According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), logisticians earned a median salary of $74,590 in 2017, roughly twice the annual median wage for all workers. The highest 10% of logistician salaries exceeded $120,000 that year.
To qualify for these lucrative positions, however, you will typically need a bachelor's degree. This page offers an overview of online supply chain management degrees, including application requirements, common courses, and possible career paths after graduation. It also provides information on how you can continue your education after earning a bachelor's.
Overview of Supply Chain and Logistics Degrees
Supply chain and logistics professionals manage the flow of goods and services, from the acquisition of raw materials to the shipping of a finished product to the consumer. Most supply chain and logistics managers work for large corporations, though they may also find employment in the military or with government agencies.
To succeed in this field, you need excellent organizational, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills and a strong attention to detail. Pursuing a logistics degree online allows you to complete your coursework almost entirely on your own schedule and from anywhere with an internet connection, making this style of learning ideal for working professionals.
Once you graduate with an online supply chain management degree, you can take on a variety of jobs, including logistician, industrial production manager, or operations research analyst. The field of operations research, in particular, promises exceptional job prospects. The BLS projects that employment for these roles will grow a staggering 27% through 2026. Most of these jobs pay significantly above the national average as well.
Before you can earn your supply chain management bachelor's degree online, you must first hold either a high school diploma or GED. Some schools require that applicants maintain a certain GPA during high school, typically a 2.5. Other schools may ask that you submit results from either the ACT or SAT, though they usually do not set minimum scores for these exams.
Along with your transcripts and exam scores, you may need to submit up to three letters of recommendation from former teachers, volunteer leaders, or employers. Try to find recommenders who can affirm your qualifications and passion for learning and give them at least two months to write a letter on your behalf.
You may also need to write a brief personal essay outlining your academic and professional goals. This essay, usually about 1,000 words in length, gives you the chance to highlight your strengths, provide context to any weaknesses in your application, and reiterate your desire to study at a particular school.
Online programs generally do not require students to participate in an interview, relying on a student's application materials to make their decision. After reviewing your materials, a school may admit you, deny your application, or place you on a wait list, meaning you may gain admission into a program if another admitted student drops out.
What Will I Learn?
Most supply chain management online schools require students to complete 120 credits to earn their bachelor's degree. Of these credits, roughly 40-50 cover general education subjects, such as microeconomics, English, or psychology. Students must complete another 40-50 credits within their major, taking courses on topics like sustainable operations, logistics management, and reverse logistics. You can earn your final 20-30 credits through elective courses. These classes allow you to more deeply explore a specialized area of supply chain management, such as transportation modes, or learn more about an unrelated field of study.
As a full-time student, expect to earn your bachelor's in roughly four years. If you already hold an associate degree or college-level credit you can transfer, you can potentially graduate even faster. Part-time students typically need six or more years to meet all of their program's graduation requirements.
You can read more about six courses commonly offered in these programs below.
Management science requires students to study decision-making and problem-solving processes within organizations. This course offers an introduction to its core concepts, focusing on how supply chain management and logistics professionals use data about production and distribution to inform business decisions and better meet strategic objectives.
Continuous Improvement Tools and Techniques
Continuous improvement represents a company's ongoing efforts to improve products, services, and processes. As it plays a key role in supply chain and logistics management, students in this course explore the method's most commonly used tools and techniques. Topics covered include quality management, lean techniques, and experimental design.
This course teaches students how to make operations decisions that support the long-term sustainability of their organization while still meeting the needs of their customers. With a particular focus on manufacturing, students in this class examine subjects such as closed loop supply chains, environmental management, safety and compliance, and corporate social responsibility.
Trends in Operations Management
This course covers contemporary topics in operations management, such as managing disruptive change, agile project management, and automation. Instructors present each of these subjects within a broader historical context and ask students to consider the extent to which the changes meet the field's twin goals of improved efficiency and sustainability.
Reverse logistics relates to the reuse of materials. For example, reverse logistics plays an important role in the sourcing of aluminium from recycled cans and its subsequent use in new products. Students in this class examine best practices and review procedures and policies for integrating reverse logistics operations into a forward logistics supply chain.
Capstone in Supply Chain Management
This course gives students the opportunity to apply their learning and develop real-world supply chain management experience simultaneously. Students in this capstone may, for instance, partner with a nearby grocery store to more efficiently direct unused food and donated items to homeless shelters and food pantries.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Supply Chain and Logistics?
Supply chain management programs often combine specialized training in operations and logistics with more general instruction in business administration and management science. This curriculum can prepare you for a variety of roles, whether you hope to oversee production for a manufacturing company or coordinate purchasing and procurement activities for a government agency. Many of the careers in this field also come with strong salaries and above-average job prospects.
While earning your supply chain management degree online can help you develop a broad skill set applicable to many jobs, the three competencies below are the most critical to your future career success.
Supply chain managers must possess strong organizational skills. For example, many companies now adopt short-cycle or just-in-time production, meaning that raw materials must arrive directly before they are needed. This process requires tremendously detailed recordkeeping and close management of both inputs and outputs.
Logistics professionals need exceptional problem-solving skills. A failure at one stage may cause the entire supply chain to collapse, so managers must know how to improvise and adapt to meet shifting needs and keep production on schedule. Degrees in this area introduce students to technologies used to avoid disruption in the first place and the best practices for dealing with these issues when they inevitably do arise.
Success in supply chain management demands above-average customer service skills. Logisticians must understand their customers' needs to most effectively design their supply chains and distribution systems. In the event of delay or broader failure, supply chain professionals must also explain the situation to their customers and work to find an acceptable solution to the problem.
Potential Careers and Salaries
After earning a supply chain management degree online, many graduates find jobs in the private sector. Roughly one-quarter of all logisticians work for large manufacturing firms, though a sizeable portion work for smaller organizations or companies that specialize in a particular area of logistics, such as freight shipping.
Another 20% of supply chain professionals work for the government, coordinating the purchase and distribution of a variety of goods and services. A logistics analysts working for the military, for example, may create and maintain a supply chain to provide ready-to-eat meals to soldiers serving in combat zones.
Regardless of the exact career path you choose, candidates with strong organizational and problem-solving skills can command above-average salaries in this field. Below, you can read more about five common professional opportunities for graduates holding a bachelor's in supply chain management and logistics.
Annual Median Salary: $74,590
Logistics analysts study an organization's supply chain to improve its efficiency. They may examine the acquisition of raw materials, the production of goods and services, and the distribution of finished products to consumers. While an associate degree may qualify you for some entry-level positions, most logistics analysts hold a bachelor's degree.
Supply Chain Analyst
Annual Median Salary: $58,534
Supply chain analysts perform many of the same functions as logistics analysts, though their focus lies more on the movement of materials and goods rather than the processes used in production. With a more limited scope of responsibility, supply chain analysts often earn less than analysts who can make recommendations across the entire production cycle.
Annual Median Salary: $73,266
Operations managers create policies and procedures and supervise the daily operations of an organization. For example, an operations manager at a construction company may ensure that a site possesses the materials and human resources needed to finish its project by a given deadline.
Supply Chain Manager
Annual Median Salary: $81,416
Supply chain managers oversee the entirety of the production and distribution process. They may hire and supervise staff, create and manage budgets, and work with senior leadership to devise and implement organizational strategy. Supply chain managers must hold at least a bachelor's degree in a closely related field.
Annual Median Salary: $44,064
Logistics coordinators provide administrative support to supply chain managers and logistics analysts. They may track deliveries, purchase supplies, or collect orders from customers. While you can qualify for these roles with just an associate degree, a bachelor's can improve your job prospects and set you up for a promotion to a more advanced role in supply chain management.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Supply Chain and Logistics?
No, you do not need a graduate degree to begin a career in supply chain and logistics management. Most entry-level and mid-level jobs, including logisticians and industrial production managers, require only a bachelor's degree.
However, while employers generally do not require an advanced degree for more specialized positions like operations research analyst or management analyst, you may enjoy better job prospects if you complete coursework in economics, statistics, or business administration.
Rather than pursuing a master's degree, you may consider earning a graduate certificate instead. Certificate programs allow you to develop new skills and can communicate to future employers that you possess expertise in particular methods or technologies. They also cost less and require significantly less time than a degree. If you later choose to pursue a master's, you can often transfer credits from your certificate program.
Accreditation for Supply Chain and Logistics Bachelor's Programs
When researching online logistics degrees, make sure to choose a program that holds accreditation. By participating in the accreditation process, a school demonstrates that it meets standards of academic excellence and adequately prepares its students for careers after graduation. If you attend an unaccredited school, you may not qualify for many forms of financial aid. In addition, future employers may not recognize your degree, and other institutions may not accept your transfer credits.
Three kinds of accreditation exist: regional, national, and programmatic. Regional accreditors assess nonprofit colleges and universities. National accreditors serve for-profit and vocational schools. Within the field of supply chain management, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) serves as the primary programmatic accreditor.
To confirm that your chosen school holds either regional, national, or ACBSP accreditation, check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's online directory.
Supply Chain and Logistics Professional Organizations
After earning a supply chain management degree online, you should consider joining a professional organization. Membership in one of these organizations can position you for the next step in your career, whether by helping you network with other supply chain professionals or providing access to continuing education opportunities. Many of these groups also provide resources specifically to recent graduates, including mentorship programs to help you learn from established professionals and online job boards to keep you informed of new opportunities.
Though originally just serving supply chain management professionals working in the United States, APICS now represents supply chain professionals around the globe. The organization publishes a magazine, offers both in-person and online training programs, and hosts an international conference. APICS also administers three formal professional certifications.
Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals
CSCMP aims to generate supply chain management research, increase communication among professionals working in this area, and raise public awareness of the profession. It also offers a three-tiered credential program, along with online courses and on-site continuing education opportunities for members.
Warehousing Education and Research Council
WERC focuses on the role of logistics management in the supply chain. Members can network through online communities and at an annual conference. The council also maintains an online library of professional development resources covering topics such as performance benchmarking and warehousing technologies.