A Rundown of Everything You Can Do With a Master's in Supply Chain Management
March 15, 2021
A master's degree in supply chain management can lead you down many career paths. You may be better off in a broadly defined supply chain manager position, though, if you want to earn as much as possible.
Supply chain management (SCM) involves every aspect of a product life cycle, from processes and people to power and parts. The procurement and flow of materials, the availability of capital, the warehousing of parts, the distribution of products, and more all fall under the domain of the supply chain manager.
Supply chain is a massive, complicated enterprise in pretty much every industry, which is why supply chain managers are usually well-paid. And yet, hundreds of jobs in supply chain management go unfilled each year.
Why? Well, SCM isn't a high-profile occupation; lots of folks simply don't know about it, or how many great opportunities it offers. They're unaware that mid-career supply chain professionals can earn $114,000 or more, or that SCM is a career category associated with both job security and job satisfaction.
And yet it's true. There are five local jobs available for every one supply chain management graduate, and the 2019 Association for Supply Chain Management Salary and Career Survey found that 82 percent of respondents rated their job satisfaction as 8 or higher on a 1-to-10 scale.
Even fewer people are aware that you can earn a master's degree in supply chain management, or that the degree can open many doors. You can become a supply chain manager with an MSSCM, obviously, but supply chain management is an umbrella term that encompasses a broad range of roles. In this article, we answer the question "what can you do with a master's in supply chain management?" We'll cover the following:
- What kinds of students pursue supply chain master's degrees?
- What do students in supply chain management programs study?
- How long does it take to get a master's in supply chain management?
- What can you do with a master's degree in supply chain management?
- How much will you earn with a supply chain master's degree?
- Do you need a master's in supply chain management to work in this field?
- Will a master's in supply chain management help you get certified?
- Are some supply chain management jobs better than others?
What kinds of students pursue supply chain master's degrees?
Students in supply chain master's degree programs tend to be fascinated by the vast and complex web of interconnected manufacturing, packaging, warehousing, transportation, and distribution firms that keep us fed, healthy, clothed, and entertained.
Consider something as simple as a pair of sneakers. The rubber in the soles came from one or more manufacturers. The cloth came from another. The lining from yet another. People were employed to stitch those component parts together. The laces were sold to the sneaker manufacturer by a company that specializes in shoelace production. An entirely different company produced the box your sneakers were packaged in. Multiple freight companies shipped both the component parts and the finished product. Dig deeper, and you'll discover even more links on this chain.
Many Master of Science in Supply Chain Management (MSSCM), Master's in Supply Chain Management (MSCM), Master of Engineering in Supply Chain Management, and MBA in Supply Chain Management programs are geared toward professionals with years of experience in supply chain and logistics management. There are also programs designed for students who don't have a background in SCM and want to transition into a supply chain career, and programs focused exclusively on global supply chain management for students who want to work for international firms.
What do students in supply chain management programs study?
In all types of master's in supply chain management programs, including the MBA in Supply Chain Management, courses cover the approaches, technologies, and skills required to produce goods, transport goods, and manage inventory and distribution. Program features may vary, but all SCM students study:
- Customer relationship management
- Demand chain management
- Enterprise resource planning
- Inventory control systems
- Inventory management
- Liquid logistics and supply chains
- Logistics operations systems
- Operations management
- Order fulfillment
- Quality management
- Reverse logistics management
- Strategic sourcing
- Supply chain analytics
- Supply chain processes
- Supply chain networks
- Supply chain security
- Supplier market analysis
- Vendor-managed inventory management
The best master's in supply chain management programs give students opportunities to flex their SCM chops. Experiential learning courses in supply chain logistics master's degree programs include original research components, fieldwork partnerships, and, in the case of global SCM programs, international excursions. At the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, for instance, students study on campus, at Kuehne Logistics University in Germany, and at Tongji University's School of Economics and Management in China.
How long does it take to get a master's in supply chain management?
Most master's in supply chain management programs take about two years to complete for full-time students and may take three or more years for part-time students. Some of these (especially online master's degree programs) allow students working in the field to continue doing so while pursuing a degree.
There are also accelerated on-campus and online master's programs for SCM students. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a 10-month intensive SCM master's program, and some schools offer a dual bachelor's degree program and Master of Science degree in supply chain management programs that can be completed in less time than earning both degrees separately.
What can you do with a master's degree in supply chain management?
After earning a master's in supply chain management degree, you can work in any of the four core areas of SCM: manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, and procurement. You can also work in a wide variety of industries. According to the program page for Embry - Riddle Aeronautical University - Daytona Beach's SCM master's, "logistics and supply chain managers work for varied companies that include air cargo, parcel delivery, warehousing, distribution, transportation, manufacturing, and large-scale retailers."
You might stay in dispatch, supply chain analytics, scheduling, or quality control, or even work as a project manager in SCM for a while after graduating with this degree, but eventually, you'll be able to move into roles like:
- Inventory manager
- Materials manager
- Procurement manager
- Production manager
- Supply chain manager
- Transportation manager
- Warehouse operations manager
Some of the highest-paid positions in supply chain management are open primarily—or exclusively—to graduates of master's programs. These include global supply chain manager, director of supply chain management, and vice president of supply chain management.
How much will you earn with a supply chain master's degree?
How much you earn with this degree depends on what you do with it. According to Salary.com, a professional with a master's in supply chain management can make anywhere from $108,000 to $115,000. PayScale, on the other hand, reports that the average salaries for master's in supply chain management graduates is closer to $74,000.
That's a huge difference, but both sources may be technically correct, depending on where those numbers come from. Perhaps more transportation managers (who don't earn much more than $60,000) reported their salaries to PayScale and more purchasing managers (who earn about $116,000) shared their salaries with Salary.com. It may also be that more supply chain management professionals from higher-paying sectors like health or energy answered Salary.com surveys while those who answered PayScale surveys work in lower-paying sectors like freight.
If what you want to do with your master's in supply chain management is to earn money, then aim for SCM roles like:
- Distribution Manager ($93,000)
- Global Commodities Director ($127,000)
- Global Supply Chain Manager ($135,000)
- Logistics Manager ($112,000)
- Materials Director ($138,000)
- Procurement Manager ($115,000)
- Supply Chain Director ($153,000)
- Vice President of Supply Chain Management ($167,000)
Do you need a master's in supply chain management to work in this field?
It's possible to work your way up into any of the above roles. In fact, the people who occupy those roles now typically landed them after completing an undergraduate program and earning a lot of professional experience. Before you abandon the idea of earning a master's in supply chain management, however, be aware that an advanced degree can make the journey from your current position to one of those high-paying jobs shorter. You'll also have more leverage to negotiate a higher salary when you do get an offer. Chances are a master's degree will be an asset to you when you're looking for work.
It may also be the case that when today's directors and VPs got their start, a bachelor's degree carried more weight than it does today. You may find that a lot of employers are looking for supply chain managers with master's degrees, which means a master's degree in supply chain management can potentially open doors that would be closed to you otherwise.
Will a master's in supply chain management help you get certified?
Not exactly. Most supply chain management certifications don't require candidates to have advanced degrees, and you'll have to pursue certifications on your own without support from your college or university. Some master's in supply chain management programs do help students prepare to pursue certification, however, by offering courses related to the material on SCM certification exams. You may find that earning professional certifications like the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation, the Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution (CLTD) designation, or the Certified Master Logistician (CML) designation is easier after you've completed a master's in supply chain management program.
Are some supply chain management jobs better than others?
The answer depends on what you mean by better. Supply chain management is a broad field, encompassing everything from transportation logistics to customer service and fulfillment, and that means a master's in supply chain management can lead you down many paths. Steve Lykken, a senior vice president of supply chain management, told the Rasmussen College Business Blog that "a supply chain career can run the gamut from a basic purchasing function to operating the end-to-end supply stream for a large corporation."
That tremendous diversity of opportunity can make it challenging to plan out your post-master's career. Some people will thrive in distribution or transportation, even though these areas of SCM tend to pay the least. Others won't be happy until they land a high-paying supply chain director, VP of supply chain management, or chief supply chain officer position. Your career aspirations can help you decide where in supply chain management you want to work after earning a master's in supply chain management, but consider that title matters when it comes to salary. Supply chain professionals with graduate degrees have various titles like demand manager, procurement manager, warehousing manager, or logistics manager. Still, you may be able to increase your lifetime earning potential or open more doors by lobbying to change your job title to supply chain manager.
The bottom line is that graduates of master's in supply chain management programs are qualified to oversee multiple supply chain functions. You may be able to earn more, work in more industries, and transition into higher-paying positions throughout your supply chain management career if you have a master's in supply chain management and the title 'supply chain manager' on your resume.
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