Businesses thrive or die on logistics: the flow of information, goods, and services required to produce and distribute a product. It sounds pretty basic until you consider that logistics involves everything from the procurement and transportation of the raw materials used to make the product to the warehousing and sale of that product. There's a lot that can go wrong in an operation of that size and scope; logisticians make sure nothing does.
To make and sell even a single product, many puzzle pieces have to fit together just right. For instance, if component parts aren't delivered on time, orders can't be fulfilled on schedule, and customers may demand refunds. If fabrication takes longer than anticipated, there may not be enough product to meet customer demand, and sales will suffer. If shipping or warehousing or distribution are too expensive, a business won't be able to make enough profit to stay afloat.
Logistics analysts look at the production puzzle as a whole from many angles to spot and address inefficiencies that eat into profits. They find ways to cut costs and streamline operations so businesses can use resources as intelligently as possible—and, not as a result, make as much money as possible.
Logistics analysis may not be especially sexy as occupations go, but it is fulfilling. According to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals 2019 Young Professionals Survey:
On top of that, logistics analysts and other supply chain professionals make excellent money and enjoy the kind of job security most people can only dream of. Logistics may just be the best career path you've never heard of.
In this article about how to become a logistics analyst, we cover:
Logistics analysts (also known as logisticians or logistics engineers) are supply chain professionals who use quantitative techniques and operations research to analyze the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the moving parts of a supply chain. They are concerned with the flow of energy, goods, products, services, people, and information—in other words, every resource that goes into producing a product, from the point of origin to the final destination.
A logistics analyst's job is to ensure that the right amounts of materials and goods are in the right places, at the right times, in the right condition (unfinished or finished), and for the least amount of money. That last part is essential. Logistics isn't a problem when companies spend freely, but most companies can't afford to do that. Logisticians look at the entire system to find ways to ensure a business' resources flow as smoothly as possible for as little money as possible.
Logistic analysts work in a variety of industries. They look at how raw materials are sourced and transported, and how inventory is distributed and warehoused. They study the paths products take before and after packaging and other movements along the supply chain. Their responsibilities include scrutinizing copious amounts of data, for which they may use specialized data analytics software. Professionals who choose logistics careers need problem-solving skills, analytical skills, communication skills, patience, and a head for numbers.
On any given day, a logistician might be:
Logistics analysts scrutinize the logistical elements of the supply chain and find points where efficiency and reliability can be improved, and costs can be reduced.
Most logistics analysts—62 percent—have only a bachelor's degree, and that's the education employers tend to look for. Many have a Bachelor of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, a degree that demonstrates the requisite knowledge of logistics. Still, it's possible to become a logistics analyst with a BS in Operations Management, a BS in Business Analytics, a Bachelor of Business Administration in Supply Chain Management, or another related degree. It's not enough to learn only about supply chain management when your goal is to enter the logistics field. Logistics analytics also requires strong quantitative skills.
Students in degree programs for logistics analysts study topics like:
They also complete general education courses like communication, statistics, and history along with electives that may or may not be related to logistics or supply chain management. At the University of North Texas at Dallas, students take nine credit hours of logistics electives. Students studying logistics and supply chain management at Athens State University, in contrast, are only required to take general education electives.
Some colleges and universities with logistics degrees allow students to choose a concentration area. Michigan State University, for instance, offers a Bachelor of Arts in Supply Chain Management with concentrations like:
Not all logistics analysts have four-year degrees. About 10 percent of professionals in the logistics industry have two-year associate's degrees like the Associate of Applied Science in Supply Chain Management and Logistics. Some logisticians (about 14 percent) have master's degrees.
There's no single 'perfect' logistics degree at the graduate level. Logistics analysts who want to advance in the field or move into supply chain management earn degrees like the:
A lot of professionals look into getting a master's degree because they want to make more money, but in this field, experience may be more critical when it comes to boosting earnings. Logistics analysts with master's degrees and doctorates only make a few thousand dollars more than their colleagues with bachelor's degrees—which may not be enough to justify the cost of an advanced degree.
Logistics analysts aren't legally obligated to have specific certifications. Still, earning one or more certifications can demonstrate that a professional is committed to excellence and professional growth. There are a few certifications for logisticians and several more general certifications that can help logistics professionals get hired and negotiate for higher salaries. These include the:
Supply chain logistics is easy to break into, and the highest level of education you'll need to get started is relatively low. It's possible to get a job in logistics with a two-year degree, especially if you're willing to start in transportation or warehousing. Logistics analyst can be an entry-level position, but often it isn't.
Many companies won't hire logistics analysts with less than three years of work experience (sometimes at the logistics management level) in supply chains and logistics. You can get the work experience you need to land a logistics analyst position by working in logistical support as a dispatcher or clerk before moving into a logistics specialist role.
Logistics analyst isn't a terminal position. There are different levels of logistics analysts, and logisticians can advance into roles like:
The answer depends on whom you ask. PayScale reports that the average salary for logistics analysts is about $57,000. Glassdoor's user-reported salary data suggests that logistics analysts earn about $54,000. Indeed's users report that the average logistics analyst salary is closer to $63,000. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that logisticians earn about $75,000.
The reason sites like these publish figures that are so different may be because they're not dividing users by seniority level. Salary.com reports salary information for Level I Logistic Analysts, Level II Logistics Analysts, and so on. According to the site's data, the most senior logisticians actually earn close to $100,000.
Logisticians are very much in demand in almost every industry—and the fact that so many young people have never heard of supply chain logistics may explain the difficulty companies have filling logistics roles. Employers are trying to hire logistics analysts and supply chain professionals in manufacturing, shipping, warehousing, retail, government contracting, military and defense, but it isn't easy. According to the University of North Texas, there are five jobs available for every one supply chain management degree graduate. A career in logistics can mean fielding multiple offers from manufacturers and logistics companies every time you look for employment.
Professionals who end up in those positions take on a lot of responsibility. "Logistics itself is a very challenging area within the SCM domain as most of the points of failure occur during logistics functions," Rohit Sharma told the Rasmussen College Business Blog. Supply chains are active around the clock, and logistics analysts have a hand in every point of that chain. When problems arise, the logistician may be the one responsible for solving them—and may have to work overtime to do it.
Don't let that scare you off, however. The pay is much better than average, and while this role sounds stressful, US News & World Report has ranked logistician as high as number six on their Best Business Jobs list and as high as number 26 on their 100 Best Jobs list. If you're looking for a stable and fulfilling job that pays well and is different every day, this could be it.
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