Logistics Degree and Career Guide
What is Logistics?
Logistics is the process of managing transportation, storage, and distribution of resources. It coordinates the flow of things from one point to another, like from production to the points of consumption. The goal of logistics and logistics management is to ensure effective and efficient planning and implementation of this flow to have the right resources with the required amount, in the right place, at the right time, and in the desired condition. Managed resources include physical products like food, materials, animals, liquids, and services and information.
There are two main categories of logistics, inbound and outbound logistics.
Inbound logistics concentrates on storing raw materials and parts from suppliers to manufacturing and assembly plants.
Outbound logistics concentrates on the storage, forward, and reverse movement of finished products and goods between the end production line or retail stores and the consumers.
Logistics vs Supply Chain Management (SCM)
Logistics management is part of supply chain management, but the two terms are often interchangeably used. The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) defines SCM and logistics as follows:
“Supply chain management encompasses the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics management activities. Importantly, it also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, which can be suppliers, intermediaries, third-party service providers, and customers. In essence, supply chain management integrates supply and demand management within and across companies.”
“Logistics management is the part of supply chain management that plans, implements, and controls the efficient, effective forward and reverse flow and storage of goods, services and related information between the point of origin and the point of consumption to meet customers’ requirements.”
The key differences are that SCM coordinates all the supply chain activities and establishes a link across the different organizations involved, including the suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers, to maximize competitive advantage. In comparison, logistics is limited to one organization and involves the movement of goods in and out of it, focusing on customer satisfaction.
What Does a Logistician Do?
The logistics industry is underemployed, according to Fortune, due to the outdated image job seekers have on supply chain work.
Logistics is considered as a business and management job. In fact, US News included Logistician as number 17 on its Best Business Jobs list for 2019.
Logisticians analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain, as stated by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Their duties include the following:
- Managing all aspects of a product’s life cycle
- Directing the allocation of raw materials and products, like determining best storage and transportation methods
- Foster good relationships with suppliers and clients and be able to meet their needs
- Develop cost-effective and time-efficient strategies and plans, as well as propose improvements for the process
Logisticians supervise activities like purchasing, procurement, and inventory management. They use software programs developed for the supply chain management.
Pursuing a career is not limited to a specific industry, as needed in almost all industries. Logisticians could work for logistics specialized companies like shipping companies or in the logistics department of other companies ranging from manufacturing to agriculture, to engineering and scientific services companies, as well as federal government agencies like the US Forest Service or the US Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency, working as military logistics specialists coordinating plans to provide weapons and supplies to military bases around the world.
A special job for a logistician is working in disaster logistics, handling the delivery of all needed supplies, and maintenance and cleanup efforts in the aftermath of the disaster.
Roles: A wide variety of positions and functions are available in the supply chain sector. Entry-level positions include:
- Warehouse Controller
- Trucking Representative
- Import Agent
- Freight Coordinator
- Cargo Operations Specialist
More experienced positions which include managers and field directors are:
- Logistics Planner
- Distribution Manager
- Inventory Planner
- Purchasing and Materials Manager
- Corporate Research Analyst
Routing/Scheduling Clerks coordinate between various logistic departments to control flow, be it shipping or road transport.
Warehouse Managers supervise employees and try to minimize and solve problems on the warehouse floor. Their job includes organizing the loading and unloading of goods in and out of the warehouse.
Logistics Managers plan, direct, or coordinate purchasing, warehousing, distribution, forecasting, customer service, or planning services. They manage logistics personnel and logistics systems and direct daily operations.
Supply Chain Managers direct or coordinate production, purchasing, warehousing, distribution, or financial forecasting services or activities to limit costs and improve accuracy, customer service, or safety.
Purchasing Managers Plan, direct, or coordinate buyers, purchasing officers, and related workers involved in purchasing materials, products, and services. They represent companies in negotiating contracts with suppliers and develop purchasing procedures and cost reduction plans.
How Much Do Logistics Roles Earn?
According to BLS, the median annual wage for logisticians was $74,590 in May 2017, with an hourly wage of $35.86. The salary ranges from $44,820 for the lowest 10% and more than $120,120 for the highest 10%. Early career jobs earn an average of $40,000 but increase more than double as you rank up in positions.
The highest median annual wage for logisticians in May 2017 was in the federal government at $84,200, followed by professional, scientific, and technical services at $74,790 and manufacturing at $74,580. The employment growth projected in the logistics sector is 7% from 2016 to 2026, which is the average for all occupations. The expected employment number is 159,000 in 2026, 10,300 more than in 2016. Large corporations offer logistics professionals compensation and benefits that might include health and finance benefits. Logisticians’ average salary is one of the highest among the best business jobs.
What Certifications Are Available in Logistics?
There are several certifications available in logistics and supply chain management. Though these certifications are not a replacement for a degree in logistics, they can boost your resume and increase your salary. According to a survey from the Association for Supply Chain Management (APICS), SCM professionals with at least one certification earn 19% more than uncertified. Those with two certifications earn 39% higher. Several certifications require a degree or some amount of experience to be eligible to take the certification exam.
APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional Certification (CSCP)
Eligibility for the CSCP exam requires at least a bachelor’s degree or three years of relevant experience. Maintaining the certification requires earning 75 professional development points every five years, but it will expire if not maintained for 10 years. If expired, you must retake the exam and earn 15 additional points for every suspended year.
APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM)
This certification comprises of two exams that must be passed within three years. Maintaining the certification requires earning 75 professional development points every five years with an expiration period of 10 years if not maintained.
APICS Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR-P) Endorsement
The SCOR model is a supply chain approach that helps link SCM to business goals, metrics, processes, and other internal departments and stakeholders. The SCOR course covers the model and how to apply it in real-life situations to solve problems, attain goals, increase efficiency, and organize and implement SCOR projects and processes. The exam is part of the course, and the fees are added together.
ISM Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM)
This certification is offered by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and is about supply management functions across different industries. It is composed of three exams. For qualification, three years of full-time SCM experience in a non-clerical or support function is needed. Maintaining the certification after four years requires 60 hours of continuing education credits.
ISM Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity (CPSD)
The CPSD consists of two exams, although the first exam is the same as the CPSM’s. Qualifications are three years of supplier diversity experience and a bachelor’s degree or five years of experience. Maintaining the certification requires 50 hours of continuing education credits over a three-year period.
SCPro Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP)
This certification includes three education levels with three exams. The first level is “Cornerstones of Supply Chain Management,” which covers SCM’s fundamentals and elements. The second level is “Analysis and Application of Supply Chain Challenges,” designed to test the ability to apply SCM knowledge in different scenarios. The third level is “Initiation of Supply Chain Transformation,” a hands-on project demonstrating the applicant’s skills and ability to positively impact an organization. Certification renewal is required every three years for all three levels and 60 hours of professional development activities.
SOLE Certified Professional Logistician (CPL)
This certification is offered by the International Society of Logistics (SOLE). It concentrates on logistics in certain industries like commerce, defense, federal and local government agencies, and education. It includes three exams; each is a two-hour session. Nine years of total experience in logistics are needed to be eligible. This certificate does not expire.
NCMA Certified Professional Contract Manager (CPCM)
The CPCM is offered by the National Contract Management Association (NCMA). It requires a solid understanding of the Certified Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK) as well as business and training education, and five years of relevant experience. The NCMA also offers a Certified Federal Contract Manager (CFCM) certification for those working in or with the government and a Certified Commercial Contract Manager (CCCM) certification for those in the commercial industry.
Different Levels of Logistics Degrees
Pursuing a career in logistics and supply chain requires at least an associate’s degree and preferably a bachelor’s degree in some cases. These undergraduate degrees require a high school diploma and are offered by the university’s business department. It prepares graduates for entry-level and mid-level positions. Attaining more managerial ranks may require a master’s degree or certification.
Associate’s Degree in Logistics
Associate’s degree programs in logistics are offered by two-year community and vocational colleges. The program provides foundational skills in procurement, inventory management, warehousing, and transportation. It also covers supply chain management and global transportation. Course topics include:
- Logistics of Business
- International Business Law
- Purchasing and Imports
- Traffic Management
- Materials Handling
- Warehousing and Distribution
The degree requires the completion of 70 to 90 credit hours. Additional courses in liberal arts, mathematics, computing, and English composition are also offered. Besides on-campus programs, online degrees are also offered to give the students flexibility to pursue their own pace.
Admission requirements for an associate’s degree require completing a high school diploma but no standardized test scores.
The average tuition for the degree is $3,570 for public colleges and more for private ones. Different types of financial support, such as scholarships, grants, and aid, are available. Considering an associate’s degree provides the graduates the option of seeking a job in logistics or transferring to a bachelor’s degree program in logistics, supply management, or operations management.
Bachelor’s Degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Bachelor’s degree programs in logistics are offered at four-year colleges and universities. The studies provide the theories, concepts, and practices of logistics and supply chain management, procurement, in-depth knowledge of transportation and distribution systems, warehousing and inventory management, import and export regulations. The program also covers business fundamentals such as finance and accounting and customer service and demand forecasting.
The degree requires completing 120 credit hours in total, including 35-40 credit hours of the core curriculum in logistics. Additional courses include computer science, database management, economics, and natural sciences.
Admission requirements include a favorable high school GPA and ACT or SATs with relatively high scores.
Tuition fees for in-state public schools have an average of $9,970 per year, while the out-of-state average for public schools is over $25,000 per year, and private schools exceed $35,000 per year. Financial support is also available.
The bachelor’s degree prepares the graduates and gives them the eligibility to apply for certifications such as those discussed above, which leverage their competitiveness in the job market. They are also prepared to pursue career paths as supply chain managers, logisticians, purchasing agents, industrial production managers, distribution managers, or operations research analysts.
Master’s Degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Master’s degree programs in logistics are offered on-campus as well as online. The degree takes about 2 years to complete, which requires 30 credit hours in most cases. The program focuses on advanced training and knowledge of logistics processes and practices needed to plan and manage logistics and supply chain operations. It emphasizes interpersonal and leadership skills for managing teams, conflict resolution, and negotiation. The courses cover business operations, global business practices, and laws, designing logistics systems, logistics policy, and decision theory.
MBA in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
The Masters of Business Administration in logistics program is for business professionals seeking high-level management positions in logistics and supply chain management. The program focuses on the skills of planning, implementing, and managing the efficient flow of goods and services with an emphasis on practical application of logistics principles in real-world situations. The program covers all from procurement to distribution. Courses include:
- Model-Based Decision Making
- Six Sigma Principles
- Strategic Cost Accounting
- Supply Chain Relationships
- Strategic Design of Operations and Logistics Systems
Ph.D. in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Students considering a career in academic research and teaching should pursue a Ph.D. in logistics. The program covers the foundations of logistics, operations and supply chain management. It also covers fields like economics, marketing, information technologies, and research methodologies. Students should publish original research papers. Subjects in the program include:
- Supply Chain Management
- Supply Chain & Marketing Models
- Microeconomic Theory
- Probability and Statistics
Different Types of Bachelor Logistics Degrees
Almost all bachelor’s degrees in logistics require 120 credit hours of curriculum, with slight differences in coursework and concentrations. These degrees include:
- Bachelor of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
- Bachelor of Science in Logistics Management
- Bachelor of Science in Operations Management
- Bachelor of Arts Degree in Logistics Management
- Bachelor of Arts in Supply Chain Management
- Bachelor of Engineering in Logistics
- Bachelor of Business Administration in Logistics
Business programs concentrate more on business operations, business law, and import and export operations. Different programs concentrate on different aspects or functions of the logistics and supply chain processes and operations. These concentrations include:
Global Supply Chain: This concentration covers knowledge of the global economy, global business practices, and importing and exporting processes. Students also study global regulations and working in various national contexts.
Transportation: To manage the distribution of goods and services during the supply chain process. Students study modes of transportation, transportation technologies, regulations on transportation, and transportation productivity measurement.
Retail Supply Chain: This concentration covers retailing, marketing research, and franchising. Students also study how to sell to retailers or include retailers in the supply chain process.
Warehouse: The focus is on the process of acquiring, storing, and distributing goods. Students study strategies behind creating efficient warehousing systems, warehouse productivity, and the regulations that affect warehousing and transportation.
Production: In this concentration, students analyze production processes, learn management skills, and build inventory control and distribution abilities. They also study where the production process interfaces with other steps in the supply chain.
Logistics Degree Requirements
All logistics degrees require a high school diploma. Some programs will require a competitive high school GPA to be considered. An associate’s degree’s admission includes an application and might require recommendation letters and a letter of motivation. Bachelor’s degree also requires high SAT or ACT scores, and the admission process might include an interview.
Typical Coursework for Logistics Bachelor’s Degree
In most cases, the curriculum requires the completion of 120 credit hours. The courses cover the following areas: foundations of logistics, operations and supply chain management, procurement, warehousing and inventory management, distribution, business, accounting, and economics. Some institutions provide hands-on training and internships to improve the students’ skills.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What does it mean to have an accredited logistics degree?
Earning a degree from colleges and universities with accreditation will give you better opportunities to be hired and gain certifications as some only accept accredited degrees. Most logistics programs receive national or regional accreditation through the college or university, which qualifies them for federal financial aid.
How long does it take to get a logistics degree?
Undergraduate degrees’ time range is between 2 to 4 years.
Should I get my logistics degree online?
It depends on your personal circumstances. Online programs will give you flexibility concerning time and place. You can study at your own pace, especially if you have a full-time job. It might also be better if the university is in a different city and you can’t afford to relocate. On the other side, the on-campus study will provide opportunities to engage in college activities and build a bigger social network.