Pursuing an Associate Degree in Supply Chain Management
Supply chains are a crucial part of companies – they form part of the design, assembly, transport, and delivery of products.
A supply chain associate degree can help you gain the necessary skills to work in this exciting and ever-changing industry, performing logistic and supply chain functions in several industries.
This article will provide you with all the information on a supply chain associate degree and also cover the job opportunities and salary expectations that form part of a career in supply chain management (SCM).
Why Pursue an Associate Degree in Supply Chain Management?
If you are organized, enjoy project management, and have good communication skills, then a career in SCM is the right choice. However, why should you take the route of obtaining an associate degree in this field?
An associate degree in SCM will prepare you to work in the field. It will help you develop the skills and expertise you need, and cover topics such as purchasing, inventory control, resource allocation, and budgeting.
Below we will discuss in greater detail why an associate degree in SCM is the right choice:
Career opportunities in SCM
There is an increasing demand in today’s economy for people with training in supply chain management. Associate Degree graduates can work all over the world, in a variety of fields, for multi-national corporations or small, local companies.
Some potential career fields for those with a supply chain management degree include:
- Logistics and transportation
- Warehouse and distribution centers
- Inventory control and production
- SCM cost management
- Supplier management
- Procurement and purchasing
- Third-Party Logistics (3PL) sales and marketing
Advantages of an Associates degree in SCM
Obtaining your supply chain associate degree means you will have a strong foundation to begin your entry-level position, managing a company’s supply chain network.
Associate degrees offer amazing training, and have the following advantages:
- This recognized degree is more affordable than obtaining a bachelor’s.
- The credit hours earned through an associate degree program are transferrable to a four-year college, should you wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
- Most employers will prefer to hire someone with an associate degree over someone without any formal qualifications.
- The two-year degree means you can get all the training you require in a short time, preparing you for the fast-growing industry.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is projecting careers in logistics, which include SCM, to grow by 28% by 2031.
According to BLS, the average annual salary of a supply chain manager (called a logistician) is $77,030, however, those holding an associate’s degree tend to earn around $57,999 to $61,631 annually.
Finding the Right Associate Degree Program
Many colleges and educational institutions offer a supply chain associate degree, so how do you decide which is right for you?
First, you need to consider the school’s accreditation – ideally you want to earn your qualification from a respected school that has been accredited by proper commissions.
Once you have covered that, take these factors into consideration:
- What is your interest in the field, and does the course offer enough modules in the curriculum to cover what is needed to work successfully in SCM?
- Consider the reputation of the teaching staff.
- Does the school offer counseling for their students or some kind of career services program?
- The cost of the tuition. Online classes are often more affordable than on-campus classes (more on this later in the article).
- Ask yourself whether you would need any flexibility in the program if you plan on working part-time.
- If you have plans to pursue a Bachelor’s in the future, research whether the credits you earn during your associate degree are transferable.
- Research the admission process and requirements to ensure it is a suitable course for you and your educational background.
Benefits of Earning an Associate Degree in Supply Chain Management
Apart from becoming qualified to work as a supply chain manager or in a related position, obtaining your associate degree in the field will have many benefits.
Developing key skills necessary for success in the field
An associate degree will cover many different topics related to SCM, which will help students develop the key skills they require to work effectively in the field.
Although students are likely to only receive an entry-level job with this qualification, it is a foot in the door and they can obtain on-the-job training to advance in the industry.
Opportunities for advancement within the industry
Employees with an associate degree are likely to be employed in an entry-level position if they have no previous experience. However, once working, it is easy to climb up the ranks in the company by gaining hands-on experience and taking further courses.
Gaining practical experience through internships and co-op programs
Some associate degrees offer internships or externships as part of the curriculum, where students gain valuable practical experience which cannot always be achieved in the classroom or online.
Networking opportunities with professionals in the field
Guest lecturers, professors, and fellow students with contacts will allow students to meet and network with industry professionals during their coursework.
This can lead to future job opportunities or mentorship.
Preparation for pursuing a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management
If your chosen program allows for it, the credits you earn during your associate degree can be transferred towards earning your bachelor’s degree in SCM.
Coursework for an Associate Degree in Supply Chain Management
As mentioned, a supply chain associate degree will teach you the knowledge and skills you require to work in this industry. You will learn about logistics, distribution, warehousing, and shipping, as well as laws governing these processes.
It typically takes two years to obtain this qualification and may include some practical experience.
The format of this degree differs between institutions, with some offering online courses, on-campus courses, or blended learning.
Here are some of the topics you might expect to be covered in your SCM associate degree
- Introduction to Supply Chain Management: This involves a basic understanding of supply chain management, which involves all the business processes included in transforming raw materials into the final product.
- Transportation and Logistics: Transportation is the movement of products, while logistics is a term used to encapsulate all aspects of freight management (such as storage, sorting, transportation, and handling of products). It may also cover standard operating procedures.
- Purchasing and Procurement: Purchasing focuses on short-term goals, and procurement focuses on long-term goals (like meeting corporate goals). It will cover accounting concepts, like understanding financial statements and budgeting.
- Inventory Control and Management: Inventory management is an umbrella term that deals with forecasting and ordering inventory. Inventory control falls under inventory management, and deals with available stock.
- Supply Chain Analysis: This field analysis the entire supply chain process, from the beginning to when the products are delivered to the customers.
- Quality Control and Management: It is crucial for each company to maintain a high quality of products and services.
- Information Technology for Supply Chain Management: The global economy is becoming digitized, and SCM needs to keep up with digital advances and IT. Those working in SCM make use of IT to track every step of supply chain processes.
There is no shortage of career opportunities in the SCM field, and many of these opportunities below can be achieved with a supply chain associate degree.
- Logistics Coordinator: The coordinators are responsible for overseeing every aspect of SCM. They must ensure that the process runs smoothly, and also coordinate inventory and stock to ensure the company has what it needs to provide products to customers.
- Inventory Control Specialist: Maintains all the inventory of the company, and orders items when needed.
- Purchasing Agent: Compares different suppliers, services, and products needed by the company.
- Supply Chain Analyst: Key roleplayer in analyzing and monitoring the entire SCM process to make sure products reach their final destinations in a timely manner and with low costs. Analysts tend to work on specific projects to analyze efficiency.
- Customer Service Representative: Works in customer relations to improve products and services. They will also resolve any complaints and process orders.
- Operations Manager: Manages all the processes involved in producing the products or offering services.
- Transportation Manager: Coordinating and planning all the transportation operations.
Advancing Your Career in Supply Chain Management
Once you have your associate’s degree and enter the job market, you may wonder if there are any advancement opportunities in the field.
Although you may start off in an entry-level position, it is possible to advance your career by honing your skills, networking, and further education.
Importance of continuous learning and professional development
You should never stop learning if you wish to advance your career. Technology is constantly changing in the SCM industry, which is why taking additional courses, attending workshops, and educating yourself by reading and watching videos are necessary for career growth.
Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management
If you acquired your associate degree from a reputable and credentialed institution, you should be able to transfer your credits to a bachelor’s program.
This can assist you in getting a promotion or getting employed in higher-level positions.
Certifications in supply chain management
There is no shortage of certifications in SCM, however, the ISM’s Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) is the most recognized and well-respected. You need to pass three exams to receive this certification.
There are additional certifications available, such as certificate programs from:
- The Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM)
- The National Contract Management Association (NCMA)
- The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP)
By obtaining a certification, you will demonstrate that you have the necessary skills in the field, and can apply for higher-paying positions.
Joining professional organizations in the field
Networking with professionals will help you grow your career. To rub shoulders with other professionals in the SCM industry, consider joining a professional organization.
There are several associations that you can join:
- American Purchasing Society
- American Society for Quality
- Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME)
- Charted Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS)
- Institute for Supply Management (ISM)
- International Society of Sigma Six Professionals (ISSSP)
- Warehousing Education and Resources Council
Salary Potential with an Associate Degree in Supply Chain Management
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that logisticians (i.e. those involved in SCM), earn an annual median salary of $70,030.
However, that does not differentiate income potential by experience and qualifications.
According to Salary.com, a Supply Chain Analyst with an associate degree can expect to earn between $57,999 to $61,631.
Factors that impact salary
Your salary is not just impacted by your degree, other factors also play a role:
- Practical experience in the field.
- Additional training and qualifications.
- Performance reviews (if you perform well you may receive a salary increase).
- Membership with professional associations.
- Whether you are certified.
Salary ranges for various positions
Below are some examples of different positions in SCM and their average salary ranges:
- Transportation director: $117,930
- Procurement analyst: $97,000
- Project manager: $90,337
- Global logistics manager: $73,354
- Supply chain consultant: $60,146
- Industry analyst: $52,648
Note: you will not necessarily receive these salaries with just a supply chain associate degree, and may require additional training and many years of experience.
Geographic location and salary trends
Different states have different salary ranges.
The District of Columbia offers the highest salary to logisticians with an annual mean wage of $109,860. This is followed by Maryland ($99,770) and Delaware ($97,390).
States paying the lowest annual wages (averaging between $48,490 and $72,800) include Florida, Nevada, Louisiana, and South Dakota.
Online vs. On-Campus Associate Degree Programs in Supply Chain Management
As mentioned earlier in this article, students can opt to either study online or on campus, as many schools offer these options. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option.
Advantages and disadvantages of online programs
- Flexibility: Take the course at your own pace and schedule.
- Convenience: Can study from anywhere, even if you do not have access to a campus.
- Cost-effective: Online courses are often more affordable, and also don’t require paying for campus accommodation.
- Access to a wider range of programs: Can easily do your associate degree online, and then continue to pursue your Bachelor’s or Master’s at a different institution while never having to move.
- Learn at your own pace: Review the material as and when you need it, having control over your learning process.
- No face-to-face interaction: Makes it harder to communicate with tutors and other students; not having a sense of community.
- Lack of motivation: It can be hard to self-motivate when you are working independently.
- Limited support: You will not always have direct access to support or resources to help you during your course.
- Isolation: You may experience a sense of loneliness.
- Technical difficulties: You require a stable internet connection and reliable hardware.
Advantages and disadvantages of on-campus programs
- Interaction: The ability to interact face-to-face with fellow students and lecturers.
- Learning in a familiar manner: Attending lectures is a format that many students know from high school, making it a less complicated learning experience.
- Motivation: Attending classes requires less self-discipline to study online, and helps students stay motivated.
- Variety of learning methods: On-campus programs tend to involve lessons, practicals, and group sessions.
- Facilities: You will have full access to all the facilities, like the computer labs and library.
- No flexibility: Classes and practicals must be attended when scheduled.
- Traveling: If you do not live on campus, you have to travel to attend class. Alternatively, you may have to relocate entirely to attend the college or university of your choosing.
- More expensive: On-campus learning is often more expensive.
How to choose between online and on-campus programs
Choosing whether you want to study online or on campus will come down to your personal circumstances and preferences.
Think about the following factors to help you make your decisions (as well as the pros and cons listed above):
- Your budget: Online learning is often more affordable than on-campus learning.
- Work and personal commitments: Online courses offer more flexibility if you wish part-time or have any family commitments.
- Which school you want to attend: Your preferred school may not offer blended learning or online courses.
- Your employment plans: Some schools hold a lot of merit for employers, and might not offer online (or on-campus) classes.
Financing Your Associate Degree in Supply Chain Management
Obtaining an associate degree is not always affordable for everyone, but fortunately, there are some options to help you finance your studies and work towards your dream job.
Financial aid options
The school may offer financial aid to students, or you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to help cover a portion of or all, your study expenses.
Scholarships and grants
Use the Department of Labor’s Scholarship Finder to help you find grants and scholarships to cover your school fees. Make sure to carefully check the requirements and terms.
You can opt for the federal Work-Study program, where you are offered a part-time working opportunity to earn an income while you study, which can then go towards tuition and living expenses.
Tuition reimbursement programs from employers
This forms part of an employee’s benefit package offered by employers. Some companies will allow their employees to take upskilling courses and cover the costs.
Earning your supply chain associate degree will allow you to enter the SCM industry through entry-level jobs. However, that does not mean your career will stall. Through upskilling and gaining experience in the field, you can rise to management positions.
The current state of the global economy means that the outlook for those in SCM looks brilliant, with a 28% expected increase in jobs by 2031.
With such a bright outlook and plenty of job opportunities, deciding to pursue a career in SCM great choice.
What kind of jobs can I get with an associate degree in supply chain management?
Although you are most likely to get an entry-level job with an associate degree and no prior experience, you can expect to work as an inventory analyst, warehouse manager, logistics planner, purchasing assistant, or logistics assistant.
Can I pursue a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management after earning an associate degree?
Yes, it is possible to obtain your bachelor’s degree after earning an associate’s degree. Some associate degree programs will have credits that can be transferred to bachelor’s degrees in SCM.
How much can I expect to earn with an associate degree in supply chain management?
You can expect to earn on average between $57,999 and $61,631 with a supply chain associate degree. That salary range will increase with more experience and higher qualifications.