Finding the Right Career

There is no standard career path in SCM. You have the opportunity to pursue hundreds of potential career paths. Your skills, interests, and personal decisions will largely influence the path you pursue. It will also be impacted by the size, type, geographic scope, and organizational structure of the firm that you choose to work for.

A broad base of business skills, knowledge of supply chain processes, and relevant internship/work experience will give you ample opportunity to begin your career with a manufacturer, retailer, carrier, third party logistics firm, or other organization. You will likely begin as a management trainee, analyst, or front line supervisor. As you demonstrate your managerial capabilities, you can progress to SCM positions of greater responsibility. You may also decide to gain experience in other parts of the organization.

One key to your success in this field is flexibility. You will work with people throughout your company—logistics, manufacturing, and marketing. Depending on the size of your company, your initial responsibilities may deal with one or more logistics functions. Some positions will require you to specialize in a specific area of SCM. There are numerous opportunities and career paths in this field—it is up to you to seek them out and develop the appropriate skills to be successful.

How big is SCM? Logistics alone accounts for more than 9.5% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product! Over $1.3 trillion is spent on transportation, inventory, and related logistics activities. Add in the vast sums of money spent on supply management and manufacturing and you’re looking at a field with tremendous impact on the success of organizations, domestically and globally.
You will find SCM career opportunities in a variety of organizations. Nearly every organization is involved in purchasing goods, controlling inventory, building products, moving freight, and/or managing relationships. These fundamental activities translate into a myriad of supply chain employment opportunities with a vast number of potential employers.

Potential SCM Employers

  • 3PL Firms – A third-party logistics (3PL) provider is a firm specializing in providing logistics services. Clients can employ these 3PL firms to manage and/or execute required logistics activities. Asset-based 3PLs own equipment and facilities that are used to provide a variety of supply chain services to their customers. Non-asset based 3PLs focus on advising clients on supply chain operations and can arrange to provide transportation, warehousing, and other similar 3PL services. 3PL usage has steadily risen since the early 1990s as organizations have become more aware of the critical importance of effective logistics and supply chain management practices.
  • Consulting Firms – A consulting firm offers knowledge and expertise to customers in need of supply chain management assistance. These firms can offer a broad range of services, but oftentimes they focus on helping to advise the client on supply chain practices as opposed to assisting with the actual execution of supply chain related processes. These types of firms can help to engineer a specific supply chain network design, provide insight into how to optimize a function, or simply review current supply chain practices and provide suggestions for improvement.
  • Government Agencies – An agency operating on behalf of a Federal, State, or Local governmental entity or municipality that requires the management of supply chains. Government entities oftentimes must manage the supply and acquisition of items, as well as their storage, and distribution. For example, the Department of Defense, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and many other governmental entities are regularly confronted with supply chain management issues such as inventory analysis, procurement, and transportation.
  • Manufacturing and Production Companies – Manufacturers produce products for resale to customers. Their customer may be another company, or an individual consumer, or both. For example, an automotive tire manufacturer may simultaneously serve as a supplier to the large automotive maker and also be a source of tires to a retail outlet targeting individual consumers who wish to replace worn tires on their used vehicle. Manufacturing firms can produce a wide variety of products for sale or resale to a wide range of customers.
  • Retailers and Distributors – Retailers and distributors are product resellers. They act as middlemen in the supply chain, improving access to markets for manufacturers and creating wide product assortments for customers. Major retailers recognize the importance of SCM to their success and take great strides to effectively manage inventory, control transportation costs, and provide exceptional customer service through high in-stock availability.
  • Service Firms – A service firm provides expertise to customers requiring assistance in a particular area. Supply chain planning and execution is supported by firms offering professional services such as finance, commercial real estate, or executive recruiting. Other service firms have a need for supply chain expertise for their own operations to be successful. As a result, supply chain job opportunities exist in the service sector with banks, hotels, restaurant chains, and others.
  • Transport Company – Transportation companies that provides freight delivery services. These companies exist in all modes of transportation (air, water, motor, rail, or even pipeline). In fact, many transportation firms have expertise in multiple modes and provide intermodal transportation services to their customers. Transportation companies provide a vital link in most supply chains since they help to move raw materials, component parts, and other types of products through the supply chain.
  • Universities and Educational Institutions – These entities provide expertise and distribute knowledge to clients or students with a desire to enhance their level of supply chain management knowledge. These types of organizations typically work to further the discipline in part by expanding on the knowledge base of the discipline by combining teaching, industry partnerships, and research.

Salary Outlook

Logistics Management Annual Salary Survey
Career Patterns Study

Salary Considerations

Although there's no perfect formula for estimating the offers that you will receive, the following issues impact an employer's starting salary offers:

  • Education Level – Advanced degree such as an MBA produce higher salary offers than do Bachelor or Associate degrees.
  • Relevant Work Experience – Extensive supply chain work experience (even as an hourly associate) or participation in SCM internships gives you a strong foundation and the ability to command more money.
  • Grades and Accomplishments – Some companies pay a premium for students with high GPAs and related academic accomplishments.
  • Leadership Experience – SCM is a people business. If you have a demonstrated ability to effectively lead people, your stock will rise.
  • Scope of Responsibilities – The greater the responsibility (e.g., managing more people or controlling a larger budget), the higher the salary!
  • Company Type – Historically, the highest SCM salary offers have come from the manufacturing sector. However, retailers, carriers, and 3PL firms are working to close the gap.
  • Geographic Flexibility – Being open to relocation early in your work life will positively impact your career options and salary growth.
  • Geographic Location – Jobs in larger cities and geographic areas (Northeast and West) with a higher cost of living pay more to offset your added expenses.
  • Ability to Negotiate – Many SCM positions are pegged to a starting salary range rather than a single number. Your ability to sell your skills, motivation, and potential for success will determine what you are offered within that range.

Salary Wizard

Salary.com is a great resource to find the most up-to-date information on salaries within the supply chain and logistics industries.

Where to Find Jobs

Don’t forget to visit the CSCMP Career Center, a comprehensive job search engine, dedicated exclusively to the supply chain profession, with outstanding resources to support and enhance your career.