Best Online Supply Chain Management MBA
March 16, 2021
You can get far in supply chain management on elbow grease alone. That said, an MBA—or a related master's degree—can provide a significant edge over the competition.
The term supply chain describes all the processes, people, and resources required to turn raw materials into a product and to get that product from the manufacturing plant into the hands of consumers. Supply chain management (SCM) involves everything from overseeing operations and logistics to managing procurement and warehousing. A supply chain can have thousands of moving parts, and supply chain managers are responsible to some degree for all of them.
As a result, they're well-paid. Entry-level salaries in SCM range around $51,000, and the median supply chain specialist salary is close to $90,000. At the management level, supply chain professionals earn well over $100,000 annually—a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by new job seekers.
SCM was once a field where a determined newbie could work their way up into management with a high school diploma or an associate's degree. Now, 48 percent of supply chain management professionals have master's degrees.
One way you can compete on this new, more saturated playing field—where fewer jobs are going unfilled and more job seekers have SCM degrees—is to pursue a supply chain management MBA. An MBA in Supply Chain Management is different from a Master of Supply Chain Management. The MBA covers business and management fundamentals in addition to SCM, making it a good choice for those who want to climb the supply chain ladder.
The good news is that you don't need to put your life on hold to get a Master of Business Administration with a supply chain concentration. In this article about the best online supply chain management MBA programs, we cover:
- What kinds of professionals pursue MBAs in supply chain management?
- Why do some students choose online supply chain MBA programs?
- How do online supply chain MBA programs differ from on-campus programs?
- Which schools have the best online supply chain management MBA programs?
- What sets the best online supply chain management MBA programs apart?
- Does it really matter where I get my SCM MBA from?
- Are there accelerated supply chain MBAs at top schools?
- How much do online SCM MBA programs typically cost?
- What careers do people with an MBA in supply chain management pursue?
What kinds of professionals pursue MBAs in supply chain management?
Supply chain MBA programs offer specialized business degrees designed for experienced supply chain professionals who want to advance into management or executive positions. Some supply chain management MBA programs serve professionals currently in other fields who wish to transition into SCM careers without starting at the bottom. These students are equally likely to enroll in Master of Science in Supply Chain Management programs that teach supply chain management and operations best practices.
What differentiates these two academic pathways is that the MBA is a first and foremost a business degree. SCM MBA students learn advanced business concepts within the context of supply chain, logistics, and operations management. Some programs even have core course requirements that are virtually indistinguishable from those in traditional MBA programs. And like quite a lot of traditional MBA programs, there are many supply chain management MBA programs that only accept applicants with significant work experience in positions related to:
- Business management
- Global logistics
- Global operations
- Inventory control or inventory management
- Logistics management - Materials management
- Operations management
- Project management
- Quality management
- Supply management and procurement
- Supply chain operations
While MBA in Supply Chain Management programs without specific degree, GMAT, or professional prerequisites will turn up in your school search results, many of the best business programs focused on SCM typically have particular work and academic requirements. To study supply chain management online, you may need to have an SCM background.
Why do some students choose online supply chain MBA programs?
One of the most common reasons students cite for choosing online bachelor's degree and online master's degree programs is a need for flexibility. Online supply chain management MBA programs often schedule live classes during non-work hours so students can continue working or meet personal commitments. Some SCM MBA programs are even self-directed, meaning students can view lectures and complete coursework on their own schedules.
Another reason students choose online supply chain MBA programs over on-campus programs is location. Studying on-campus means either choosing a local college or university (if you're lucky enough to have a good program nearby) or relocating so you can attend one of the best supply chain management MBA programs. Choosing a remote learning program vastly increases your choices because you're not limited to schools within commuting distance.
Finally, some students opt to enroll in full-time and part-time online MBA programs because they're concerned about cost and want to prioritize affordability. While an online supply chain management degree may not be less expensive in terms of tuition, choosing an SCM MBA program for distance learners can mean avoiding incidental costs like gas, parking, on-campus meals, and housing. It also saves you the considerable expense of relocating.
How do online supply chain MBA programs differ from on-campus programs?
Many online supply chain MBA programs are virtually identical to on-campus MBA in SCM programs. Students typically take the same core courses, study with the same professors and guest lecturers, and meet the same experiential learning and capstone requirements.
There are two differences you should keep in mind when researching the best online supply chain management MBA programs, however. The first is that colleges and universities face a real challenge when it comes to replicating some aspects of the traditional MBA in programs for distance learners. They may not offer all the same elective courses to distance learners, and some core business courses may be taught by different professors. Online programs also can't replicate on-campus networking lunches or evenings, recruiting events, seminars led by industry leaders, and conferences. Some programs have residency requirements designed to give distance learners the same opportunities during required weekend- or week-long residencies.
The second is that students in online MBA in Supply Chain Management programs sometimes don't have access to the same internship and practicum opportunities as students enrolled in on-campus programs at colleges and universities that have relationships with companies in the SCM space. Choosing an online program, even at one of the top schools for supply chain degrees, can mean you'll need to build your own network and develop your own experiential learning opportunities.
Which schools have the best online supply chain management MBA programs?
Some MBA specializations are underrepresented in top-ranked business schools in the United States and in lists of online programs. Supply chain management isn't one of them. There are plenty of online supply chain management MBA programs, and many are offered by notable colleges and universities. US News & World Report publishes a regularly updated list of the best online supply chain management MBA programs. Institutions appearing near the top of these school rankings include:
- Arizona State University (Main Campus)'s W.P. Carey School of Business
- Auburn University's Raymond J. Harbert College of Business
- Ball State University's Miller College of Business
- Indiana University - Bloomington's Kelley School of Business
- North Carolina State University at Raleigh's Poole College of Management
- Pennsylvania State University (Main Campus)'s World Campus
- University of Florida's Hough Graduate School of Business at the Warrington College of Business
- University of Maryland - Global Campus's Robert H. Smith School of Business
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School
- The University of Texas at Dallas
- University of Washington's Michael G. Foster School of Business
What sets the best online supply chain management MBA programs apart?
All the programs above approach the business side of supply chain management differently, but they all have expert faculty and a curriculum designed to create master supply chain managers. Programs at less notable business schools also dive deep into SCM business concepts and have professors with impressive CVs. What tends to set the best online MBA programs with a supply chain management specialization apart are student outcomes. These programs do as much as they can to give distance learners the same network-building opportunities on-campus students have, and, as a result, graduates of these programs tend to find positions in supply chain logistics and operations soon after graduation.
Does it really matter where I get my SCM MBA from?
That's a tricky question. When it comes to quite a few MBA concentrations, the consensus seems to be that unless you're enrolling in a school that's on par with the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business or Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, an MBA isn't a good investment.
Supply chain management is still a field in which it's possible to advance without a graduate degree, however. Earning an online MBA in Supply Chain Management from a top school will almost certainly open more doors and help you advance more quickly, but having a lower-ranked college or university on your resume probably won't hinder your career growth.
Are there accelerated supply chain MBAs at top schools?
Most supply chain MBA programs take two years of full-time study to complete, whether students are enrolled in online MBA programs, on-campus programs, or hybrid programs. There are, however, some accelerated online supply chain MBA programs that can be completed in 15 to 18 months and a handful that can be completed in as little as 12 months by motivated students. None are at top business schools, but if earning your degree as quickly as possible is a priority, that may not matter to you.
The fastest MBA programs that offer a supply chain management concentration may require a commitment and a level of focus that isn't for everyone. If you need to continue working while studying or have a long list of personal obligations, enrolling in an accelerated supply chain MBA program for distance learners may not be the best idea.
How much do online SCM MBA programs typically cost?
Expect to pay between $1,000 and $2,000 per credit hour in the best online supply chain management MBA programs. There are some ranking schools with SCM graduate programs that charge less than $700 per credit, but not many.
Keep in mind that paying for an MBA involves more than just paying tuition. Online students have to pay many of the same fees students in on-campus programs pay—plus, in some cases, additional technology fees that on-campus learners don't have to pay. The good news is that although online degree programs aren't less expensive than other programs, distance learners usually have access to the same types of loans, financial aid, and scholarships as their peers attending classes on campus.
What careers do people with an MBA in supply chain management pursue?
People who pursue SCM as a career work in industries as diverse as technology, retail, pharmaceutical development, manufacturing, and healthcare. They work in a wide variety of roles. You might not be qualified to step into executive-level roles right after graduating from an online supply chain management MBA program, but eventually you'll have enough experience to apply for the highest-paying positions in supply chain management and supply chain systems, including:
- Chief Supply Chain Officer ($244,000)
- Global Commodities Director ($127,000)
- Global Supply Chain Manager ($135,000)
- Logistics Director ($136,000)
- Purchasing Director ($157,000)
- Supply Chain Director ($152,000)
- Vice President of Supply Chain Management ($167,000)
Keep in mind that supply chains are active 24/7. All the roles above can involve working odd hours, fielding middle-of-the-night calls, and taking ownership of not only logistical and operational wins but also the challenges and the mistakes. You'll be under a lot of pressure.
You'll probably also be pretty happy. Surprised? The 2020 Association for Supply Chain Management Salary and Career Survey found that 80 percent of respondents rated their job satisfaction as 8 or higher on a 1-to-10 scale. It turns out that an SCM MBA isn't just a ticket to a more lucrative career. It can also help you launch a more fulfilling one.
Questions or feedback? Email email@example.com