Earning a Master's in Supply Chain Management Online

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Supply chain management is an integral part of many businesses, so much so that an estimated 1.4 million new jobs will be added to the field by the end of 2018. Business schools and universities have begun offering more options for this specific field. This page will help you determine if getting a master's in supply chain management online is the right decision for you, and if so, which program is the best choice.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Supply Chain Management?

An online master's in supply chain management is especially well suited to those professionals who are already established in their industry but who wish to advance their careers or move in new directions within the industry. Even students fresh from a bachelor's degree who want to further specialize before joining the workforce can benefit from online programs as they have the freedom to look for work while studying.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Supply Chain Management?

Pursuing Specialization

Advancing your knowledge of supply chain management can help you prepare for certifications to further specialize in one or more aspects of the field or within your specific industry. This can lead to a new career or to advancement in your current position.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Higher level degrees tend to draw higher starting salaries and may help you get a promotion or land a new job in a different department, company, or industry. Positions with more responsibility often require the additional training and knowledge offered by a master's degree.

Online Learning Technology

One benefit of studying online versus on campus is the use of communication technologies that are becoming increasingly prevalent in the business world, especially in an increasingly globalized field such as supply chain management. While the technology used for a given class may not be the same as that used in your workplace, increasing familiarity and comfort with such technology can serve you well moving forward in your career.

Prerequisites for Online Supply Chain Management Programs

Below are some of the common requirements for entry into an online master's in supply chain management. Details of these requirements vary widely, but this section should give you some idea of what to expect.

    • Work Experience: Most online master's in supply chain management will require three to five years' work experience. This is especially important for online programs as they tend to be more focused on practical application and look for students who are confident about entering the program.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Many master's programs require applicants to provide scores from either the GMAT or GRE. While there are some programs which make a point not to require these exams, they are in the minority. Minimum scores vary by institution and the two tests are very different, so it is worth doing some research and doing so early.
    • Coursework: Some programs may require you to have a BA or BS in supply chain management or a closely related field to be admitted. Some require you to have taken specific courses (or equivalents) and may allow you to take undergraduate courses to cover these requirements while working on your master's degree.
    • Recommendations: Letters of recommendation are one of the most common requirements, though the number needed can vary. You want to get letters from people who have worked or studied with you and can speak to your skills. Give your letter writers as much time as possible.
    • Essays: Essays are common for more academic degrees, but you might still find them in business programs. You may be required to write something specifically for your application, provide a writing sample from a past project, or both.
    • Interviews: Some schools conduct interviews of potential students, which might be held in-person or via communications software. Some may request that you submit a video, but in either case, the goal is to find out more about you and your interest in the program and see if you will be a good fit.
    • International Students: International students may be required to show proof of competence in English if studying at an American school. This can be done in a variety of ways, from the TOEFL exam to transcripts from other American or Anglophone institutions.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Supply Chain Management?

As of 2017, the lowest paid supply chain managers made around $44,820 a year, while the highest paid made over $120,120 per year. This range in salary is due to several factors, including employer, experience, and education. Earning a master's in supply chain management online can help you earn a raise or promotion or begin a new position with a higher starting salary.

Traditional Careers for MSSCM's

Career Stats Description

Logistics Manager

Median Pay: $74,950

Job Growth: 6.9%

Supply chain managers, also known as logistics managers, run the system that moves products from suppliers to consumers, including buying, allocations, and delivery. This role is generally full time and done in a variety of settings, as it is present in nearly every product and manufacturing industry.

Ideal for: Those able to think on their feet, who can adapt to changing needs and priorities under pressure.

Industrial Engineer

Median Pay: $85,880

Job Growth: 10%

These professionals work to ensure that production is efficient, finding ways to integrate different systems into one cohesive production process. This could include machinery, materials, data, and employees.

Ideal for: Engineers who are able to see the big picture and determine which aspects need to be improved upon.

Purchasing Agent

Median Pay: $66,610

Job Growth: -3%

Purchasing agents handle purchases of goods or materials for their employers to use or resell. Purchasing managers oversee this process. While there is an overall decline in these roles, management positions are expected to increase.

Ideal for: Organized individuals who can track and compare data from multiple sources.

Industrial Production Manager

Median Pay: $10,580

Job Growth: -1%

Industrial production managers oversee the production of goods or materials in factories and other locations. Though job growth shows a decline, it is considered "little or no change" by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ideal for: Professionals who can coordinate multiple employees and departments at the same time.

Non-Traditional Careers for MSSCM's

Career Stats Description

Supply Chain Software Developer

Median Pay: $103,560

Job Growth: 24%

These professionals help develop software which specifically handles supply chain management, such as programs to handle tracking, shipping, receiving, or purchasing, or programs which monitor the state of specific machines or supplies.

Ideal for: Professionals with design and supply chain experience who want to make supply chains more efficient.

Market Research Manager

Median Pay: $77,498

Job Growth: 23%

Market research can be used to determine both how competitors handle supply chain issues and how these issues can impact consumers and customers. Applying that research can lead to cost-saving improvements.

Ideal for: Marketing professionals with a handle on research and an interest in its creative application.

Energy Auditor / Engineer

Median Pay: $67,914

Job Growth: N/A

The cost of energy used to power supply chains can be managed through careful study of the processes involved in that chain. These professionals apply engineering know-how to reduce costs and environmental impact.

Ideal for: Engineers with a desire to reduce cost or energy consumption.

Food Service Manager

Median Pay: $52,030

Job Growth: 9%

Managing food service and its production is supply chain management on a small scale. Applying supply chain management techniques can help restaurants improve their customers' experience.

Ideal for: Foodservice professionals who want to improve and streamline the workplace.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, 2017-2018

Paying for an Online Master's in Supply Chain Management

Online programs often cost less than their on-campus equivalents, but there are still many factors which influence cost. Completing your program faster can save money in the face of rising tuition rates while studying in-state may reduce tuition costs overall. Financial aid in the form of student loans, grants, and scholarships can help reduce or defray some of the cost as well.

Tuition Timelines

Earning your master's in supply chain management online offers you more flexibility when it comes to scheduling your courses and planning your program. We've outlined the three most common timelines below.

Part-Time Path

Part time paths allow students to take six credits or less per semester and provide ample time to attend to other obligations.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: University of Washington
Total Credits Required: 43
Summary: This program takes two years to complete, with one five-credit course per quarter term.

Full-Time Path

Full-time study is the default course load, with a master's degree typically taking around two years, although taking more or fewer courses per semester can change that.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Boston University
Total Credits Required: 40
Summary: This program includes core and elective courses, as well as a capstone project and can generally be completed in one and a half or two years.

Accelerated Path

Accelerated programs allow students to complete their degrees more quickly by taking a heavier than usual course load.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: University of Southern California
Total Credits Required: 27 units
Summary: This program takes 16 months to complete, with two courses per semester, plus one course split over the first and last semesters. The course schedule is locked in and is the same for all students.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants & Scholarships

Scholarships can help pay for your online master's in supply chain management, and some sample scholarships are listed below.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Supply Chain Management Program

While every program is unique, there are certain courses, requirements, and other aspects which are common to an online master's in supply chain management. This section is designed to give you some idea of how a "typical" program might be laid out, what you might want to look for when choosing schools to apply to, and what you might expect after you complete the program.

Major Milestones

  1. Application - Before program begins

    Applying is the obvious first step to attending the program but requires considerable thought and effort to ensure your applications are high quality and turned in on time.

  2. Disbursement of Financial Aid - Beginning of each semester

    While you should apply for financial aid as early as possible each year, what funds you receive will be dispersed at the beginning of each semester.

  3. Internship - Varies by program

    Many programs will offer or even require you to complete an internship or other work-study experience, the details of which can vary widely but are generally tailored to specific students.

  4. Capstone or Thesis Proposal - Up to two semesters before graduation

    Many programs require completion of a thesis or other terminal project to apply what you have learned. Such projects usually require approval before you begin.

  5. Capstone or Thesis Research - Usually the last semester or two

    The process of research and writing your thesis or composing your capstone project could take up to the entire last year of the program, often in conjunction with your courses.

  6. Capstone or Thesis Defense - Just before graduation

    If you have to defend a thesis or other terminal project, this is usually done during the last semester, giving you time to make adjustments or corrections to the project before graduating.

Coursework

Below we have outlined five courses that you will commonly find offered in supply chain management programs. The names and details of these courses will vary, but these are the subjects typically covered.

Supply Chain Strategy and Design

These courses cover the supply chain as a holistic process, and you will discuss how to design and implement parts of the process to make the whole more effective.

Supply Management

These courses are concerned with the kinds of challenges that face supply chain managers, whether technical, financial, or interpersonal, and explore techniques and best practices for addressing these issues.

International Negotiations

In a global economy, companies draw materials and workforce from a variety of places, and supply chain managers often have to work with peers across national and even linguistic lines.

Sustainable Management

These courses address ways in which supply chains can be developed to reduce waste and environmental impact through sustainable practices.

Distribution Management

Getting products to consumers can be just as challenging as getting products made and requires different techniques and resources. These courses approach best practices for overcoming these challenges.

Requirements to Practice

An online master's in supply chain management can help you become more competitive and improve your chances of getting a job, but it is not the only tool available to you. Professional organizations offer a variety of certifications which can show current or future employers you know the field inside and out. Certifications can improve your earning and hiring potential, and allow you to further specialize your skills and knowledge for your particular career path.

    • Certified in Production and Inventory Management: Provided by the Association for Supply Chain Management (APICS), this certification requires passing two exams within three years and must be renewed every five years. Both self-taught and instructor lead options are available to prepare for the exams.
    • SCPro Certification: Provided by the Council for Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), this certificate focuses on integrated supply chain management and comes in three tiers with different focuses which build on one another. Each tier requires the completion of a different exam.
    • Certified Enterprise Analytics Professional: From the Hackett Group, this certification focuses on advanced analytics of "big data" for use in supply chains. It is offered in three tiers, as a Certificate, Diploma, or Advanced Diploma.
    • Certified Professional in Supply Management: Offered by ISM, this certificate program requires an exam but provides an in-depth, customizable study plan featuring interactive tools and other features which should be familiar to online students.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Professional organizations are valuable not just to those with established careers, but to students as well. These organizations provide opportunities for networking, continuing education, finding employment, and even help in paying for college. Many offer reduced membership costs for students, host conferences and other events, and can help you get on the path to a new or advanced career. Below we've collected some example organizations to help you find one, or more, that is right for you.

  • Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals: CSCMP is dedicated to educating and connecting professionals to advance and expand the field of supply chain management through conferences, continuing education, and networking.
  • Institute for Supply Management: ISM was founded in 1915, making it the oldest professional organization for supply chain management. The group has over 50,000 members in over 100 countries.
  • The International Society of Logistics: Since 1966, SOLE has been bringing together logistics professionals for professional development and the advancement of the field. Today the group boats 90 chapters in over 50 countries.
  • Warehouse Education and Research Council: Founded in 1977, WERC brings together professionals from all levels of the distribution field to help build relationships and master best practices to advance the field.
  • Healthcare Supply Chain Association: HSCA represents 14 purchasing organizations which focus on the healthcare industry. The group promotes ethical business activities and professional development and works with legislative bodies to promote the field.
  • American Production and Inventory Control Society: APICS has been providing continuing education options, literature, and certifications to professionals in supply chain management for over 60 years. They provide these resources through personal and organizational membership.
  • International Warehouse Logistics Association: IWLA has been representing and connecting professionals in warehousing since the 19th century, and its members own millions of square feet of warehouse space.
  • Material Handling Association of America: MHI provides a variety of logistical support and professional development opportunities to supply chain professionals; they also work to connect these individuals through networking and conferences.
  • Distribution Business Management Association: DBM brings together leaders from the business world and academia to work together to improve supply chain and distribution. They publish a scholarly journal and hold conferences and forums.
  • Project Management Institute: PMI provides a variety of educational and professional development resources for supply chain and project management professionals, including certifications, publications, and networking opportunities.