Your Guide to Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Supply Chain Management and the Jobs it Can Help You Qualify For

Written by Scott Wilson

discussions in warehouse

If there was any real doubt that the world is basically run by supply chain managers, the COVID-19 pandemic and the snarls that occurred in the years since put it to rest. As borders closed and shipping lanes constricted, industries around the world were thrown into turmoil. Topping it all off, an influx of online orders from folks who couldn’t leave the house pushed domestic delivery systems to the edge.

Empty store shelves and orders delayed for months became common. And leaders in every industry started thinking long and hard about the need for expertly qualified supply chain managers.

Numbers tell the story: According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, only 170 positions for transportation, storage, and distribution managers were added to the workforce between 2019 and 2020. Between 2020 and 2021, though, as online ordering skyrocketed and global supply chains were being rebuilt, the field added a whopping 12,430 jobs.

That number has continued to increase. And a bachelor’s degree is increasingly seen as the basic requirement for any of those positions.

Sure, you can get a job throwing boxes with a high school diploma. A two-year associate degree can get you in the door as a dispatcher or load planner.

But to really launch your career in logistics and supply chain management, a bachelor’s degree needs to be on your resume.

What Do You Get from a Bachelor’s Degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management?

Bachelor’s degrees are the gold standard for professional preparation in almost any kind of management role today. In a field as complex as supply chain management, the kind of education that comes with these four-year programs is even more important.

That’s because they give you the time and opportunity to not only master the essentials of logistics, business, and accounting, but also to get a broad picture of the world you will be working in. A bachelor’s program comes with extensive general education requirements. Everything from math to science to global history courses will fill out your curriculum.

Extensive business training in supply chain management bachelor’s programs gives you a perspective on the requirements and constraints placed on logistics systems.

Those extra courses are what really turn you into management material. Improving communication, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills are your ticket to advancing in the fast-paced world of logistics.

What You Can Expect to Pay for a Four-Year Bachelor’s Degree in Supply Chain Management

It’s no secret that the cost of college has been going up. That can make a full four-year degree an expensive proposition.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average annual rate for tuition and fees at four-year schools in the United States was $17,251 for the 2021-22 school year.

That being the average, you can expect to find options both above and below, however. One of the easiest ways to come in under that average is by attending public universities. For the same year, the average rate for those institutions was only $9,596, while private schools cost $34,041 annually.

Of course, there are other expenses beyond tuition and fees. And there are clearly trade-offs between different types of institutions. But at the end of the day, a bachelor’s degree is so critical to your career path in logistics that it isn’t an optional expense.

Bachelor’s in Supply Chain Management Come in a Variety of Options

The most common type of supply chain management major can be found with titles like Bachelor of Arts in Supply Chain Management or Bachelor of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management. The arts/sciences distinction isn’t too important at the four-year level.

In general, arts programs will have more liberal studies coursework, while sciences degrees focus more on technical and professional classes. Either will give you the preparation you need for an entry-level job in the field.

Since supply chains are a critical part of business operations, you’ll also find plenty of business-oriented degrees that come with supply chain specializations, like a Bachelor of Business Administration Supply Chain Management major or a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Operations and Supply Chain major. These don’t have the same in-depth focus on supply chain operations as a dedicated degree. But they may be a good choice if you expect a career that involves a lot of logistics work but doesn’t revolve around it.

There are also special majors in this field that are devoted entirely to professional preparation, without the full suite of liberal studies courses that characterize most bachelor’s programs. These are degrees in applied science, such as the Bachelor of Applied Science in Supply Chain Management.

Applied science programs offer more training and more practical work in the field, at the expense of general studies courses. They are frequently considered continuation programs for students who already hold an associate degree. However, you don’t necessarily need to enter a BAS program if you have an associate degree in SCM, and you may not need an associate to enroll in a BAS.

That can make them a great choice for building technical skills early in your career, but may make it more difficult to move up into a graduate degree later on. You won’t have the same academic grounding and graduate schools may require you to take additional preparatory courses before admission.

Supply Chain Management Bachelor’s Degree Specializations to Consider

warehouse staff working on laptop

Supply chains have hugely complex operations. With so many different moving parts, each demanding specific knowledge and expertise, it was inevitable that the field would develop many different specialties.

You’ll find this reflected in the bachelor’s degrees available in supply chain management. This is the level where you may begin to get into a niche field where you will spend your entire career. The best way to get off to the right start is to get a degree that focuses directly on that specialization.

A few of the most common concentration options in SCM bachelor’s programs include:

Supply chain management itself may also be offered as a concentration in other kinds of business majors. Bachelor’s programs in fields like business, finance, operations management, and accounting may have SCM focus areas. Any of these can fine-tune your studies toward the type of career you are most interested in.

Choosing the Best School for Your Bachelor’s in Supply Chain Management

Hopefully you’re completely convinced of the value of a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management at this point. But that’s just the start of your journey to earning one. Next, you have to pick the school to study at.

There are a lot of factors that will go into your decision. Some of them will be personal—is it nearby or do you need to relocate? Can you afford tuition? Is the school football team one that your parents can root for?

But there are also important professional considerations that you need to make. You want the best possible education you can find in a supply chain management major. There are some common qualities you’ll notice behind the best programs. First-rate schools in supply chain degrees:

Hire the Best Possible Professors

The importance of faculty qualifications and teaching expertise can’t be overstated. And it must be a combination of real-world, professional experience and top-notch academic credentials. You need professors with both knowledge and the ability to teach it successfully. This is also a level where you’ll start paying attention to whether faculty have research experience in the field and publication credits. SCM is constantly evolving, and you deserve professors who are exploring the cutting edge in new methods and systems.

Offer Top-notch Advisory Services

Supply chain management is a big business with a lot of tendrils stretching into every industry. You need counselors and advisors who can talk you through all your options. Picking the right courses and making the right connections with their help will pave the way to a longer and happier career for you.

Maintain Strong Industry Ties

Similarly, you’ll have a much easier time getting off on the right foot after graduation if you already have experience and ties to the industry you are joining. A school that has professional business connections in SCM and with the sectors you are interested in working with is going to be your best bet. Case studies, internships, and alumni already working in those businesses will get you up to speed fast.

Deliver Helpful Support and Resources

Every student is unique. Schools that recognize that and offer individualized support are always going to be your best bet when considering your options for an SCM degree. Whether it’s coming up with the right mentorship for your capstone project or having the most up-to-date management software to practice on, a school that cares about giving students the tools they need to learn is the right choice for you.

Student Groups and Organizations That Offer Peer Support

One thing you’ll notice fast at a four-year college is that there are student groups for almost everything. Dungeons and Dragons and disc golf are fun, but you’ll also want a school that has student groups focused on professional development in logistics and supply chains. These organizations expand your education beyond the classroom and help develop your network of professional contacts before you ever graduate. Equally important, they can give you a chance to develop real leadership experience.

Considering Accreditation Standards in Supply Chain Management Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Accreditation is a process by which third-party organizations independently review, evaluate, and approve the quality and consistency of a school’s education. As a matter of course, any American university of any significance holds standard general accreditation as a stamp of approval on their degrees.

But in some cases, accreditation can be more specific to a kind of education or industry. Although supply chain management itself is not a field that has any standard specialty accreditors, SCM programs are often offered by university business schools. And there are three major specialty accreditors that evaluate business schools and degrees in the United States:

Since they don’t specifically look at logistics studies, you can count these as a nice-to-have rather than a must-have in the school you are considering. They may be more relevant depending on your specific degree title—a BBA in Supply Chain Management, for instance, should certainly be covered.

Some schools will also discuss their affiliation with or certification by various professional bodies in the supply chain world, such as ISM (the Institute for Supply Management) or ASCM (the Association for Supply Chain Management). These certifications or process alignments may help you determine which schools offer the right fit for your career goals. They don’t, however, have the same broad assurance of quality as a specialty accreditation—although many schools will have both.

Many Bachelor’s Programs in Logistics and Supply Chain Management Are Available Online Today

You’ll be entering a digital world when you graduate. So why not start early? Online bachelor’s programs in supply chain management create efficiencies in the educational process the same way that digital technologies smooth out global supply chains.

With remote studies, you can pursue your degree with minimal disruptions in the rest of your life. Hold down a current job, take care of your family, stay in your own home… it’s no obstacle when studying online.

There’s also the gift of time that comes with online learning. You can think of asynchronous coursework as a kind of just-in-time delivery of education. Your streamed video lectures, online class discussions, or remote homework assignments all happen exactly when you want them to happen. There’s no fixed time or place for getting it done, which makes it all fit your life with time to spare.

What Kind of Classes Are Found in a Supply Chain Management Major?

Whether you pursue a logistics degree online or in a traditional format, you’ll get the same kind of coursework. Of course, each school offers their own unique blend of classes. Shaped by both their local job market, the experience of professors, and their theories of supply chains, there are as many different angles on teaching logistics as there are schools teaching it.

But no matter what their angle, you’ll find similar core coursework in all of them. These are the kernels of professional expertise that every supply chain management professional can count on. You’ll build your own center of knowledge around courses in subjects like:

Most bachelor’s programs take your education outside the classroom, as well. A good SCM degree will offer:

More and more bachelor’s in SCM are taking a page from graduate-level programs by including a capstone requirement, too. This senior project is designed to synthesize your studies and give you a realistic way to put your new skills and knowledge to work.

Look at Certification Options Offered as Part of Supply Chain Management Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Because the supply chain world is so fast-paced and so specialized, a lot of your education in the field will be ongoing. To set consistent standards, there are a wide range of professional certifications available in various aspects of supply chain management.

These certifications serve as an independent, third-party recognition of qualification in a very specific subject. They range from areas like project management to transportation and distribution. They may require taking a specific set of coursework, passing an examination, accumulating a certain amount of on-the-job experience, or all the above.

Employers often count on professional certifications to hire the right person for the job.

Because they are so common and critical, some bachelor’s programs offer you the opportunity to earn them as a part of your degree studies.

Clearly you won’t be picking up any of those that require experience, but you can give your career a quick step up by taking advantage of these opportunities. It’s a win-win; you can take the required coursework for no extra cost as part of your degree studies, and you can study while you are still in study mode in school. Otherwise, you’re looking at time and money out of pocket to pick them up later.

Bachelor’s in Supply Chain Management Degrees Develop Well-Rounded Graduates for Leadership Positions

checking inventory on a tablet

Although your degree’s focus will be on the technical aspects of supply chain management and logistics, those classes may not be the ones employers value the most. Up to half of your time earning an SCM degree will be spent in required general education classes.

These are the roots of modern liberal arts education. Although you might not immediately see the connections between translating shipping manifests and studying classical mythology, they exist. The time-tested curriculum of English, math and science, social studies, and history builds your communication and problem-solving skills.

Your ability to think creatively, communicate clearly, and plan logically is what holds the most value to future employers. Sprinkling logistics skills on top of that is important icing, to be sure. But all the supply chain knowledge in the world is worthless without the flexibility and thinking skills to apply it on the job.

What Electives Should You Consider in a Supply Chain Management Bachelor’s Program?

The gift of a four-year degree is plenty of slots to fill with elective courses that fit your needs and interests. Whether they are directly associated with supply chain management or not, courses at any university offer a feast of knowledge you can fit together for your own purposes.

And because supply chain management is impacted by cultural, social, and macroeconomic factors, you can use all sorts of elective courses to bolster your career plan. Even something like mastering a second language can pay big dividends in SCM careers.

But there are also many specialized aspects of logistics and supply chains you might choose to study. Those can include courses in areas like:

You may even have the opportunity to study overseas—a real boost to anyone considering a career in international shipping and logistics.

Jobs For Graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management Exist in Every Industry

A bachelor’s degree is the most common requirement for any kind of management position. Earning one will establish your basic qualifications for just about every entry-level job in supply chain management.

That opens up a breathtaking range of job titles and categories. Some options include:

Beyond the basic positions available in SCM, you will also have a choice of all kinds of different industries that hire for those jobs. For example, you can find warehouse management positions in companies as diverse as pharmaceuticals and automotive parts. Although the job title may be the same, the actual day-to-day experience can be completely different. Each will require separate knowledge and skills that build on your bachelor’s degree.

All of them will rely on the education you bring back with a bachelor’s in supply chain management and logistics. Every day is unique in supply chain management. You may be dealing with ships diverted by tropical hurricanes, a port strike, or forklift breakdowns. Software glitches in your inventory program could result in your team receiving packages of laundry detergent when you’re expecting ball bearings.

Creative problem-solving and an ability to instantly adopt new techniques and technologies is what these jobs all have in common. And they all appeal to the kind of person who loves to meet a challenge.

Supply Chain Management Bachelor Degree Salaries Are Ballooning

Although the range of positions that open up with a bachelor’s degree on your resume is huge, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) insists on lumping them all into only a couple of different tracking categories.

The first is the category for logisticians, a role that involves analyzing and coordinating the logistical functions of an organization. For 2022, the average salary for all those jobs came out at $77,520 per year.

The second is transportation, storage, and distribution managers. Those roles are defined as planning, directing, or coordinating transportation, storage, or distribution activities in an organization. That category includes logistics managers. The average salary for these roles in 2022 was a bit higher at $98,560 per year.

Of course, averages include plenty of jobs higher and lower on the totem pole. With a bachelor’s degree, however, it’s a good figure to aim for. You’ll have less experience than many professionals, but a higher level of education than many others.

Different industries have different salary standards. These reflect the complexity of different supply chains and the specialized knowledge that may be necessary for each. For logisticians, the top industries of employment in 2022 had the following median salary rates:

For some perspective, government supply chain managers in 2021 made an average of only $88,710 annually. That’s a seven percent salary bump in only one year.

For transportation and supply chain managers, the top industries are:

The same is true of different parts of the country. Between cost-of-living expenses and different kinds of industrial bases, a supply chain manager working in Miami will see a substantially different salary range than someone working in rural North Dakota, even in the same industry and with the same type of position.

One thing seems pretty sure, however: the world of supply chain and logistics management is going to continue to need highly-trained professionals to help make the world go around. And a bachelor’s degree is the essential step you’ll need to take to become one of them.

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Logisticians and Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed July 2023.