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Supply Chain Manager Career Guide

How to Become a Supply Chain Manager

Supply chains are networks that deliver goods and services around the world. Nearly everything purchased these days moves along a supply chain—from the groceries we buy at the store to the materials that build our cars and homes. Supply chain managers (SCMs) oversee all the moving parts of that process, ensuring that these products get into the hands of consumers. This is often a complex process that requires teamwork, organization, negotiation, and problem-solving skills.

Every business that supplies goods needs to have supply chain management. So, when you choose a career as an SCM, you’ll have many opportunities to work in several different industries.

If you’re process-driven, detail oriented, and have a knack for getting things done, then read on to learn how to become a supply chain manager.

a group of investment managers in suits and business dress

What Is a Supply Chain Manager?

Supply chain managers play a crucial role in getting goods and services into the hands of consumers. Often working as part of a logistics team, SCMs have a deep understanding of how each step of the production, manufacturing, and distribution process work together.

As an SCM, your goal is to get products from manufacturing to consumers as quickly and efficiently as possible, without increasing costs or reducing quality.

The job of a supply chain manager is highly collaborative. In fact, SCMs often work closely with:

  • Logistics analyst
  • Transportation manager
  • Purchasing manager
  • Logistics manager
  • Logistician
  • Supply chain analyst
  • Supply chain specialist
  • Planning manager
  • Strategic sourcing manager
  • Commodities manager

What Does a Supply Chain Manager Do?

Supply chain managers coordinate all the moving parts of the supply chain—from planning and sourcing to retail management and delivery. Here are some common SCM responsibilities:

  • Logistics management: Supply chain managers are in charge of defining the parameters of supply chains and streamlining as many points on the chain as possible.
  • Operations management: A big part of this role involves optimizing processes such as product flows, procurement, warehousing, and transportation.
  • Cost management: Supply chain managers are in charge of creating budgets and implementing strategies that make operations more efficient.
  • Negotiation: SCMs are often tasked with negotiating prices for raw materials and delivery with suppliers, vendors, and shipping companies.
  • Relationship building: As a supply chain manager, you may also be responsible for building and maintaining partnerships with manufacturers, suppliers, transporters, etc.

How Do I Become a Supply Chain Manager?

The world of supply chain management is complex, fast-paced, and comes with a high degree of responsibility. If you're interested in becoming an SCM, here are some of the most common steps you’ll need to take:

Step One: Get a bachelor’s degree in business management.

A business degree will give you a better understanding of business fundamentals, financial elements, operations, communication, and management techniques to help you work with suppliers, vendors, and customers.

Step Two: Add to your education.

If you want to create more room for advancement, consider pursuing a master’s degree in management and leadership or an MBA degree. Many management positions will require candidates to have this advanced degree, and these programs will prepare you with the right skills to lead a team. You’ll learn operations management, ethical leadership, accounting, and other skills that make you an effective SCM.

Step Three: Gain work experience.

As with any career, experience only adds to your marketability. Some people may have five or more years of experience in manufacturing or supply chain management before applying for an SCM role. Experience with enterprise resource planning programs and project management can also make you more competitive.

Step Four: Get certified.

Certifications aren’t a requirement, but they can help boost your résumé when applying for jobs. It will show future employers that you have a broad range of supply chain knowledge on top of what a business degree can provide. Some popular certifications in this field include the Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) program, the Association Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation, and the Certified in Logistics, Transportation, and Distribution (CLTD) program.

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What Skills Does a Supply Chain Manager Need?

Good SCMs are highly organized people who can work effectively under tight deadlines and manage multiple moving parts at once. To succeed in this role, you'll need:

  • Problem-solving skills: When issues come up, you need to be able to pinpoint the problem and come up with a strategic solution.
  • Computer savvy: There are multiple programs used in supply chain management, and you’ll need to be familiar with as many as possible, as well as comfortable learning new applications.
  • Leadership skills: You'll have employees who you manage directly and that need to be steered in the right direction when supply chain questions come up.
  • A knack for numbers: SCMs are skilled at performing financial and mathematical projections about supply-related costs.
  • People skills: SCMs should have excellent communication skills as they’re responsible for maintaining relationships in the supply chain.
  • Project management skills: The SCM role requires you to develop and maintain accurate delivery schedules that are relevant to project dependencies and resources.
female investment manager using a calculator

How Much Does a Supply Chain Manager Make?

$117,073

According to Salary.com, the average supply chain manager salary in the United States is $117,073, but the range typically falls between $102,000 and $133,000.

What’s the Job Outlook for a Supply Chain Manager?

30%

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places the SCM role under the umbrella of logisticians, which is projected to grow 30% between 2020 and 2030. About 24,500 openings for logisticians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. As more goods are purchased online, timeliness of delivery will become a critical component of competition, further increasing demand for this role.

Where Does a Supply Chain Manager Work?

Varies

The typical setting for an SCM is an office environment, in which the manager can oversee and analyze the day-to-day activities of the company. They may also be in a business setting, with other offices and cubicles, or situated just off a manufacturing or engineering floor.

The supply chain manager will coordinate, organize, and oversee all activities involved in the identification, acquisition, production, and distribution of the company's goods.

  • They typically need to maintain close proximity to the production or manufacturing areas that they oversee.
  • There's no single career path for supply chain managers; excellent opportunities to reach and advance beyond this role exist at every level.
  • By having a business degree, you will undoubtedly bolster your prospects.

Interested in Becoming a Supply Chain Manager?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this exciting career.

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