Education and Experience
Companies large and small are looking for talented individuals with a strong mix of education, potential, and motivation to manage and lead their global supply chains. If you want to be a future leader in this trillion-dollar industry, your best course of action is to pursue an appropriate college degree. Focus on logistics, transportation, purchasing, and/or operations in your studies to effectively prepare for supply chain careers. The coursework will be challenging, yet interesting, and the payoff for your hard work will be great. By the time graduation rolls around, you'll be primed for SCM positions of significant responsibility with very competitive starting salaries.
SCM courses are available through community colleges, universities, and specialized schools. Typically, SCM is housed within the business school at most universities, though the industrial engineering department is another option. While many schools offer only one or two courses, some have a four-year degree program that allows you to dive deeply into key SCM topics. After completing general coursework and the business core (accounting, management, marketing, etc.), you'll study:
- Transportation and logistics
- Inventory and forecasting
- Sourcing and supplier management
- Reverse logistics and green issues
- Facility location
- Outsourcing and strategic alliances
- Global supply chain issues
- Product design and new product introduction
Many students join SCM-focused student organizations on campus but think that professional organizations are reserved for industry executives. Nothing could be further from the truth! There's much to gain from membership and supply chain professional organizations actively encourage students to join. Sure, it looks great on your résumé but there are far more valuable reasons for getting actively involved now rather than later:
- Job hunting resources – When it's time to start the job search process, you'll have valuable resources available through the professional organization's website. They provide job listings, resume posting services, salary information, and other career tools.
- Networking, networking, networking – SCM organizations hold dinner meetings, conferences, and other events where you can interact with supply chain thought leaders. The organization's membership directory will also provide contact information for supply chain professionals in your area.
- Information access – Need to learn about supply chain trends and issues for an interview, presentation, or paper? Professional organizations give you first-hand access to great resources on the current state of SCM and help you build useful knowledge.
- Reduced membership fees – SCM professional organization leaders realize that students and young professionals don't have money to burn. In response, they offer major discounts on membership fees to full-time students and young professionals.
There are many resources to help you sharpen your supply chain skills. Online courses and webinars provide easy access to knowledge leaders. Professional organizations facilitate interaction with your peers. Certification programs are another option. Finally, don’t forget your alma mater. Many universities conduct cutting-edge supply chain seminars (and alumni often get a discounted rate).
CSCMP provides a wide variety of continuing education programs for supply chain professionals:
It has long been said that there is no substitute for experience. This is absolutely true for individuals thinking about SCM careers. Relevant work experience builds skills that are desired by employers and exposes you to different areas of the supply chain. Just think about it, an internship or part-time position will help you build a solid resume and pinpoint your career interests.
Internships are a great way to gain knowledge and abilities in the rapidly changing world of global supply chains. Many companies hire university students for three-month or six-month internships, typically during their junior year. Internships are not just a summer job – they can happen any time, including fall or spring! Lots of firms also hire directly from their internship pools. They use internships for an in-depth look at you and other potential recruits.
While internships are generally paid positions, some are unpaid. It is important to check with the company before you take the position to determine if there is a salary, a stipend or no compensation. Many universities also offer academic credit for internships if you plan the internship in advance with your advisor.
Students who have recently completed internships have great things to say about their experiences. Click on each graphic for their insights.
How do you find internship opportunities?
It is important to visit your college's Career Services or Internship Programs office as soon as possible to check out their online resources. The office can direct you to internships targeted specifically towards students from your college. MonsterTrak is the top college oriented job listing database and also houses an internship database (select "internships" when searching). If you are a current student or a college graduate check with your school's Career Services office to see if your college is partnered with MonsterTrak and, if so, to obtain a password.
What about part-time and summer positions?
These are also excellent ways to gain professional experience. You'll learn a great deal by working in a supply chain role, even as an hourly associate. Work with teachers, family, former employers, coaches, friends, parents of friends to find supply chain contacts in your geographic area. Meet with, e-mail, or call these individuals for information about possible opportunities.