Guide to College Majors in Supply Chain Management

The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.
--Sun Tzu
Table of Contents

What Is Supply Chain Management?

Supply chain management is the identification, acquisition, access, positioning and management of resources an organization requires, or anticipates it will, in order to meet its strategic goals.

The management of supplies is as important a function as finance, marketing, or human resources functions in terms of overall business success. Without the supplies you need, you can't produce; with too much surplus inventory, you're tying up valuable assets; by not getting the best prices for raw materials, you diminish company profits and increase costs to consumers. The supply management department may be responsible for spending 50-60% of the gross revenue in an organization, and thereby can exert significant leverage on profitability and operational success.

The supply management field continues to evolve from basic contract management with suppliers and distributors to a more proactive, strategic process with business partners and suppliers to create shareholder value. With many the clerical tasks now automated, the purchasing professional is free to work strategically with management.

As a supply chain manager, you may have the opportunity to expand your duties into such areas as planning and policymaking, motivation, evaluation, product development, and inventory control. Depending on the size of the organization, you may have a variety of responsibilities or you may focus on just one area of the supply chain. Some supply managers are actively involved in product design and development, while others may focus on contract development and forecasting.

Career Education in Supply Chain Management

College degrees are required for most professional business positions, and this category is no exception. Your career education should touch on negotiations, cost/price analysis, performance measurements, strategic planning and inventory control, among other topics.

Online degrees in supply chain management have become increasingly common as busy professionals seek to enhance their resumes without giving up their jobs. Online college classes are available at every level.

Associate and Bachelor's Degrees in Supply Chain Management

College degrees are now a minimum requirement for entry-level business jobs. An associate degree in acquisition and contract management can provide the fundamentals and help you get into the workforce as soon as possible (most associate's degrees take two years or less). For advancement in the field, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree. This should provide you with a solid foundation in business principles, including negotiations, ethics, business law and finance, as well as studies of industry issues.

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What Can You Do With a College Major in Supply Chain Management?

Supply chain management professionals work in virtually every industry - manufacturing or service, governmental, educational or retail. You may be working as a buyer, contract negotiator, inventory manager, import/export goods manager, transportation manager, supplier relations specialist, supplier selection officer, or operations manager. You may focus on warehousing, benchmarking, e-commerce, recycling, technology, or customer relations.

To succeed as a supply chain manager, you need strong verbal and written communication skills, an aptitude for technology, a talent for data analysis and finance, strategic skills, a global perspective, and the ability to maintain good professional relationships.

Supply chain management offers a world of employment possibilities, because it is the backbone of so many different kinds of companies. It's important at all levels--from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies--to have reliable supply management professionals to ensure the most efficient, profitable, and competitive operations possible.

Supply chain management is also proving to be more appealing to people beginning their careers or looking for a change. Supply chain managers can focus on designing, auditing, researching, analyzing, budgeting, forecasting, buying or planning functions. There are countless opportunities for a bright, ambitious individual to fit into the supply management field.

The increasing ease of doing business online is having an impact on the supply management profession as markets take on a global scope. Supply managers may be asked to find and evaluate international sources of supply and to integrate and coordinate requirements across the globe, so you may be expected to bring cultural understanding and language skills to your position.

Certification and Licensure

As with most professions, having certification is a universal symbol that shows to everyone your level of achievement and your career commitment. The Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) designation, established by the Institute for Supply Management, requires professionals to pass the CPM Exam and have five years' purchasing/supply management experience or three years' experience and a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.

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