Are you fresh out of college or university and planning to enter the supply chain or logistics profession? Perhaps you are considering a mid-career move into the supply chain theatre.
Either way, you might find this article of value, because we’re going to discuss some of the positions you might aim for among the vast range available, and the career paths associated with them.
81% of young professionals working in supply chain say that it was the right career choice.
Source: Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals 2017 Survey.
Before we begin though, it’s worth mentioning one small caveat. The scope of supply chain management and operations is very broad, and no two companies necessarily have the same approach to it. Therefore, there are no real defined supply chain career paths—but this is a good thing, because your career can take you anywhere.
However, it also means that the paths discussed in this article are mere possibilities, rather than absolutes. Of course the same is true in many professions, but is particularly so in the arena of supply chain and logistics.
Types of Job in Supply Chain and Logistics
There are many job types in supply chain and logistics, so to simplify things, it’s best to categorize them in some way. Let’s look at them from the perspective of the supply-chain Plan, Make, Source, and Deliver model.
Supply Chain Planning
“Planning is everything. The plan is nothing.”
–Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Planning is necessary at just about every stage in the supply chain, and if
aptitude for a planning role, there is a wide range of possibilities in front of you. Here are some of the planning roles that you could aim for:
- Supply Chain Planner: Typically a management role with responsibility to analyse supply chain performance and develop strategies for improvement.
- Demand Planner: This role involves forecasting and estimating future demand for a company’s products, and working with multiple supply chain functions to meet it, while also avoiding over-supply.
- Production Planner: As a production planner, you would focus on the manufacturing or production processes within your company, working with demand planners to ensure optimal levels of manufacturing output are maintained and aligned with demand.
- Capacity Planner: This position is similar to that of a production planner, but might be a broader role, since the focus is on all elements of a manufacturing operation rather than process alone. The objective of a capacity planner is to optimize manufacturing or production capacity through process, design, resource procurement, and collaboration with supply chain partners.
- Logistics Resource Planner: Typically an entry-level logistics role, a logistics resource planner is responsible for coordinating human resources and warehouse/transportation-fleet assets to fulfill customers’ orders in line with the company’s service promise.
- Load Planner: This appointment is narrower in scope than that of a resource planner, and focuses mainly on compiling customer orders into truckloads and planning efficient delivery routes for the transportation fleet.
Except for the supply chain planner role, all the jobs in the list above will likely have a linear career path, up to a point, perhaps including planners’ positions at entry level, and progressing to planning manager and maybe even planning director.
Manufacturing and Production
“My father built a small manufacturing business. I worked alongside him and saw firsthand the challenges that business owners face.”
— Brett Guthrie, U.S. Representative
It’s easy to forget that the production environment is as much a part of the supply chain as logistics is. It could even be that you already work in manufacturing or production but have plans for a lateral move into sourcing or logistics. If so, you are ideally placed to do so.
If not, you should certainly not discount the idea of entering the supply chain profession by way of a manufacturing job, especially as the array of possible appointments in this sector does not limit you to working as a plant operative or manager.
Possible jobs in manufacturing, which are essentially supply chain roles include:
- Production Operative, Supervisor, or Manager
- Maintenance Operative, Supervisor, or Manager
- Quality Manager
- Production Planner
- Purchasing Manager
- Production Warehouse Manager
The above list is merely a sample of the possible jobs you could consider in manufacturing and production. If you feel you should enter the industry at the lowest level, then you might look for a role as a production or maintenance operative and plan to work your way up to supervisory and then management level. Otherwise, there are the engineering, quality, purchasing, or warehouse management positions to consider.
After attaining a management position and gaining some experience, you can choose any number of paths, but if broader supply chain responsibility is your desire, you might leave the manufacturing function and become a logistics, distribution, or supply chain manager, and from there graduate to a senior management role in one of those areas.
Sourcing and Purchasing
“I would say that this is the most important thing to be successful in a Purchasing or Procurement career. Getting the experience from many places, many people, being energetic, curious and stubborn in a way is something that drives you up on a career ladder.”
–Robert Freeman, Procurement Expert
Procurement, sourcing, and purchasing functions are part of the inbound supply chain, which is a great place to gain an understanding of how sales, service, and inventory management, and logistics mesh together in balancing supply with demand.
In procurement especially, you are likely to be involved in building contractual agreements with suppliers engaging in commercial negotiations over product price, supplier service, and accountability for inbound transportation of the purchased goods. Jobs involved in this aspect of supply chain management can comprise:
- Strategic Sourcing Manager
- Purchasing and Inventory Clerk
- Procurement Manager/Specialist
- Commodities Manager
- Category Manager
Entry level jobs in this functional area are often managerial, and therefore can make a good start point if you are a college or university graduate. As you look to reach a more senior level, you might seek promotion to become a regional or national Head of Procurement, Head of Purchasing, or Head of Strategic Sourcing.
Jobs at the giddier heights of sourcing and procurement include Director of Procurement or Director of Purchasing, or if you want to continue to the highest level, Chief Procurement Officer.
Alternatively, you can strike out for other areas of supply chain management at just about any stage. It’s not at all uncommon for sourcing professionals to move sideways into logistics management or upwards to become supply chain executives.
Logistics and Transportation
“Trade isn’t about goods. Trade is about information. Goods sit in the warehouse until information moves them.”
–C. J. Cherryh, Writer.
The management of logistics is perhaps the “face” of supply chain management, concerned as it is with the actual movement of materials, goods and just as important, but rarely mentioned, information. Jobs in logistics can range from manual, such as warehouse operatives and truckies, through clerical, like transport administration, supervisory and managerial, to senior management positions.
Let’s focus on the knowledge-work aspect of logistics. After all, if you are graduating with a degree or planning a mid-career move into the supply chain profession, you probably won’t want to go in on the shop floor. That said, logistics is undoubtedly a sector in which you can do so and from there, go all the way to the top. I know people who have done that, and the experience proved invaluable when they moved into senior positions.
You could consider any of the following jobs in logistics and transportation:
- Logistics Administrator
- Logistics Manager
- Transport Administrator
- Transport Manager
- Reverse Logistics Manager
- Warehouse Administrator
- Inventory Controller
- Warehouse Manager
- Logistics Director
Each of the positions listed above can eventually lead to promotions into more general supply chain management roles. Chief Supply Chain Officers, for example, have often spent time managing warehouses or transport operations in their early careers.
A typical career path might involve entering the profession as a manager of a small transport operation or single warehouse, then moving into a regional or group management role, before progressing to a senior management appointment, perhaps running a nationwide warehouse or transport network.
Further progression could ultimately take you into a more general field of supply chain management. The most successful logisticians pursue executive offices, and some even go on to become CEOs.
Other Supply Chain Careers
“60% of young supply chain professionals surveyed described their work as exciting, and 56% said their work is fascinating.
Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals 2017 Survey.
Aside from the planning and operational careers covered in the previous article sections, many different roles exist that can provide an exciting and satisfying supply chain career. Some examples include:
- Supply Chain Solution Design Analyst: Responsible for analysing a company’s supply chains and designing solutions to improve performance.
- Supply chain Finance Management: This is similar to other corporate finance functions, but specializing in the control of supply chain expenses. This type of job typically exists only in larger enterprises.
- Supply Chain IT: Larger companies also have IT departments dedicated to providing and managing technology for supply chain functions. Some enterprises have IT departments exclusively serving the logistics function.
- Sales Roles: Ocean, air, and overland carriers, 3PLs, and 4PLs all sell logistics services to support customers’ supply chain operations. That means they all have sales functions. A sales role in a logistics service company will expose you to every aspect of supply chain operation and management, as you have to understand your customers’ supply chains, and the role your employer plays in supporting them.
- Project Management: Projects are critical to all areas of industry, supply chain and logistics being no exception. If you like your career to be varied and challenging, a job in logistics or supply chain project management can be an ideal choice. Again, this is a role typically found in larger companies or in enterprises that provide logistics services.
- Supply Chain Consulting: If you like lots of variety, you might want to think about joining a consulting firm that specialises in supply chain and logistics. A consulting career will see you working on hundreds of different projects for a multitude of companies. However, it is a good idea (although not obligatory) to gain some experience of working in supply chain management before you take a consulting position.
Something for Everyone in Supply Chain and Logistics
As you will have gathered from the information in this article, there are so many types of supply chain and logistics jobs, at every level, that you should have no trouble breaking into the profession, especially if you keep your options open.
The beauty of this industry is that once you are in, your job is likely to expose you to the broader mechanics and principles of supply chain management.
You can choose to generalise or specialise, work in operations, planning, or a supporting function like sales or finance, and still gain the necessary knowledge over time to enable a sideways move or promotion into a different supply chain area.
If you already know that you want a supply chain or logistics career, but are not sure what role you want, I would recommend that you consider any of those described in this article. All of them can get your foot in the door, and from there, it’s not difficult at all to move around after gaining a little experience.
Nice article and informative information very helpful, thanks for share your knowledge
Yes this is so helpful article….
So you can contact for more helpful
I’ve read your article Mr Byrne its real helpful for as a student of logistics,under Cilt Nairobi Kenya, be blessed.
Glad it helped!
Yeah it’s wonderful article and it’s helpful for who are all searching in SCM area.
This article very important in really helping the student in study.
I’m So Into This Career I Applied For It And I’m Going To Go More Bigger With The Follow Ups And Learning With This Production
Supply Chain is a great career. Go for it!
Very interesting article which I hope to see more of this. I’m currently doing Bcom in international supply chain. I’m loving the exposure.
Please enlighten me more on your degree
I will be starting my debt bee soon
My own degree was many years ago and not that relevant anymore. There were not so many Supply Chain degrees available at that time. Now there are lots to choose from.
Very resourceful, gives insight into the career especially for us still studying it.
I have inventory experience and I am a college graduate with a degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management. I want to be a Supply Chain Analysts and I have applied to over 25 jobs in 2 months related to that field and have had tons of rejection letters. I’m not sure if I just dont have the right skills or if my resume just isnt right. How can I obtain the skills I need for that job ?
Talk to some Supply Chain Analysts.
And keep applying.
25 applications is nothing. You’re just getting warmed up…
Wow!wow!! This article is superb because it really helps and has helped me in knowing my career path as a logistics student,am so grateful sir for this episode of knowledge
Glad it helped!
Very good advice. Thank you
Good day Mr. O’Byrne,
Thank you you for your article. I really make things clearer for me. I have worked with a few manufacturing companies in the past and currently pursuing my BSc. In Business Administration with a certificate in operations management. I was confused as to how to figure out my next move I to the right career.
Thanks for the article. I’ve been researching what I could do with a Supply Chain Management degree and this was helpful. I’m 34 years old and I’ve been doing logistics in the military for 10 years. I want to transition back to civilian life eventually so I’m going to school for my Bachelor’s to enhance the experience and skills gained from my military career.
Thanks for your article. I am interested in the oil and gas logistics and supply chain. Could you throw more light on that?
Sorry I don’t have a lot of direct experience in Oil and Gas Logistics.
Very nice and very interesting article
Glad you liked it!
I’ve been in supply chain for 14 years in a Buyer role in both healthcare and IT industries. It’s a rewarding career and given the current epidemic, it will be needed more so in the coming years. I was recently laid off and currently looking for new opportunities
Hey Rob thanks for this great article. I was really struggling to see where I can fit in supply chain industry and I think I got some clue. However, I want to ask one thing, is it important to have a degree in supply chain or engineering management can help me to get into this industry?
I’m a SCM executive in Procurement and BPRM. What should be the course for me to grow in carreer.
What qualifications do you have already?
This article with many great ideas on where the students of Logistics are able to develop their acknowledgement acquire is really useful. It gave ideas where we want to apply.
Thank you very much.
Do you offer a training program in Supply Chain mgmt, Logistics mgmt?. If so provide me with, some details.If not, provide me with .some good schools .Thanks Have a safe day
Yes, we have our own online education program here: https://www.supplychainsecrets.com/
Online course on shipping and port logistics information
Not sure I know of any sadly
Thank you so much for sharing. I worked as purchasing clerk in a company for 11 months and have been working as an order management coordinator at another company(almost 7 months now), where I really like… What I’ve been considering is what exactly is my function in supply chain field. And how can I develop my career path. I want to move up but don’t have a clear direction. Can anyone share a little bit of their insight?
Best thing is to network with others in the industry. Online and in person.
Best thing is to network with others in the industry. Online and in person.
I think this article is beneficial for the most part. I’m a young man who has only worked in a local warehouse as a material handler for close to one year. I left the job going back to school to gain some business insights as they relate to this industry; however, I’m considering going back to the job full time to learn more about the industry earning a supply chain management certificate. How could a supply chain management certificate get me entered into the industry? Any general recommendations?
Any relevant qualifications are always beneficial.
Nice post. Thanks for sharing such type of valuable article. Keep sharing this type of informative post.
I like this article very interesting and I also I want to study transport and logistics course here in Nigeria, I need some advice please.
What advice do you need?
I need help
So what kind of help specifically?
Sir, Very informative for those who are looking for logistics & supply chain management. This will guide them.
This is very interesting, I am really looking into such opportunities. Let’s hope political Leaders, employers and other understand the importance of this career as to optimize costs of their business operations.
Hi, what would be the best degree to pursuit for a career as a supply chain analyst or finance?
hard question, but Finance is important in any Supply Chain role.
Thanks for sharing this article
We are setting up a new role with the assignment to work with suppliers delivery precision and quality.
Is it a good idea to name the role “supplier development manager” or do any one have other ideas?
That sounds like a good title to me. Regards – Rob
Thank you for your input and thank you for a lot of good articles. I will probably spend some days reading through them all.
Glad you find them helpful
Good morning sir, how can I get logistics mentor?
Networking. And maybe ask. Sadly I get lots of requests to be a mentor, but I can’t. Running 5 businesses leaves me no spare time
Grateful for such informative article. Keep them coming
We will. Information and tips on finding jobs in Supply Chain is always popular. Don’t forget to check out our YouTube Channel as well. (Supply Chain Secrets) https://www.youtube.com/user/robobyrne
Very insightful article. Currently pursuing MBA in Supply Chain Management at Saint Leo University and realized that most article of such nature talk less about reverse logistics. RL is becoming integral to the SCM because value is retrieve in so many forms. Thanks for your article.
Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated.
Helpful article to understand supply chain , keep sharing knowledge, really appreciate
This is really very diverse field, am very encouraged to have concentration in my endeavors with transport and logistics course am studying now, thank you so much for your efforts.
Is the supply chain management field gender biased?
Sadly the Supply Chain field seems to attract about 80% male and 20% female participants. I’m not sure this is a ‘bias’ as such, but females have not traditionally been attracted to the industry. Things are slowly changing though.
Thanks, hope it helps.
Indeed it is changing as a woman i studied logistics supply chain management and it’s very interesting. Thank you.
Great to hear. Our industry needs far greater female participation!
The article is very informative and supply chain indeed is a very varied field. I have worked In retail for 4 years and have studied supply chain management (master’s) have been looking to enter supply chain role for quite some time now but having no luck yet. How do i approach companies even for an entry level role? Any suggestions or leads to such roles are welcome
My son will be graduating this spring from a local college from a Business Logistics & Supply Chain program. He has concerns that there really don’t seem to be openings in our area. Would it be ok advise to tell him that perhaps look at applying fro jobs not 100% related but that he can let his preference be know and maybe he will eligible as time passes ?
Of course. Getting that first job and gaining some experience is the key…
Good information sir, Am a BE graduate with four and years of experiences in stores, warehouse and logistics departments. But am in needed to know more in those fields.
So what kind of study or course I need to do for getting better knowledge?
In which field I need to move for next step whether stores or warehousing or logistics?
Check out this Playlist. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAI2rbd3NwK5tgIQeNNkNAe47GDOqyqpb
Thank you for the article Rob. If I may ask, which supply chain roles will be in most demand in the next 30 years considering the 4th Industrial revolution and the “dying out” of tactical jobs in the industry due to the implementation AI technology?
I don’t think anyone can predict what will happen in 30 years. The pace of change is too fast. 10 years is hard.
I want to start my career in supply chain management so Which is the basic job profile should I choose?
I think you need to decide what are of Supply Chain interests you first…
Thanks for the article Rob. I am Telecom professional with 15 years of experience. I used to lead vendor management, service management and IT team. Since I have moved from Bangladesh to Australia so I would like to shift my career from Telecom to Supply chain management. Sourcing is my preferable area. What kind of training will be required to start with. any other valuable Tips for me…
maybe check out training from APICS?
Sir i am studying post baccalaureate diploma in supply chain management from canada and my course is supposed to finish in december, I need help with the career advice and what should be my approach in resume to land a good job.
Hi. I think you’ll find this video useful: https://youtu.be/7qGAIaKqAuE
Article was Good
Very good information. I Did MBA Health service management and master certificate in Global Supply chain management. I am still looking for a job.
I am very excited to apply all supply chain concepts in Health care field.
May I ask, what do you think?
Share marketing related career path too
Thanks for the article sir. I am a 30 year old female vehicle technician. I am studying transport and Logistics so that I would fit in this industry. Am I taking the right direction? Do these 2 fields dovetail?
Without knowing more it would be hard to say? If you get into vehicle logistics, then Yes.
Hey! Rob thanks for this great article. I was really struggling to see where I can fit in supply chain industry and I think I got some clue. However, I want to ask one thing, is it important to have a degree in supply chain or My Engineering Management degree can help me to get into this industry?
It will help, but maybe back it up with some other certifications.
Thanks for the reply.
1) Can you please mention some certifications which can be really helpful to me?
2) Should I learn SAP? Which product of SAP should I learn?
THis playlist should help. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAI2rbd3NwK5tgIQeNNkNAe47GDOqyqpb
Hi Rob! This article was really helpful. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for my new job title. I work as supply chain associate in the electronic environment. I started as an intern in transportation and now I moved to more tasks related with production scheduling, third manufacturers management finished product deliveries to the external logistics. I work in a medium company and I don’t want to have a specified job title. I want to keep it simple. My company suggested Depuy SC Manager . What do you think about? Do you have any other suggestion? Thanks a lot in advance.
Titles are that important, but there are……if you know what I mean!
I think something with ‘Supply Chain’ in it makes sense as your responsibilities are quite broad.
hello sir, I have completed my BTech degree in mechanical Engg which involves major courses like production engg, material handling, industrial engg, six sigma and minor courses I opt are operation management which involves SCM and logistics, lean management, cost management. recently I got a certificate for completing a basic course on the supply chain. in spite of this what should I do to pursing a career in SCM and logistics.
Check out these videos. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAI2rbd3NwK5tgIQeNNkNAe47GDOqyqpb
Hello sir, thanks for this article,it is very informative. I have B.Sc in biology, MBA in international business. 4 years in healthcare operation, currently in a role titled customer service but when i explain my duties falls in line with what you described as logistics resource planner. The company is a small to mid size, no room to grow. i feel stuck as to what to do next or certification even what role to apply for. please advise
Check out this playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAI2rbd3NwK5tgIQeNNkNAe47GDOqyqpb
Hi Rob, thanks for this educative article. I have a degree in procurement &logistics mgt, however I have been in personal business since 2015, “retail& wholesale” bt Rob which better management systems can I instal to manage my retail?
There are so many systems it would be impossible to recommend any. And I don’t, as I prefer to be impartial. Better to research what you need in terms of functionality.
Thanks so much; so educative, thought I know till now
Glad you liked it!
Good job ?
Thank you so much for giving this valuable informations about the logistics and supply chain management
Great to hear! Thanks
This information is very educative. It has widen my knowledge on Supply Chain Management. Thanks for sharing
Glad you found it informative!