If there’s one field that’s experienced massive growth and a burst in public awareness in the past year, it’s supply chain management.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers and retailers have faced major disruptions to the supply chain, resulting in an unprecedented shortage of supplies, goods and products.
While these supply-chain bottlenecks remain a challenge in both the U.S. and abroad, they’ve also highlighted the crucial role the system plays in our society and day-to-day lives. And for many, this newfound awareness has spurred the desire to pursue a career in global supply chain management.
To gain a better understanding of what jobs are available in the field and how a master’s program can support your career goals, USC Online spoke with Nick Vyas, the academic director of the Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management (MSGSCM) program at USC Marshall School of Business.
What is Supply Chain Management?
Supply chain management is comprised of multiple interconnected sectors including manufacturing, logistics, transportation, inventory management and more.
“When we think about the global trade, the economy [and] how humanity lives, consumes, sources things, everything is underpinned by movements of goods and services, both physically, digitally, as well as financially. What happens behind the scenes is what global supply chain management is,” Vyas told USC Online. “The discipline focuses on the movements from raw material through manufacturing, logistics, transportation, distribution, all the way to the consumer’s door.”
Clearly, supply chain management encompasses the physical manufacturing and transportation of goods, but there are also various support functions that are critical to business success, said Vyas.
“On top of those physical movements is all the information needed to make those things happen. All the compliance on the regulatory side to make sure those products are right, legal and authenticated. On top of all that, [there are also] the financial transactions supported with the data. So, all of these activities that occur is what global supply chain management is,” he said.
What to Expect From USC’s Online MS in Global Supply Chain Management
The online MSGSCM program at USC Marshall — which can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis — prepares students to tackle the increasingly complex, ever-evolving world of supply chain management.
The program trains students to become experts in strategic procurement, outsourcing, logistics and information technology, allowing them to participate in real-time research and projects. Graduates focus on becoming strong, flexible and creative leaders in the field, and through the Randall R. Kendrick Global Supply Chain Institute (where Vyas also serves as executive director), they benefit from an unparalleled network of industry professionals.
While the on-campus program is geared toward new professionals and recent college graduates, the online, executive program offers working professionals the necessary flexibility to complete their degree while employed full-time.
With the online program, applicants are asked to have more than two years of work experience, although not necessarily in supply chain management. Both the residential and online programs take about 16 months to complete.
What Jobs Are Available in the Field?
When it comes to the careers available to master’s graduates, “there is an abundance out there,” Vyas noted. That’s partially because there are so many facets of supply chain management.
To better illustrate these intersecting networks, Vyas used the example of ordering a skincare product via one-day shipping.
“In that transaction of 24 hours, there is a tremendous amount of activity,” he said.
At the front end of the supply chain, there are the product manufacturers, who create the skincare item using raw materials that have been acquired through various vendors across the globe. The manufacturer then boxes the item, which the factory ultimately lines up on pallets to be shipped around the world.
If the product is highly valuable, it may be transported by air, or it can be delivered through a cargo ship. Then, it is picked up and brought to a warehouse, after which it is delivered to your doorstep.
“Every step of the way, you have jobs,” Vyas explained.
Just a few of those career tracks include:
- Consultants, who help companies improve the performance of their supply chain.
- Purchasing agents, who buy the equipment necessary to build product and lead the negotiation and communication with vendors.
- Supply chain managers, who direct the supply chain process for a company, working to keep processes safe, efficient and cost-effective. They also have to focus on mitigating any potential hiccups.
- Storage distribution managers, who not only supervise storage spaces, but also oversee warehouse workers and manage security and safety measures.
Plenty of other opportunities exist in logistics, planning, IT security, manufacturing, customer service and more.
For USC graduates in particular, many aim to become CEOs or company presidents, which aligns well with the program curriculum and learning outcomes, according to Vyas.
“When you have an expertise in supply chain, which is operations, a lot of these people go on to lead a company because … [they] learn skills that are really essential for running a successful business,” he said.MSGSCM graduates leave the program with the ability to design and manufacture their own product as well as understand customer desires and concerns. They also learn how to transport their product and deliver it to consumers, making sure to turn a profit along the way.
Why Should You Pursue a Career in Supply Chain Management?
Supply chain management is a fascinating, rewarding and burgeoning field. In fact, roles are projected to grow 30 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all other occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
When it comes to compensation, those in the field earned a median salary of $77,030 in 2021, but of course, you can expect this number to vary based on work experience, role requirements and job location.
Supply chain management is also a career that gives you the chance to travel internationally, opening up the possibility of living and working around the globe. Plus, it’s a career path where you can truly make a positive impact on society, which has been perfectly illustrated by the pandemic, noted Vyas.
“Without supply chains, you and I will not be able to live the life that we have learned to live over the last 30 years … There’s been a massive awakening of the importance of supply chain … [but] we don’t have enough well-trained supply chain leaders in the pipeline. So, my advice to the younger generation would be this is an ever-growing field. You should get into it,” he said.
Learn more about the online MS in Global Supply Chain Management program today.