How to Become a Supply Chain Manager

When it comes to making a successful modern business, efficiency is the name of the game. As companies increasingly source their products along a multi-national pipeline, they’re in greater need of experts who can optimize that pipeline. Those experts are supply chain managers.

Optimizing the supply chain can transform a business. Amazon re-designed the typical supply chain formula to remove latencies in inventory and lower prices beyond what competitors were capable of. DHL tackled the old paper-based processing system at border checks by sending its customers paperwork before it sent the package, greatly speeding up the delivery process. In each case, supply chain management was the secret sauce that saved both the company and the customer a great deal of time, money, and hassle.

Supply chain managers work in three key areas: logistics (uniting sales and operations departments to optimize procurement processes); operations (managing product flows, optimizing warehouse processes; restructuring transportation networks); and finance (refining budgets to accurately report costs of inventory management; comparing and contrasting different methods of inventory recovery). All this requires a unique blend of theoretical and practical business knowledge.

If a supply chain is not working, the larger business is not working either. That’s why, in today’s world, supply chain managers are critical. Supply chain managers may calculate how to bring manufacturing operations back to America in a cost-effective manner. They may implement methods of making supply chains greener and more sustainable. Furthermore, automation and big data allow for complex calculations that can save resources and super-charge innovation.

If you’re interested in crunching the numbers and streamlining the future, check out our step-by-step guide to becoming a supply chain manager.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Supply Chain Manager

Step One: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)

After graduating from high school, aspiring supply chain managers will need to earn a bachelor’s degree. While there are bachelor’s programs that focus specifically on supply chain management, several other relevant majors exist, including finance, business, or even engineering.

Admissions requirements vary from school to school but generally include some combination of the following: a competitive high school GPA (3.0 or greater); SAT and/or ACT scores; letter(s) of recommendation; and a personal statement.

Arizona State University

According to US News & World Report, the online bachelor of science in supply chain management program at Arizona State University is the second-best in the nation. Its curriculum includes courses such as global supply chain management; business decision models; logistics management; supply chain strategy; and planning and control systems for supply chain management. The program consists of 120 credits.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years

Michigan State University

The number one supply chain management program on the US News & World Report list is the on-campus bachelor of arts option at Michigan State University. In addition to breadth requirements that span across several areas of business, students take classes such as procurement and supply chain management; procurement contracting; customs, compliance, and security; end-to-end simulation; and supply chain enterprise resource planning applications. The program consists of 120 credits.

  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years

Step Two: Gain Early Work Experience (Optional, Timeline Varies)

After earning a bachelor’s degree, aspiring supply chain managers generally need to get early work experience. This is a profession where people work their way up and early work experience often consists of roles with lower responsibility—but ones that maintain touchpoints with the supply chain.

Jobs and internships in supply chain analysis, product distribution, inventory management, and business operations can teach aspiring supply chain managers about the fast-paced workflow, data-based decision-making, and interdepartmental communication that’s essential to supply chain management. This sort of hands-on education is invaluable in the early stages of one’s career and as a bonus, some employers will even subsidize their employees’ graduate-level education.

Step Three: Earn a Master’s Degree (Optional, One to Three Years)

While some supply chain managers are hired with only a bachelor’s degree, it’s becoming increasingly common for employers to request graduate-level education. Dedicated master’s programs exist in supply chain management, but a master’s of business administration (MBA) can cover the fundamentals of all business processes, while still allowing for specialization in supply chain management. Entry requirements vary from school to school but generally include some combination of the following: a competitive (3.0 or greater) undergraduate GPA; GMAT and/or GRE scores; work experience; letter(s) of recommendation; and a personal statement.

When it comes to a graduate-level education in supply chain management, Michigan State University and Arizona State University once again rank among the top three.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University’s MBA with a concentration in supply chain management can be completed in 21 months. The concentration has several courses focused solely on supply chain management, including strategic procurement; services in the supply chain; sustainability and social responsibility; operations planning and execution; and project management.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years

Michigan State University

Michigan State University’s on-campus MBA with a concentration in supply chain management can be completed in 21 months. The curriculum is broken down into 31 credits of foundational knowledge, 12 credits on the selected concentration, and 18 credits of electives.

Concentration courses include emerging topics in supply management; manufacturing design and analysis; supply chain logistics; strategic sourcing; and integrated logistics systems.

  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years

Step Four: Gain Advanced Work Experience (Timeline Varies)

After earning a master’s degree, many aspiring supply chain managers focus on gaining work experience in leadership roles. This is the stage at which all of one’s graduate-level education is put into practice. Advanced work experience means learning on the job every day and teaching others along the way. While this could be seen as the terminal step for supply chain managers, it also builds towards the requirements for professional certification.

Step Five: Consider Professional Certification (Optional, Timeline Varies)

While it’s not a requirement to practice, many supply chain managers seek to further their education and distinguish themselves in the industry by pursuing professional certification. Offered by peer-led organizations, these certifications demonstrate one’s industry expertise and a commitment to the evolving best practices in supply chain management.

The Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) offers the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation. Eligibility requirements include a bachelor’s degree or three years of relevant work experience. Applicants must pass an eight-module exam that covers global supply chain networks, sourcing products and services, supply chain risk, internal operations and inventory, and supply chain relationships. Exam fees total $1,390 for non-members.

CSCP-holders will need to recertify every five years by submitting proof of 75 professional development points and submitting a fee of $100 for members and $200 for non-members. The ASCM also offers two other specialized designations of interest for supply chain managers: Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) and Certified in Logistics, Transportation, and Distribution (CLTD).

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) offers the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) designation. Candidates need a minimum of three years in a supply chain management role. Once deemed eligible, candidates must pass an exam in the fundamentals of supply chain management before earning their designation. For members, the exam fee is $495.

CPSM holders must recertify every three years by completing 60 hours of continuing education credits and paying a renewal fee of $135 for members and $295 for non-members. The ISM also offers the Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity (CPSD) designation for those who wish to specialize further.

Finally, the International Society of Logistics (SOLE) offers the Certified Professional Logistician (CPL) designation. Eligibility requirements include a master’s degree and at least four years of experience in logistics or a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience in logistics. Once the eligibility requirements are met, candidates will need to pass an eight-hour multiple-choice exam, which is broken up into four two-hour sessions. Exam fees are $375 for non-members. The CPL designation does not expire.

Featured Supply Chain Management Programs

Ohio University

Ohio University’s online master of business administration program with a concentration in operations & supply chain management helps students build the required knowledge and skills needed for succeeding in a world that is increasingly dominated by changing technologies and globalization. The faculty of the program includes proficient business professionals sharing their practical experiences and knowledge across various industries. The program includes an on-campus residency through the university’s Leadership Development Program (LDP).

Made up of 35 credits, the program includes courses such as management of Lean Six Sigma programs; project management; supply chain risk management; operations management; managerial finance; and strategic marketing.

Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university, a grade point average of 3.0, official transcripts, a current resume, a personal statement, and two letters of recommendation. GMAT scores are not required for admission.

Graduates will be able to take up roles such as supply chain managers, business operations managers, supply chain analysts, and commodity managers.

  • Location: Athens, OH
  • Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months

University of Maryland

University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business offers an online MBA program with a specialization in supply chain management where students learn about identifying, evaluating, and mitigating risk, improving efficiencies, and utilizing cutting-edge supply chain technology applications.

Comprising 54 credits, the program includes courses such as global trade logistics; supply chain risk management; innovative solutions to supply chain challenges; marketing management; strategic information systems; supply chain management; and strategic management.

From Lean to Six Sigma, this concentration explores the managerial approaches that help streamline and improve business processes to increase quality, profit, and customer satisfaction while also creating value.

The major admission requirements include a $75 application fee, a letter of recommendation, multiple years of professional experience, a 300-word essay defining career goals, GMAT or GRE scores (optional), and TOEFL or IELTS scores for non-native English speakers.

  • Location: College Park, MD
  • Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University offers an online master of business administration (MBA) program with a concentration in operations and supply chain management. This MBA program helps students deepen their understanding of transportation planning, procurement, warehouse management, and inventory control.

Made up of 30 credits, the program includes core courses such as leading people and organizations; organizational strategy in a global environment; innovation and strategy for high-performance organizations; measuring success in an organization; optimizing brands; and strategic opportunity management.

The concentration in operations and supply chain management includes courses such as quantitative analysis for decision-making; operations management; and supply chain management.

  • Location: Manchester, NH
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP); New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months

Norwich University

Norwich University offers an online master of business administration program with a concentration in supply chain management. Students through this concentration will be able to cultivate the advanced knowledge and skills needed to effectively and affordably manage demand and supply within and across companies.

The program comprises 36 credits including coursework in strategic resources management; managerial finance; strategic marketing and operations management; supply chain management strategy, planning, and operations; supply chain management logistics, design, and execution; and supply chain management assessment, integration, and optimization.

Applicants to the program must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally or nationally accredited U.S. institution or its equivalent, a completed application, a resume that includes three professional references, an official transcript, a letter of intent, and proof of English language proficiency for students whose first language is not English.

Graduates can take up roles such as logisticians, procurement specialists, and purchasing and acquisitions managers.

  • Location: Northfield, VT
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP); New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 18 months

Syracuse University

Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management offers an online MBA program with a specialization in supply chain management providing students with the management knowledge and skills for advancing into leadership positions. Graduates will learn about mitigating risk and implementing operational strategies in global supply chains by using optimization techniques, information technologies, and the case method.

The program consists of 54 credits including courses such as operations and supply chain management; principles of management science; supply chain and logistics management; project management; strategic management; and marketing management.

Students will be required to attend three in-person residencies where they will explore timely topics, apply their skills, and network with faculty members and classmates. At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as logisticians; management analysts; cost estimators; industrial production managers; operations research analysts; and purchasing managers.

  • Location: Syracuse, NY
  • Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International); Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months

University of North Carolina, Pembroke

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke offers a fully online MBA with a concentration in supply chain management providing students with the business skills and knowledge they need for effectively managing the flow of goods and services from the origin point to the consumption point. Courses in this program are taught by the same faculty members who teach on campus, helping students in expanding their interpersonal, leadership, and analytical skills.

For admission to the program, students must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, a grade point average of 2.5, GRE or GMAT scores (which can be waived), a completed application, and official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended.

The 36-credit program includes courses such as management information systems, supply chain management, operations management, managerial finance, quantitative methods, and organizational theory and behavior.

  • Location: Pembroke, NC
  • Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months

University of New Haven

The University of New Haven offers an online master of business administration program with a global supply chain management concentration training students in understanding and optimizing complex logistics processes. The faculty of the program includes engaging professors who include full-time practitioners and research-active, tenured professors who bring real-world industry experience to the classroom.

Comprising 34 credits, the program includes courses such as managing in global markets; decisions in operations management; business forecasting; nonprofit and services marketing; marketing management; strategic management; and leading organizational strategy and change.

The major admission requirements for the program include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or recognized institution in another country, official transcripts for all previously attended institutions, a statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, and a current resume. GRE/GMAT scores are not required for admission.

Graduates will be ready to take up positions such as logistics directors, global supply chain managers, senior data analysts, and operations research analysts.

  • Location: West Haven, CT
  • Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International); New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 18 to 24 months

Campbellsville University

Campbellsville University offers an online MBA in supply chain and logistics management. This program is designed to introduce students to innovative processes and methods that will empirically improve organizational operations for companies across a wide range of industries.

Applicants to the program must submit an official college transcript with a minimum grade point average of 2.5, a completed application, three letters of recommendation, a current resume, and an essay that includes a statement of professional goals.

Consisting of 36 credits, the program includes courses such as international trade regulations and global logistics; procurement and supply management; logistics and transportation management; management information systems; human resource management; and marketing management.

On successful completion of the program, graduates can take up roles such as logistics managers, integrated programs directors, supply chain directors, inventory managers, and supply chain planning managers.

  • Location: Campbellsville, KY
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months

Helpful Resources for Supply Chain Managers

Supply chain management is changing all the time. New developments in data analytics, sustainable sourcing, and procurement processes demand a constant re-evaluation of the supply chain landscape. If you’re interested in the conversations taking place in the industry right now, and where they’re headed, check out some of the resources below.

  • Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM)
  • Institute for Supply Management (ISM)
  • International Society of Logistics (SOLE)
  • Journal of Supply Chain Management
Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog
Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. Since 2018, he’s written extensively about how new and aspiring business school students can best plan their education and careers. In the Two Views series, he conducts detailed interviews with recent business school alumni, with a particular focus on the choice between in-person, online, and hybrid learning models. His Femme-BA series highlights business schools that not only excel academically but also take unique and robust steps to support a diverse and inclusive learning environment for women.

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