A Glance at the 2019 Supply Chain & Logistics Industry

All companies that make and/or distribute products rely heavily on supply chain and logistics employees to keep those goods moving across the end-to-end supply chain. A career opportunity that's growing at a rate of 7% annually—and with a median annual salary of $74,590—the logistics industry offers a range of job opportunities ranging from entry level to senior management, according to the BLS.

“Compared to the median starting salary of bachelor degree graduates in 2017 across a variety of industries," Universal Logistics points out, “Supply chain management undergrads average 10.5% to 50.6% higher earnings in starting their first industry job." Those higher earnings are out there for the taking right now, and are also a beacon for attracting new job candidates to the industry.

Four Rising Roles

The supply chain and logistics industry offers many different career paths, depending on what type of work you most enjoy. Here are four great opportunity areas and a snapshot of what type of work you'll be doing:

Operations Manager

An operations manager oversees the overall operations for private or public companies; coordinates production, sales, and distribution; measures operational productivity and identifies potential cost reductions. Focused mainly on the activities within the company's “four walls," operations managers also develop corporate policies, oversee labor, and manage the day-to-day operations for the organization. The national average salary for an operations manager is $76,971, according to Glassdoor. The BLS says job opportunities for general and operations managers were expected to increase by 7% from 2014 to 2024.

Customer Service Representative

Within the supply chain, customer service reps ensure that customers are satisfied with the products they receive. Key responsibilities can include monitoring accounts; coordinating product shipments and deliveries; helping to orchestrate returns and exchanges; and managing customer requests and complaints. Customer service reps working in supply chain earn an average salary of $54,721, Glassdoor reports. Employment of customer service representatives is projected to grow 5% from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations, the BLS notes.

Purchasing Agent

Purchasing agents buy equipment, parts, and services; issue purchase orders; solicit bids; and negotiate and administer contracts. They also form relationships with both suppliers and transportation providers, both of which play a crucial part in moving products within the supply chain. On average, purchasing agents in the U.S. earn $50,046 annually, according to Glassdoor. Due to the introduction of automation and advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the BLS expects overall employment of purchasing managers and agents to decline 3% between 2016 and 2026. This influx of automation presents opportunities for professionals who understand the convergence of technology and purchasing.

Transportation Specialist

Charged with overseeing and coordinating the safe transport of goods, products, and materials, transportation specialists figure out which orders need to be delivered, where they need to go, and when they need to get there. They then make the arrangements for that transportation, factoring in the size of those loads; the available drivers, carriers, or vehicle fleets; and the timeliness of the shipment. Glassdoor says the national average salary for a transportation specialist is $39,304. The BLS doesn't parse out this particular career, but says that employment for the logistics sector as a whole will grow 7% from 2016 to 2026 (about as fast as the average for all occupations).

In-Demand Skills

The BLS groups supply chain and logistics jobs under the “logistician" umbrella, and says that a bachelor's degree is typically required for most positions. In some cases, an associate's degree may be sufficient and related work experience may substitute for education.

The BLS points to good communication, critical-thinking, and customer service skills as some of the most in-demand qualities for supply chain and logistics employees. Other coveted talents include good organizational and problem-solving skills.

To enhance their skills, supply chain and logistics professionals can get certified through APICS, ISM, or SOLE. Requirements for certification typically include meeting education and work experience requirements, and then passing an exam. Taught in the classroom or online, these courses can help a veteran supply chain worker get up to speed on modern-day supply chain concepts or help a recent college grad gain expertise in a specific operational area.

Other good places for job candidates to meet contacts and learn more about the industry include CSCMP Edge 2019 (in September in Anaheim) and Modex (to be held in 2020 in Atlanta). Organizations like APICS and Supply & Demand Chain Executive offer webinars to help professionals advance their careers. 

Supply Chain Career Heat Map

Major job markets for transportation and warehousing employment right now include Los Angeles/Orange County, Chicago, and Dallas/Ft. Worth. Combined, these three metros account for a combined 12% of the total transportation and warehousing employment in the U.S., according to CBRE.

The Southern California (aka, “Inland Empire") metropolitan area grew by 46.8% since 2013, adding 41,300 transportation and warehousing jobs, followed by New Jersey with 39.3% growth, CBRE adds.

Based on these numbers, one can assume that supply chain and logistics management/leadership positions are also plentiful in these U.S. markets.

Focus on the Future

According to MH&L, the rapid growth of e-commerce created demand for an additional 452,000 warehouse and distribution workers in 2018-19. That projected demand exceeds the industry's job growth since 2013 of 180,300 new positions a year, “an acceleration that reflects the growing volume of e-commerce sales," MH&L reports.

Going forward, the BLS says that overall job opportunities for logisticians should be good because of employment growth, and the need to replace the logisticians who are expected to retire or otherwise leave the occupation. 

Emerging Hubs: Transportation and Warehousing

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CBRE Labor Analytics Group, CBRE Research, Q2 2018.
  Emerging Hubs
% Change
Jobs Added
Charlotte 67,920 56.80% 24,600
Cincinatti 60,000 12.50% 6,660
Nashville 58,190 15.60% 7,870
St. Louis 56,440 17.70% 8,500
Pittsburgh 43,550 2.80% 1,170
Las Vegas 41,780 15.00% 5,440
San Antonio 39,180 17.70% 5,900
Milwaukee 38,050 -7.50% -3,090
Salt Lake City 29,710 13.90% 3,620
23,030 31.60% 5,530
Reno 16,820 44.40% 5,170