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Grad Program: Supply Chain Management

Basic Information

Let’s say you have a product to sell – athletic shoes, for example.

You need to produce and deliver each pair of shoes on time, in good condition, at a low cost, and using a process that meets your company's standards for ethics and quality. You need to adapt this process in response to customer desires and your own business strategy. And you need to manage information flow between suppliers, manufacturers and the corporate office.

A graduate specialization in supply chain management will prepare you to create and manage this process for any company with a good or service to sell. You’ll learn to forecast supply and demand, purchase raw materials, set up manufacturing plants and warehouses, and implement effective information and transportation systems. Many programs will also teach you about customer service and research (since customer needs have a strong impact on the supply chain). Students in this concentration also get a strong grounding in finance, management, marketing, and other key business skills.

In a world of global suppliers and tight profit margins, effective supply chain management can mean the difference between profitability and bankruptcy. Knowledge of the field will put you in high demand, whether you want to specialize or move into a more general management position. Supply chain specialists have a strong grounding in logistics and operations. But they are also valued for their problem-solving abilities, creativity, and ability to think strategically and holistically.

Degree Information

Many MBA programs offer a concentration in supply chain management. These programs are generally two years long. You spend the first year studying general management and business, then take classes in your concentration during the second year. An MBA is a great choice if you’re looking to use supply chain management skills to rise to a broader management position.

Another option is an MS in Supply Chain Management. These programs are generally one to two years long, and have a stricter focus on the problems facing supply chain professionals. Many mid-career professionals chose to pursue an MS.

If you’re interested in academia, consider a PhD. Doctoral students focus on more theoretical questions, such as the effects of globalized supply chains on domestic politics.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program
  • Do faculty members have expertise in a particular area of supply chain management?
  • How many hands-on opportunities are available through internships, consulting projects, site visits, etc.?
  • What does the career trajectory of recent graduates look like?
  • Is the curriculum designed for those with previous experience in supply chain management, or for those new to the field?
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