Supply chain management is all about managing resource flow to maximize profits and minimize waste. Supply chain managers oversee materials, finances, and information throughout the lifecycle of a product. That lifecycle is complex and includes all the people, processes, raw materials, and other resources involved in the production of goods, as well as the handling and distribution of finished products. When the supply chain crosses borders, things get even more complicated because international trade regulations, overseas shipping rules, and other considerations come into play.
It’s possible to work in global supply chain management with just a bachelor’s degree, but if you want to advance in this field you should consider earning a Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management (sometimes abbreviated MS GSCM). This advanced degree will give you the knowledge and skills to understand and analyze the relationships among the major functional areas of a company and the various outside firms that contribute to product development, product manufacturing, and product distribution.
In this guide to a Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management, we’ll cover:
The people most likely to choose supply chain management as a career are those who are driven to find the most efficient and cost-effective ways of doing things, and they don’t necessarily want to sit at a desk all day, every day. Working in supply chain management means consistently learning new things, working across functions and departments, using lots of interesting analytics and forecasting technologies, and traveling frequently.
Global supply chain management tends to attract people who like big puzzles. Companies need to follow best practices when it comes to global supply chain management, but best practices are debatable and dependent upon priorities. The most inexpensive options may not be the best ones, and the most sustainable options may not be the most cost-effective ones. Figuring out how to streamline logistics and supply chain management on a large scale is challenging—there are many variables to contend with, from procurement to communication to warehouse operation. Fortunately, you won’t have to do it alone.
Maybe you love buying, in which case you might want to explore careers in purchasing. If you’re interested in managing people and want to spend more time on your feet, you could become a warehouse director. Alternatively, if you love to travel, you might become a manager of international transportation. In all roles, you’ll be dealing with the complex nature of the global economy.
Mike Dennison, president of the High Velocity Solutions business group at Flextronics International, used this example in an article in Industry Week to illustrate how globalization makes doing business more challenging.
“The first thing you have to understand is that manufacturing in China is massively different from manufacturing in Brazil, in a number of ways: in how we set up our factories, in how we work with the government, in how we get product into the factories and then out of the factories as finished goods and into the hands of the consumer.”
Experienced supply chain professionals often enroll in graduate programs to advance to senior roles, while professionals in other fields may enroll to transition into SCM careers. (
You'll have the business chops to transition out of SCM if you decide this field isn't for you and the knowledge and skills to work in management roles in the various areas of supply chain management. ( )
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To be accepted into a master’s degree program in any discipline, candidates need to have earned the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. According to a recruiting guide for the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business’ Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management program, students pursuing this master’s degree most often have a bachelor’s degree in:
If you’re still looking at bachelor’s degree programs, choosing one of these can make you a more attractive applicant. There are also a handful of schools that let students choose a global supply chain management major:
You may also need to submit GMAT/GRE scores as part of the application process, though some schools (like Portland State University) do not require either. Students applying to online master’s programs or who have significant work experience are sometimes exempt from GMAT/GRE requirements.
In addition to transcripts and the required application essay or essays, you may also need to submit your résumé along with letters of recommendation from professional contacts. The University of Southern California‘s Marshall School of Business, for example, has specific work requirements. USC only considers candidates who have one to two years of full-time work experience in supply chain management or a related field for its on-campus program. Applicants who want to pursue the same degree online need to show three years of relevant work experience.
MS GSCM curricula vary from school to school. The length of time required to earn this master’s degree, number of credits, classes offered, required capstone projects, internship requirements, and graduation requirements differ at every university.
Students in all MS in global supply chain management programs dive deep into issues affecting global business management structures.
Coursework will touch on:
This is a multidisciplinary degree because the worldwide flow of goods, services, information, and money is tightly intertwined with politics, the environment, and the lives of people at every point in that flow. A comprehensive MS GSCM program will integrate different topics and help students understand the trade-offs that are sometimes required to succeed in a global marketplace.
Required coursework in global supply chain management master’s degree programs may include classes in:
Most master’s degree programs take about two years to complete for full-time students, but in this field, there are accelerated degree programs both on-campus and online:
There are a lot of master’s degree programs focused on supply chain management out there. Many of these include coursework that touches on the global supply chain. There are far fewer MS programs exclusively focused on global supply chain management. However, if you are interested in how people, information, processes, and resources are managed in a global economy, it makes sense to look at these focused degree programs first.
Some MS GSCM programs offer students more than just a degree. The best Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management programs give students opportunities to participate in real research and fieldwork in partnership with large enterprise-level companies. At some universities, students can complete a Lean Six Sigma supply chain management certificate course while enrolled or earn APICS credentials from the Association for Supply Chain Management (e.g., the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation). Other programs give students access to large professional networks — including access to industry events and summits — and take students on experiential trips to international supply chain hubs.
Some of the most comprehensive and focused Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management programs are found at the following universities:
This school’s 30-credit majority-online program is ranked twelfth by Gartner. Motivated students have the option of pursuing dual degrees in global supply chain management and either business analytics, finance, IT management, strategic management, entrepreneurship, or marketing.
The MS in global supply chain management at this university is one of only three global supply chain management master’s programs approved by the Institute for Supply Management and one of just two accredited by the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply.
The 18-month and 10-month programs (the fastest MS GSCM available) at this school have previously been ranked among the top in the US by research firm Gartner, Inc. All students complete a real-world project for a partnering company as part of an experiential learning requirement.
This school’s 16-month master’s degree program, offered in collaboration with the Viterbi School of Engineering, can be completed at USC’s Los Angeles campus or online. It made Gartner’s 2018 list of the top supply chain university graduate programs.
UTK offers its MSGSC in both an on-campus and online format. Faculty and alumni include many industry leaders, providing students with a built-in network from which to launch or advance their careers. The program’s NeXxus initiative targets the promotion of women in SCM professions. The 30-credit curriculum can be completed in 18 to 24 months. UTK also offers an online Executive MBA in Global Supply Chain.
Students who aren’t sure if they want to build a long-term career in supply chain management should consider enrolling in an MBA program that offers a global supply chain management concentration instead. One such program is the MBA with a concentration in global supply chain management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This degree (which can be completed entirely online) includes broad masters of business administration coursework that dives deep into financial management, organizational behavior, accounting, economics, management, project management, and ethics plus concentration coursework in supply chain management. After completing the program, you’ll be qualified to work in supply chain leadership roles in a variety of organizations, but you’ll also be able to transition into other roles if you feel like making a career change.
Graduates of MS GSCM programs can pursue advanced positions in global supply chain management. Some job titles held by people who have earned this degree include:
PayScale reports that the earning prospects for professionals working in global supply chain management are good. The average yearly salary for global supply chain managers is $97,117 before bonuses and profit-sharing, and in certain roles, you might make as much as $143,000 per year. How much you actually make will depend on what types of roles you choose, how much work experience you have, your location, and the industry you work in, but what you can count on is that you will probably make more money with a master’s degree on your résumé than with a bachelor’s degree.
If you’re fascinated by the flow of information and resources in the global marketplace and/or your goal is to work in supply chain management at an international company, then an MS GSCM might be the right degree for you. With it, you might end up doing work that’s much more important than you realize.
Michael Gravier, a Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at Bryant University, wrote in Supply Chain Management Review about the impact of global supply chain management on the world economy.
“I’m making a bold assertion: global supply chain management practices are single-handedly holding down inflation across the globe… The changes to the world economy have only just begun. And supply chain managers stand at the forefront.”
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