a growing need for analytical skills.
- Supply chain fundamentals: All supply chain workers, especially those in management positions, must understand every component of the supply chain and core skills such as demand planning and forecasting. Whether you specialize in procurement, operations management, or logistics, you should know how these functions work together.
- Business skills: Knowing how to develop business models or integrate marketing insights into the supply chain has become more critical. Developing problem-solving and analytical skills to recognize trends in data has also become highly sought-after skills in supply chain leaders.
- Soft skills: Communication, relationship management, and negotiating skills are essential to coordinate between internal stakeholders and vendors and ensure maximum supply chain efficiency.
How to Start a Career in Supply Chain Management: 3 Tips
The hardest part about the supply chain management career is getting your foot in the door. It’s recommended that you have at least a bachelor’s in supply chain management or a degree in accounting, information management, marketing, business administration, or engineering can be helpful, there are several other ways to position yourself for a role in supply chain management.
1. Develop Supply Chain Expertise
If you don’t have a supply chain management degree or any previous supply chain experience, you’ll need to develop expertise in the fundamentals and methodologies used in supply chain management, including designing supply chain networks, conducting supply chain modeling and analysis, and understanding how supply chains interact. For those looking to make the transition into supply chain, this expertise can be learned through supply chain courses and programs.
"I had been working at a biotech company as a logistic technician and then moved into a supply chain role focused on improving efficiency, but I didn't have the business and supply chain skills to advance within my team," said Mia, a supply chain manager in the United States. Through the MITx MicroMasters® program in Supply Chain Management on edX, Mia made a seamless transition into her new role as a supply chain manager, even receiving a significant pay bump and increased responsibility.
"Everything I learned from the MITx MicroMasters program in Supply Chain Management was immediately applicable in my job, giving me tools and background that I didn’t even realize I was missing."
"Everything I learned from the MITx MicroMasters program in Supply Chain Management was immediately applicable in my job, giving me tools and background that I didn’t even realize I was missing," said Mia. 'It was a great way to fill the gap between my professional and academic experiences, and gave me the confidence to tackle new challenges at work."
2. Earn Work Experience
Internships are fantastic to gain real-world experience in supply chain management. They strengthen your resume and allow you to make important connections that can help you during your career. The best way to find an internship is to utilize your college alumni and professional networks and carefully tailor your internship applications. If you are a supply chain student, you can start building out your network through supply chain student associations.
You can also gain experience by working in retail or material handling. Many retail positions affect the demand side of the supply chain. Material handling jobs such as forklift operators, truck drivers, or warehouse associates can give you exposure to logistics.
3. Start Upskilling in Key Areas
Upskilling in key areas can fast-track your career in supply chain management. If you don’t want to pursue an advanced degree in supply chain management, taking online programs or certifications is another great alternative. You can earn supply chain, planning, or logistics certifications from recognized supply chain associations like APICS, or you can build transferable business skills in areas such as data analysis or project management.
Mid to senior-level supply chain professionals will need tools and skills for redesigning supply chain strategies. For example, as supply chains become more agile and future-proof, tomorrow’s supply chain leaders can benefit from learning how to leverage AI technologies to ensure the supply chain is as resilient as possible amidst social or economic disruptions.
Start Building Your Supply Chain And Logistics Career
Supply chain and logistics have never been more vital in today’s economy. With more organizations seeking to employ skilled, experienced supply chain management professionals, a career in supply chain is sure to be high in demand over the long term. If you’re interested in learning supply chain fundamentals, advancing your career, or earning a supply chain degree, explore industry-aligned courses and programs at edX.