How to Break into Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management is the control of the movement of goods and services through every stage of the production process, from manufacturing to shipping. From organizations like Amazon to Alibaba, supply chain management can be an important part of making a business run smoothly. If you want to start your career in this exciting industry, read on to learn about some common routes to becoming a supply chain manager.


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Why Study the Supply Chain Field?

Logisticians—a profession representative of the supply chain field—have one of the 100 best jobs in America, according to U.S. News & World Report. They enjoyed median pay of $74,750 per year, or $35.94 per hour, in 2019, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

If prestige and salary aren’t compelling enough, there is also demand in the field, according to a report by the logistics company DHL. “Leading companies understand that their supply chains – and the people who run them—are essential to their ability to grow profitably,” the report says. “However, the task of finding people with the right skill sets required to run these highly complex operations is increasingly difficult — especially at the middle- and upper- management levels. Unless companies solve this problem, it could threaten their very ability to compete on the global stage.” BLS projects there will be 4% more jobs in logistics by 2029

3 Skills Supply Chain Specialists Use Every Day

Supply chain management is a complicated field that requires an array of complex business skills. Sometimes, you’ll need a combination of soft skills and technical skills to analyze your supply chain and develop critical relationships. To help you build your resume today, here are three of the skills you can consider:

1. Building and maintaining relationships

One great skill you need to break into supply chain management is the ability and willingness to create strong and mutually beneficial relationships between suppliers, vendors, customers and management. Being able to identify interdisciplinary efficiencies will likely help you grow relationships throughout your career. Additionally, you will need to have strong negotiating skills—you might be responsible for buying the goods and services necessary for the company’s operations. Some experts recommend taking a public speaking class to learn how to convey key messages in an engaging way.

2. Statistical analysis

Supply chain managers are sometimes responsible for managing huge amounts of datasets related to inventory, sales and overall company finances. Supply chain managers will sometimes need to work with database management software like Microsoft Excel and Access at an advanced level. For instance, supply chain specialists sometimes use pivot tables to make sophisticated value judgments and organize similar datasets, and make charts to communicate these judgments to higher-ups. There are sometimes variables to manage throughout the lifecycle of a product, so learning how to forecast cost may help you identify where efficiencies can be made. 

3. Accounting

To optimize supply chain processes, supply chain specialists may leverage accounting. According to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), management accountants need to work with management colleagues to develop greater supply chain competitive advantage (PDF, 905 KB). Since one of your roles may be to manage the flow of goods and services, understanding the different ways to save your company money may help you partner with others in your organization. Skilled supply chain specialists may pinpoint cost inefficiencies in the supply chain in order to improve them.

Supply Chain Career Options

When you begin a career in supply chain management, you will likely end up picking a specialization. Below are a few example niches you may pursue. Each one offers useful skills and experience that may help you move up or find a similar role. Remember that even though you can start out in one area of supply chain management, you don’t have to stay there forever—your skills may be transferable if you decide to learn another specialization. 

Procurement Analyst 

Procurement analysts, also known as purchasing analysts, research and compare vendors to find ideal suppliers for their organization. For instance, a procurement analyst for a tech company might research suppliers for wholesale parts and hardware and prepare reports that recommend specific vendors on the basis of quality, speed and price.

Material Recording Clerk

Material recording clerks manage the inventory of a company, keeping records of supplies and goods going in and out and where they’re headed. A high school diploma or GED (General Education Development) diploma or certificate may be all that’s required for some of these positions, the BLS reports. 

Global Supply Chain Manager

Global supply chain managers bring the principles of supply chain management to a global scale, in which manufacturing is often outsourced to other countries. These managers design how the supply chain functions as a whole, identifying cost and delivery efficiencies. 

Purchasing Manager

Purchasing managers acquire materials and supplies from vendors at competitive prices, making sure companies have the goods to run their operations. They coordinate where products, services and materials come from, typically for wholesalers or retailers. 

Warehouse Manager

Warehouse managers handle storage and shipping for companies. They oversee warehouse employees and ensure they have safe and legal working conditions. They are often one of the first ones to be notified of deliveries, receiving shipments and supervising employees to handle them. Some of these positions only require a high school diploma or GED diploma or certificate.

Logistics Manager

Logistics is the aspect of supply chain management that handles the entire supply chain: the purchasing, storage and shipping of goods. Logistics managers take a bird’s-eye view of the production process, from finding ideal warehouse locations to figuring out the speediest shipping procedure. 

Supply Chain Consultant

Supply chain consultants work with senior team members, such as supply chain managers, to develop, promote and implement supply chain consulting strategies for a company to achieve efficiency in business processes. If you don’t have a lot of experience in supply chain management, starting at the consulting level may help you get in at the ground level.

Do You Need a Degree to Become a Supply Chain Manager?

According to the BLS, entry-level workers in supply chain management typically have a bachelor’s degree—though some roles do not require it. For more authoritative jobs in supply change management, however, it may be useful to get a business-specific bachelor’s degree, or even an MBA or master’s degree in supply chain management.

MBA vs. Master’s in Supply Chain Management

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a master’s degree in supply chain management might be helpful, depending on your specific career goals. An MBA covers a wider array of topics and can be useful if you are not sure where you will be working in supply chain management or how it works with other roles. Some MBA supply chain management programs enable students to customize degree programs to their career goals and personal interests through concentrations, which sometimes teach you logistics-specific skills in addition to broader ones.

However, if you are specifically interested in supply chain management, a Master of Science in Supply Chain Management might be the way to go. It can teach you the skills critical to supply chain and logistics. Plus, you may earn real-world experience that will be useful in your career, especially in procurement, purchasing, merchandising and sourcing. And a more tailored career doesn’t mean that you can’t change paths or advance—Tim Cook spent most of his career in supply chain management before becoming CEO of Apple.

3 Real-World Tips to Help Break into Supply Chain Management

Beyond getting a degree in supply chain management or business, there are other ways to break into this exciting field. Because many people in supply chain management enter the profession with nothing more than a bachelor’s degree, you may be able to switch careers to supply chain management using just your creativity and work ethic. Here’s where you could start:

1. Highlight your existing experience dealing with the supply chain

Almost any job in business touches on the supply chain in some way, so you likely already have some transferable skills. If you managed inventory, made purchases, or handled retail, you can highlight these supply chain-specific skills on your resume. Tailoring your resumé to the specific supply chain job you’re applying to may help.

2. Ask a recruiter what they look for in supply chain management professionals

Recruiters who help companies fill supply chain management roles will often have the most up-to-date information about what companies are specifically looking for in these roles. If recruiters are seeing lots of companies seeking specific Excel skills, for instance, you can take a short course in one of these skills.

3. Be open to contract or internship experiences

According to the Logistics Bureau, entry-level positions sometimes start with trainee posts or internships. Contract work is another possibility, although opportunities may be limited to those who can demonstrate relevant, prior supply chain experience. It varies by industry—this may be due to the seasonal nature of the product or simply just a high-demand time of year. Many of these roles, however, can sometimes lead to a full-time job in supply chain management. 

Alternately, if you’re still in school or just starting out, consider an internship as your gateway into the profession. Even if these experiences don’t lead directly to a job at the same company, they can help you network with other professionals in the industry, which could pay off even years down the line. 


Syracuse University- M.S. in Supply Chain Management

  • GMAT Waivers Available
  • Complete in as few as 15 months 
Discover SupplyChain@Syracuse


Last Updated August 2020