Business Administration

Which Master’s in Supply Chain Management Programs Are Best?

Which Master’s in Supply Chain Management Programs Are Best?
There is more than one kind of master's in supply chain management, and a lot of colleges and universities offer these degrees. Finding the right one can be a challenge. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry June 30, 2020

Attending one of the best master's degree programs for supply chain management can rocket your career forward. So can attending a program at a less-notable or lower-ranked school.

MBA/Business and Supply Chain Management Programs You Should Consider

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Supply chain management (SCM) may be the best field most people have never heard of. It’s surprising, frankly, given that:

So, why aren’t more people rushing out to earn supply chain management degrees and join the ranks of supply chain managers and other supply chain professionals? It may be because this field has a confusing array of inroads. It’s still possible to work your way up from the bottom into managerial roles in SCM. Still, it’s not always clear where to start (transportation management? purchasing? inventory control?) or what a typical advancement path looks like.

Earning a master’s in supply chain management is one way to cut through the confusion. With an advanced degree, you can bypass those entry-level roles or transition into higher-paying management-level roles in SCM.

Making the decision to pursue SCM at the graduate level doesn’t mean you don’t have more choices to make, however. There is more than one kind of master’s in supply chain management, and a lot of colleges and universities offer these degrees. Finding the right one can be a challenge. We can help. In this article about the best universities for a master’s in supply chain management, we cover:

  • What kinds of professionals pursue SCM at the master’s level, and why?
  • Are there different kinds of supply chain management master’s degrees?
  • What courses do students in these programs typically take?
  • What are the best universities for a master’s in supply chain management?
  • Why are the programs at these schools considered the best in the United States?
  • Do the best master’s in SCM programs all take two years to complete?
  • Are supply chain MBA programs better than other SCM master’s programs?
  • What can you do with a master’s in supply chain management?
  • Do students who attend one of the top universities for a master’s in supply chain management earn more?
  • Do you really need an MSSCM to advance in supply chain management?

What kinds of professionals pursue SCM at the master’s level, and why?

People study supply chain management at the master’s level for three reasons.

  • Some already have years of experience in supply chain and logistics management, and they’re looking for a way to take their careers to the next level; some schools cater to these students with programs designed for seasoned SCM professionals
  • Others don’t have a background in SCM and are looking to transition into supply chain careers, which is why you can also find master’s in supply chain management programs that admit students with business, data analytics, and entirely unrelated backgrounds
  • A third group pursues master’s degrees in supply chain management not because they have specific professional aspirations involving global logistics or supply chain risk management, but rather because they are fascinated by the complicated web of materials, manufacturers, warehouses, transportation companies, distribution processes, and human resources required to produce and bring even a single product to market
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Are there different kinds of supply chain management master’s degrees?

All supply chain management master’s degree programs, whether full-time or part-time, cover the approaches, technology, and skills required to produce and move goods and manage inventory and distribution. That said, degree naming conventions can vary quite a bit from school to school. Do a little searching, and you’ll quickly discover that your school search results include degrees like the:

None of these degrees represents the “best” academic pathway for supply chain management professionals. The MSSCM at one institution might be virtually identical to the Master of Applied Science in Supply Chain Management at another. The one exception is the supply chain MBA, but that exception isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. While the SCM MBA curriculum at many colleges and universities includes more courses related to business fundamentals than supply chain management, that’s not universally true. There are plenty of MBA in Supply Chain Management programs that look a lot like MSCM (and vice versa).

What courses do students in these programs typically take?

Coursework in supply chain management master’s degree programs at the best colleges for SCM typically covers topics like:

  • Business logistics
  • Customer relationship management
  • Demand chain management
  • Electronic data interchange
  • Enterprise resource planning
  • Inventory control systems and supply management
  • Inventory management
  • Logistics management
  • Operations management
  • Order fulfillment
  • Procurement and strategic sourcing
  • Project management in SCM
  • Supply chain networks
  • Supply chain security
  • Total quality management
  • Vendor-managed inventory

The best master’s in supply chain management programs give students opportunities—whether through electives, capstone projects, or concentrations—to dive deep into even more esoteric corners of SCM like military supply chain management, liquid logistics, customer-driven supply chain operations, and reverse logistics management.

What are the best universities for a master’s in supply chain management?

These top universities for SCM offer different types of degrees at the graduate level. Some offer both online and on-campus programs, while others offer just one or the other. The schools below are some of the best for supply chain management. They offer a variety of programs—from the more common Master of Science to business-oriented MBAs—focused on this discipline:

Why are the programs at these schools considered the best in the United States?

Academics are only part of the equation when it comes to the quality of any degree program. All the above universities have highly ranked SCM programs at the master’s degree level; even supply chain professionals and logisticians with years of work experience will learn a great deal.

That’s not why they’re the best, however. The schools above are the best universities for a master’s in supply chain management because they allow students to network with industry leaders and to flex their SCM muscles through research and fieldwork partnerships at large local companies. In some cases, those firms recruit program graduates right out of school.

These programs also prepare students to earn industry certifications from the Association for Supply Chain Management (e.g., the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation). This can be especially important: SCM professionals with a single certification earn 18 percent more than their uncertified colleagues, and every additional SCM certification correlates with an additional salary boost.

That said, best is subjective. Depending on your circumstances, the best university for you might be the one closest to you, the one with a hybrid or online program, the least expensive one, or the one with the most influential industry connections. You should also keep your priorities in mind when choosing from among master’s in supply chain management programs. Some programs offer unique concentrations. Others have extremely high post-graduation employment rates. Consider why you want to pursue this degree as you research your options.

Do the best master’s in SCM programs all take two years to complete?

Most master’s in supply chain management and SCM MBA programs take two years to complete for full-time students. Part-time students, whether they study online or on-campus, often graduate in three years. They may take longer to graduate, depending on how many classes they take per semester.

There are also accelerated on-campus and online master’s in supply chain management programs at some highly ranked colleges and universities. For instance, MIT has a 10-month intensive residential SCM master’s program and an accelerated hybrid SCM master’s program. Other schools allow students who qualify to pursue an SCM bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in supply chain management in less time than earning both degrees separately.

Are supply chain MBA programs better than other SCM master’s programs?

There can be a lot of overlap between these graduate programs. As a result, there’s no way to objectively state that one pathway is better than the other. The most significant difference between MSSCM programs and SCM MBA programs is typically their focus. Master of Science in Supply Chain Management programs are usually designed for students who want to spend their careers solving supply chain logistics problems. They devote more time to coursework related to supply chain, logistics, and operations optimization.

On the other hand, MBA in supply chain management degree programs tend to spend a fair amount of time on general business courses covering topics like finance, project management, accounting, and strategic management. These topics may be presented in the context of SCM or not, in which case students will take separate concentration courses related to supply chain management.

When you’re choosing between these two pathways, consider how money-motivated you are. PayScale reports that the average MBA in Supply Chain management salary is $84,000. The average Master of Science in Supply Chain Management salary is closer to $74,000. That $10,000 difference might not seem like much, but it gets a lot bigger when viewed through the lens of your lifetime earning potential.

What can you do with a master’s in supply chain management?

There is a lot that you can do with this degree. Supply chain management is a field that encompasses many different supply chain jobs. Roles in this discipline can involve everything from transportation logistics management to customer relationship management to warehousing and distribution. Master’s degree holders who work in SCM have titles like:

  • Demand planner
  • Global operations manager
  • Inventory planning analyst
  • Logistics manager
  • Materials manager
  • Materials planner
  • Production manager
  • Production scheduler
  • Operations manager
  • Supply chain manager
  • Transportation manager
  • Transportation planner
  • Warehouse operations manager

Many of the top-paying jobs in supply chain management pay above $90,000, and six-figure salaries are relatively common. Some of the best-paying positions in SCM are:

Do students who attend one of the top universities for a master’s in supply chain management earn more?

How much you earn with a master’s in supply chain management depends less on where you go to school than on what you do with it—unless you go to school for an MBA. Sources vary when it comes to how big a salary boost a master’s degree will give you if you work in SCM, with Salary.com reporting figures much higher than PayScale and other salary aggregators falling somewhere in between. The reality is that the averages are skewed no matter where you look. There are lower-paying roles in supply chain management (like transportation manager) and higher-paying roles (like SCM director). On top of that, some sectors—like energy and healthcare—pay a lot more than others. Your title and your job responsibilities will determine your earning potential.

SCM MBA salaries, however, do vary quite a bit based on where you go to school. Students who graduate from the top-ranked business schools in the US that offer this MBA concentration typically do earn more. The average base salary of graduates of the Haslam College of Business’ MBA in Supply Chain Management program from The University of Tennessee – Knoxville, for instance, is about $99,000—quite a bit higher than the $84,000 average quoted above.

Do you really need an MSSCM to advance in supply chain management?

Many people earn good money in supply chain and logistics careers with bachelor’s degrees. That said, more and more employers these days are looking for supply chain managers and other SCM professionals who have master’s degrees. According to Salary.com, close to half of all supply chain managers have master’s degrees. The higher you go up the supply chain ladder, the more graduate degrees you’ll find. Fifty-six percent of supply chain management VPs have advanced degrees. The same is true for logistics directors. Chances are that if SCM is your passion and you have your eye on the corner office, you’re going to need a master’s degree.

Indeed, you don’t need a master’s degree from a top school to advance in this field. Attending one of the best universities for a master’s in supply chain management may only give you a small salary boost in your current position. On the other hand, having a graduate degree may make it possible to advance into higher-level positions more quickly. Attending one of the above schools can make it easier to build a network of valuable industry contacts. The bottom line is this: if you can enroll in one of the best programs, do it. If you can’t, a degree from a less-distinguished program can still open a lot of doors in supply chain management—even the door to that corner office.

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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