Logistics management is critical to the functioning of every industry. There’s no question that it’s going to be one of the hottest jobs in the coming decade. Even professionals in fields that share the top spots on that list – whether its AI engineers or genetic scientists – can’t so much as get their morning coffee without logistics professionals, let alone get their workday started.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are more than six million individuals employed in the transportation and warehousing sector of the American economy. They are the ones that are doing the heavy lifting that keeps the rest of the economy on track.
In 2019, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, American logistics networks moved an average of more than 55 million tons of freight per day worth more than $54 billion.
From delivering new computers to storing lab chemicals and supplies at precise temperatures and environmental conditions, logistics teams keep companies fed with the tools and resources that keep them in business.
Under the wide umbrella of logistics, though, there are hundreds if not thousands of distinctive job titles. Logistics managers come in all kinds of specializations for every sort of industry. Sorting out all those jobs is your first step in launching a career in logistics and supply chain management.
Looking at Logistics Manager Job Descriptions
Careers and job duties in logistics run the gamut. As a function that is critical to every industry, you’ll find jobs at every kind of company that involve keeping supply chains running smoothly.
While there are a lot of different pieces that go into that big puzzle, you’ll find that most of them fall into one of these four general categories:
Storage and Warehousing
These positions revolve around keeping materials sorted and stored so that they maintain their value and utility. They can oversee teams performing activities including:
Job titles in this field can include:
Inventory and Control
Inventory control is closely coordinated with storage but is more about handling the flow of materials through the organization. Inventory control managers have duties including:
Jobs in this category can include:
Transportation is all about the delivery of materials to the places where they are needed. Whether that’s a warehouse across the factory complex or a retail store in Shibuya, transportation managers make sure products and materials get to their destination by handling tasks like:
Job titles in transportation logistics management might include:
Understanding how every other piece of the logistics puzzle fits together is the job of logistics managers who specialize in analytics. These professionals develop ways to collect, store, and review data from internal and external supply chain elements. They assist senior executives and other specialists in understanding supply chain connections and factors in logistics that impact operations. And they often develop ways to gain new efficiencies, open other markets, or safeguard supply chains against all hazards.
Job titles you could see in this category could be:
In every case, they also often have the same basic responsibilities as any manager. They supervise staff, provide direction and coaching, conduct performance reviews, and coordinate their team or department with other parts of the organization. They may be responsible for drawing up schedules and handling hiring and firing on their team.
A Logistics Manager’s Role is Partly Defined by the Industry and Company They Work For
In the real world, you’ll never find job descriptions so vague, though. Every corporation in every industry has a specific supply chain that fuels their operations. In many cases, those details are tied to a competitive advantage. There are very specific sequences of tasks and administrative details that put them ahead of the pack. That’s reflected in the positions they hire.
The Logistics of Saving Lives
Logistics managers in every industry are important. But in some high-urgency medical situations, logistics are literally the difference between life and death… as is the case with organ transplants.
While every organ type and every patient scenario are different, the clock starts ticking as soon as a prospective donor’s heart stops. But the logistics train behind getting their organs to potential recipients started long before that point.
Logisticians put together regional connections and centralized databases to track and rank organ needs. Specialized logistics companies have the elaborate and secure packaging and transfer equipment to keep organs viable during transport. And coordinators are on the phone as soon as a potential donor comes in the door, vetting their medical history, getting the appropriate permissions from family, and lining up transplant teams to both harvest and implant the organs.
And in many organizations, there are logistics managers with titles like Logistics Manager, or Director of Logistics and Distribution, or Vice President of Logistics who are responsible for covering the whole range of functions. They either work at small organizations with no room for specialists, or large ones where they supervise specialized staff.
Standard Salaries for Logistics Manager Jobs
For the same reasons that there is so much variation in logistics management job titles and responsibilities, there’s a broad range of different salaries in the field.
Like every other kind of profession, these tie back to supply and demand in logistics. A hard-to-master specialty with only a few experts is bound to pay more than the most basic box-shuffling positions. And it’s only natural that salaries will tend to go up for individuals with more experience on the job.
In both cases, though, the degree you hold will have a lot to do with where you start out on the salary ladder and how high you climb. Developing that specialized expertise and landing a job where your experience is valued comes back to how prepared you are to step into those roles.
There are three job categories tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that can include logistics management professionals. It’s not possible to map these exactly to the job titles mentioned above. But the levels of education and the respective salary averages can give you a pretty good idea where you might end up:
Logistician - $77,520 per year
The lowest category is that of logistician. These are logistics management jobs that have a more hands-on focus, and often require less education, in some cases only an associate degree. But with more education and experience they can still be very lucrative. The top ten percent of this group earns more than $122,390 per year.
Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers - $98,560 per year
For true management level jobs, this is the place where BLS puts them. Expect to need at least a bachelor’s degree to get in the door at this level. But higher education or more experience can push pay levels toward the stratosphere… the top ten percent earn more than $169,070.
Those numbers don’t include incentive or bonus payments. The higher you climb the ladder, the more likely you are to find those extra benefits and compensation.
What Does a Logistics Manager Do?
There’s no simple answer to what a logistics manager does on a typical day. There are so many kinds of logistics management that there’s no one-size-fits all description of what they do. A transportation analyst may spend most of their day staring at monitors full of spreadsheets in an office building, interpreting ERP system data and building reports for senior executives. A cargo supervisor might be out on the docks, supervising loading and unloading operations in a vast ballet of cranes, trains, and ramp tugs.
What all logistics management positions have in common is a need to engage in:
Whether all that happens on a windswept airport ramp or in a comfy climate-controlled office, it goes to the heart of what it is to be a logistics manager.
What Kind of Training and Experience Do You Need to Get a Job as a Logistics Manager?
If everything about the logistics manager’s job description sounds complicated to you, you’re not wrong. It’s a demanding role no matter what specialization or industry you end up in.
A specialized education is a must for logistics manager jobs.
Degrees that can take you into the logistics management world exist at every level of college.
There are such things as a PhD in Logistics Management, but these are not really aimed at preparing you for logistics manager jobs. Instead, they are designed to provide the kind of academic skills you need to teach in logistics degree programs or perform high-level research.
There are more practice-oriented Doctor of Business Administration degrees that offer specializations in logistics management. Like an MBA, they focus more on the larger skills and concerns of a high-level business executive. But they do deliver a focus in logistics that can be useful at the most intense levels of the business.
You may also find Certificates in Logistics Management useful to build on your current skillset in other fields. These are quick, inexpensive, tightly focused educational packages that give you specialized knowledge or a broad overview of the field that you can use to prep for particular logistics manager jobs.
The Right School Can Make a Big Difference in Your Shot at Logistics Management Jobs
You’ll find a logistics management degree is the first step. It’s a field where hands-on expertise is highly valued. And just any old experience slinging boxes around a warehouse won’t do. Companies want managers who understand their needs and their industry.
Choosing the right school can take you a long way toward getting that experience, though. Find a program that has professors who have worked in a particular industry, and you will find an avenue to making your own contacts in that business. A school that has strong ties to particular organizations through alumni or consulting and research work can open doors for you with internships and networking opportunities.
It’s also important to make sure that the degree you get has the curriculum you need to get noticed by future employers. The school you attend has a lot to do with that, too. You will need to ensure that it offers the academic rigor businesses expect, along with the specialization you are interested in pursuing, if any.
Earning Professional Certification to Take Aim at Advanced Logistics Manager Jobs
The final piece of the puzzle for many logistics management positions comes through professional industry certifications in the field.
Unlike educational certificates, professional certification doesn’t just train you—it assesses and validates your abilities. So, employers prize candidates with specific certifications that fit their needs. When they bring in someone who has earned a cert in that skillset, they are getting someone who has:
It can be well worth your time, particularly for highly technical or specialized logistics management jobs, to seek out and earn the right professional certification to qualify you for the job.
While logistics management jobs in general are likely to be plentiful in the future, that doesn’t mean they won’t be challenging. You’ll need both the best possible education and the right kinds of professional preparation to be able to excel at the job you want.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Top Executives, Logisticians, and Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed July 2023.