If you’re eyeing a career in the challenging and profitable field of supply chain management, you might wonder what your college curriculum will look like. Most business professionals who work in logistics or supply chain management have a bachelor’s degree. To earn your undergraduate degree in this subject of study, you will need to take general business classes as well as classes devoted to the specialized field of logistics. A graduate degree, which can qualify supply chain management professionals for promotions to leadership roles and salary increases, often includes advanced and specialized studies in areas such as global supply chains, business analytics and data management.
Undergraduate Core Business Classes
Supply chain management refers to the oversight, coordination and direction of the systems and processes responsible for transporting the materials and goods an organization needs. For a manufacturing company, the supply chain might mean securing the delivery of raw materials and transporting finished products for sales. For another organization, like a branch of the military, the supply chain may refer to everything from food, health and hygiene items to ammunition for weapons.
To excel in this area of business, you need to understand not only the processes, systems and technologies used in coordinating supply chains but also how supply chain management fits into the context of business as a whole. Every organization relies on the strength of its supply chain to function. Students of supply chain management programs usually complete core studies in all areas of business, including introductory classes in business, financial and managerial accounting and the principles of finance, economics and marketing.
Although not all business professional working in supply chain management supervise other employees, it’s important for them to develop strong management skills. Classes in project management and general management practices are common in this major.
Classes in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Once you understand the basics of business, you can begin building on that foundation with your major supply chain management coursework. Students typically start out by learning the fundamentals through a course such as Introduction to Supply Chain Management. Other undergraduate classes often include Transportation and Logistics, Procurement and Sourcing, Demand Planning and Fulfillment and Inventory and Warehouse Management. Supply chain management majors may also choose to take specialized courses, such as Internet-Enabled Supply Chains and Value Delivery Networks in Marketing.
Classes in system dynamics and operations and database management are among the most important courses for aspiring logisticians, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Your curriculum should also expose you to logistics and supply chain management software and systems, including radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, the BLS reported.
Internships, co-ops and industry client project courses allow students to gain hands-on work experience in the field. These positions are often, but not always, paid, and many internships and co-op opportunities lead to permanent supply chain management jobs after graduation.
About 67 percent of supply chain managers have a bachelor’s degree. The next most common level of education for this career path is the master’s degree, which 19 percent of supply chain managers have.
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Graduate Coursework in Supply Chain Management
Master’s degree options in supply chain management take many different forms. Some programs award a Master of Professional Studies in Supply Chain Management degree. These programs tend to emphasize the skills needed to work in a collaborative, real-world work environment, whether a business, government agency or nonprofit organization. Other graduate supply chain programs, like the Master of Applied Science in Supply Chain Management (MASc-SCM) degree and the Master of Engineering in Supply Chain Management (MEng-SCM) degree, are more technical or scientific in nature. Generally, an applied science degree is a better choice for students who want to work in industry or consulting roles in logistics and supply chain management, while the engineering path emphasizes research and preparation for a doctorate. Then there are more general Master of Supply Chain Management programs and Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs with a supply chain management concentration.
While your exact curriculum may vary widely depending on the business school you choose and the type of degree you are pursuing, students should expect to complete advanced coursework in supply chain management theory and practices as well as studies in specialized areas within the field. For example, many master’s degree programs will include classes such as Global Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Big Data Management and Applied Business Analytics. Students may also complete studio or colloquium experiences that allow them to gain practical experience and investigate current issues in the world of supply chain management. Some supply chain management degree programs require a master’s thesis, while others offer thesis and non-thesis tracks.
Master’s degree programs in supply chain management take anywhere from 10 months to two years of full-time study. Some programs are online, with little to no in-person attendance required, while others are fully residential.