Are Online Supply Chain Degrees Good?
April 16, 2021
Noodle Expert Samantha Yorke speaks on the value of online supply chain degrees.
Are you looking for a competitive advantage in the supply chain management job market? Consider higher education, which can boost your skill set, knowledge, and credentials with a respected academic degree.
The supply chain industry is quickly evolving as it adds new technologies, topics, and tools. Earning a college degree means completing a curriculum focused on real-world issues and strategies proven successful in the field. It can also help you build your all-important professional network.
The complexities of the ever-growing global economy put efficiency at a premium for supply chain managers. You can develop deeper competency in the field through various channels, including educational opportunities. Your options include online degrees, which offer a flexible way to dig deeper into the end-to-end industry while maintaining your day job (or night shift).
In this article assessing the value of online supply chain degrees, we cover:
- What does a supply chain degree program focus on?
- What is unique about an online supply chain degree?
- What should I look for in an online program?
- What are typical admission requirements for an online program?
- Will I still have a well-rounded student experience?
What does a supply chain degree program focus on?
Although a degree program is not required for the field, the credential can lead to higher-paying jobs and a broader professional network. Degree programs can range from a Bachelor of Science in supply chain to a doctorate in global supply chain management.
Typically, a supply chain program offers foundational knowledge as well as a holistic overview of current best practices. Some programs, such as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide's online Bachelor of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, offer specializations or electives as well.
There are four core areas of supply chain management:
Typical supply chain coursework includes conversation and assignments around:
- Inventory control
- Organizational behavior
- Project management
- Quality control
- Risk management
Some programs offer additional certifications, such as six sigma.
Online bachelor's programs are usually four years in length for full-time students; an online masters program typically takes two years for a full-time student to complete. Coursework, scheduled lectures, and credit hours vary among institutions, but most supply chain programs provide bridges to career opportunities in:
- Inventory management
- Materials management
- Procurement management
- Production/quality management
- Supply chain management
- Transportation management
- Warehouse operations management
- Logistics management/global logistics
Schools offer online degree programs in various formats. As you review your options, consider key values and resources you need to remain successful as a student. If you identify as an adult learner or working professional, or are simply seeking a flexible and accessible program, an online supply chain program may be the best option for you.
An increasing number of institutions offer online supply chain degrees. These are usually designed to meet the needs of today's busy students.
What is unique about an online supply chain degree?
Online students can complete assignments and tasks from various locations around the globe and around the house. Online courses mean your classmates may live right next door or halfway around the world. This diversity enriches classroom discussions and group assignments, creating a vibrant learning environment with thought-provoking conversations.
Some online programs are delivered entirely online; others include experiential learning or immersion experiences. You are likely to see global supply chain programs with international experiences embedded into the curriculum, like the University of Tennessee Knoxville's' online Master of Science in Supply Chain Management Tri-Continental program. This addition to a curriculum offers a unique opportunity to meet faculty, employer partners, and colleagues in person, while remaining flexible with your day-to-day responsibilities. Faculty typically hold virtual office hours, and some programs offer academic support specialists throughout the experience.
Online programs typically offer financial aid and alumni networks access similar to what is offered on-campus students. Tuition fees may look different, reflecting technical fees and accessibility to sporting events or athletic facilities. It is important to connect with a program advisor early on to ensure you know what your program fees cover and what you have access to within the institution.
Decision-making and problem solving are not merely class discussion topics. You will employ each regularly in your coursework, as well as in scheduling virtual group projects and navigating capstone requirements. Online students use Zoom and other online platforms for meetings and presentations; written assignments are submitted through a student portal. Graduation ceremonies and orientation sessions can be either remote or in-person, depending on the program.
What should I look for in an online program?
Consider searching for programs with accreditation from credible parties, such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Your research may also include top rankings from U.S. News & World Report, Gartner, and The Economist. Those rankings can showcase strength in program relevancy, resources, and business program structure. Some top bachelor's programs and master's programs, according to program rankings, are listed below:
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide
- Murray State University
- Kennesaw State University
- Temple University
- Western Illinois University
- University of Southern California
- Indiana University-Bloomington
- Boston University
- University of Texas-Dallas
- Pennsylvania State University
As you research, you will find that some programs offer only one yearly enrollment cycle (typically fall). Other programs offer multiple start dates within the year. Consider the different deadlines presented as well as the program requirements.
Does the program offer a cohort model, or can you choose how many courses to take each term? The University of Tennessee Knoxville's online Master of Science in Supply Chain Management program, for example, allows students to select between 3 and 9 college credits per semester until degree completion.
Synchronous or asynchronous: that is the question. Some programs utilize both, while others have only one. If you enjoy facetime with your faculty and classmates, engaging in open discussion, and live lecture, consider a program that includes synchronous sessions. If you are seeking a more autonomous program, you may excel in a mostly asynchronous program, such as the one offered by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Students starting a supply chain degree program typically enter with some part-time or full-time work experience. Your classmates may be aspiring supply chain management professionals or have 10 years of experience in the industry as logistics managers.
Career opportunities are vast and leadership development in the world of business management is non-stop. Consider researching current class profiles and business schools to find a community that aligns with your ideal network. An online supply chain management degree, such as the Master of Science in Global Supply Chain at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, can connect you to classmates from all over the globe, which is a major benefit to those seeking international-related responsibilities.
What are typical admission requirements for an online program?
A program's ranking, typical applicant, faculty, and program structure may impact its admission requirements. It is essential to look at each program's specific requirements.
Online admission requirements may look similar to campus degree programs; however, some online degree programs are specifically tailored towards individuals with several years of working experience. In contrast, other programs may ask that you not be employed at the time of degree completion due to the rigor of the curriculum and program requirements.
An online bachelor's degree likely requires the submission of SAT scores, while some online master's and PhD programs look at GRE or GMAT test scores. Application fees are often required and will vary in dollar amount across institutions.
Not all master's degrees require a bachelor's degree in supply chain. Still, business administration experience can definitely boost your chances of admission. GPA, quantitative skills, recommendations, several years of professional experience, and a well-written essay are the other critical components. Essays often ask why you think the selected program is right for you; make sure to include specifics of the program to which you are applying so the school can see you have given their program serious consideration. Other subjects to discuss in your essay: how do you effectively manage your time, and what resources do you have to support you along the journey? These details, which showcase potential success in the program, are well-received by an admissions committee.
Will I still have a well-rounded student experience?
The decision to apply and enroll in an online degree program is a personal one. The value that it provides depends on what matters to the student. If you are self-motivated and prepared to reach out to your academic resources, an online degree program can be a great decision. However, if you thrive by sitting at a desk next to your classmates, you may want to consider a campus program. The flexibility and accessibility of an online program are assets that should not be underestimated. Like any degree program, the student experience is truly what you make of it.