Getting Started in a SCM Career: Logistics and Supply Chain Management Degrees, Certifications and Skills

Part 2 of our 4-part series. Logistics and Supply Chain Management Degrees, Certifications and Skills

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This is an exciting time to be exploring careers in supply chain and logistics. As you've already read in Part 1 of this series, the world is literally your oyster right now. That's because the responsibilities of supply chain and logistics roles are evolving from simply shipping packages from point A to point B to more complex skills such as operations research, supply chain engineering, statistical process control, data analysis, and simulation. Even emotional intelligence — the ability to deal with emotions and handle interpersonal relationships — is seen as an important skill. [1]

According to Logistics Bureau, the skills and knowledge that job candidates need to succeed in different supply chain roles and industries include:

  • Knowledge of logistics, supply chain management, and transportation
  • Financial planning
  • Forecasting
  • Workflow optimization
  • General management and business
  • International business practices
  • Knowledge of laws and regulations
  • Mechanical skills
  • Languages

Some positions may require high-level data analyst or data scientist skills. For others, you may be able to differentiate yourself positively by showing strong spreadsheet skills or experience using a commercial business intelligence software application elsewhere. [2]

If you’re ready to break into a career in logistics or supply chain management, read on to learn the skills, education and certification needed for success.

Logistics and Supply Chain Management Degree Options

College students that select a major that aligns with the specific supply chain that he or she is interested in can better position themselves for success. As more and more universities, colleges, and vocational programs incorporate supply chain into their curriculums, these educational opportunities are increasing exponentially. 

If you're picking a major or program of study, your choices include (but aren't limited to):

  • Associates in Logistics/Supply Chain Management Programs: An associate's degree program in logistics prepares students for entry-level careers in purchasing, inventory control, distribution, and more.  Coursework provides students with a solid foundation in the various sectors of the logistics field.
  • Bachelors in Logistics/Supply Chain Management Programs: A bachelor's degree program in logistics/supply chain management focuses on areas of global supply chain management, transportation, logistics, warehouse operations, demand planning and forecasting, inventory management, and manufacturing and procurement processes.
  • Bachelors in Operations Management Programs: A bachelor's degree program in operations management provides students with the tools needed for success as a manager, including organization, motivation and hiring skills, as well as resource development.Masters in Logistics/Supply Chain Management Programs: A master's degree program in logistics and supply chain management prepares students for management positions in government, military, and the private sector. [3]
  • Masters in Logistics/Supply Chain Management Programs: A master's degree program in logistics and supply chain management prepares students for management positions in government, military, and the private sector. [4]

Logistics and Supply Chain Management Certifications

If you've already graduated from college and/or if you're already working in supply chain and looking for a new job, then you'll want to consider one (or more) of the supply chain certificate and certification courses available to you.  

  • APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP): Helps you demonstrate your knowledge and organizational skills for developing more streamlined operations.
  • APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM): The premier certification for internal supply chain business operations.
  • APICS Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR-P) Endorsement: The Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model is a supply chain  framework that links business processes, performance metrics, practices, and people skills into a unified structure.
  • ISM Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM): Recognized globally as a standard of excellence for professionals in procurement, supply management, and supply chain management.
  • ISM Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity (CPSD): Positions you as the expert organizations need to guide them toward intelligent and profitable supplier diversity decisions. 
  • SCPro Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP): A three-tiered program that assesses progressive knowledge and skills across integrated supply chain activities. 
  • SOLE Certified Professional Logistician (CPL): Awarded to individuals of proven competence in logistics who pass an examination designed to test their broad knowledge of the entire logistics spectrum. 
  • NCMA Certified Professional Contract Manager (CPCM): Contract professionals who have mastered the majority of the contract management competencies in the Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK), extensive business education and training, and a minimum of 5 years of experience can apply for the CPCM certification.

Available both online and offline (or both), professional certification courses are a great way for individuals to advance their careers without having to attend a full-time degree program. They can help a veteran supply chain professional get up to speed on new-age concepts like blockchain, help a new entrant gain knowledge in a specific operational area, and give any candidate an edge in the job hunt process

Making the Successful Transition to Supply Chain 

When Teddy Lee Knox of Zipline Logistics made the switch from marketing/sales to supply chain, she says she fell into supply chain while working in sales at her current company. “I went into a marketing career after college and I didn't love it as much as I thought I would,” Knox told Industry Insights. “I liked working with people so I thought I should try sales. That's when she saw an opportunity to work at Zipline Logistics.”

Fortunately, her new employer had a good training program so she was able to learn about logistics along the way. Then, she wound up working on the operation side of Zipline's business. When asked to discuss how education and a strong professional support system helped her overcome the learning curve, Knox says her new employer helped her make the switch from sales to logistics. 

“My skill set allowed me to thrive on the logistics aspects of my sales job such as retaining and growing my clients,” Knox told Industry Insights.

My company noticed these skill sets in me and they were eager to help me make that move towards a logistics role through their in-house training program. [5]

Supply Chain Internships (and How to Get One)

If you're trying to decide whether a supply chain career is right for you, you might be wondering the best way to research different positions. For many, the most logical way to do that is by signing up for an internship. Here, Inbound Logistics outlines five top tips for landing an internship and leveraging it to your advantage: 

  1. Be focused and realistic, and don't be afraid to ask for help.
  2. Develop a plan that aligns with your personal strengths and professional goals.
  3. Take the initiative. No one cares more about your career than you do.
  4. Don't get frustrated, never give up, work hard.

Supply chain jobs are not limited to one industry, so stretch your search parameters

Internships help you transfer the knowledge you learned in the classroom out into the workforce. They also help you gain experience and increase your marketability as a job candidate. Finally, internships can give you the soft skills (i.e., communication, problem-solving, leadership, etc.) you'll need in today's professional workplace. 

Now that you know the education and skills needed to get started, learn about the different supply chain and logistics positions to figure out which career path is best for you!

Resources:

[1] 2019 SALARY GUIDE, THE NUMBERS YOU NEED TO ATTRACT & RETAIN TOP TALENT, Ajilon,

[2] Supply Chain Career Changes – How to Get In, Get On, and Get What You Want, Logistics Bureau, January 2017,

[3] Careers in Logistics and Supply Chain Management (SCM), LogisticsDegree.net,

[4] O'Handley, Christina, How To Successfully Make A Career Change Into Supply Chain, Industry Insights,

[5] Ashwarya, Sweta, Five Tips for Landing a Successful Supply Chain Internship, Inbound Logistics,

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