Careers


In today's global economy, supply chain careers are increasing in number and importance. The field offers opportunities for workers at all levels—from frontline jobs for high school graduates to executive positions for those with advanced degrees. And despite today's high unemployment rates, trained material handling, logistics, and supply chain professionals remain in high demand.

The supply chain includes all the steps, processes, and trading partners involved in making, storing, and delivering finished products to the people who use them.

The products we buy begin as raw materials that are made into finished goods, which are then delivered to stores—or right to our front doors. Along the way, raw materials are stored in warehouses, unfinished products are moved through manufacturing facilities, and finished goods are delivered to distribution centers, where they are combined with other goods and then sent to stores or directly to customers.

Material handling professionals manage and move goods inside the four walls of these facilities.

Logistics professionals manage and move goods between these facilities, using a range of transportation methods—from container ships and cargo planes to trains and trucks.

Supply chain professionals work at many levels within companies to plan and oversee the entire chain, from obtaining raw materials to delivering the final product.

Many companies today have complex supply chains, with factories, distribution centers, and retail stores located around the world. In addition, today's customers are more demanding then ever—expecting a wide array of choices on store shelves and fast, accurate delivery from online shopping sites.

To succeed in today's competitive global marketplace, companies must operate every link in their complex supply chains as efficiently as possible. This requires employees at all levels who can solve problems, continuously improve processes, and take advantage of the latest in supply chain technology.

Supply chain jobs exist at many different types of companies, with the majority of positions offered by manufacturers, retailers, transportation companies, and third-party logistics providers.

  • Manufacturers bring raw materials to their factories, store spare parts in their warehouses, and send finished goods from their distribution centers to their customers.
  • Retailers operate distribution centers where they receive large quantities of goods and then break them down into smaller units before shipping them to stores or customers.
  • Transportation companies work with retailers and manufacturers to move their products by water, air, rail, and truck.
  • Third-party logistics providers (often called 3PLs) offer warehousing, transportation, and other services on a contract basis. They don't make or sell products but instead specialize in providing logistics services to other companies.

How much do supply chain professionals earn?

The supply chain provides a reliable living wage for high school and technical school graduates and offers increasingly competitive salaries for those with advanced degrees.

For high school graduates

Frontline workers in warehouses and distribution centers (order fillers, forklift drivers, conveyor operators, for instance) typically earn between $20,000 and $40,000 per year—often with opportunities for overtime pay and for bonuses based on productivity. With a promotion to supervisor, these workers can earn salaries of $35,000 to $55,000.

For university graduates

The supply chain provides a wide array of entry- and mid-level positions for those with four-year and higher university degrees. Typical annual salaries for these jobs range from $60,000 to $100,000. Many senior-level supply chain managers earn salaries of $100,000 to $150,000, with top supply chain executives at large companies netting far more.

Industry experts believe these salaries will increase in the near future as companies seek to attract the best and brightest to manage their increasingly complex supply chains and as supply chain efficiency becomes ever more important to companies' bottom lines.

Several industry magazines conduct annual surveys of their readers' salaries, providing a detailed look at earnings by job title, company size, and geographic location:

Beyond the Paycheck

Material handling, logistics, and supply chain professionals report high levels of job satisfaction. In a recent survey, 86 percent of the readers of DC Velocity (a respected industry magazine) said they were satisfied with their career and would recommend it to someone entering the workforce. Supply chain professionals say they enjoy the challenge of solving complex problems and are pleased to see their roles gaining status within their organizations.

Vocational and Technical High Schools

The need for well-trained frontline employees—those who work on the floor of warehouses and distribution centers, processing and handling goods—is on the rise. Many states are responding to this demand by creating high school programs that prepare students for entry-level jobs in material handling and logistics.

These programs teach basic supply chain theory and introduce students to the equipment and software used in modern warehouses and distribution centers. They provide hands-on experience with tasks such as receiving, order picking, and shipping and with such equipment as forklifts, conveyor systems, and barcode scanners. The programs also emphasize personal responsibility, timeliness, and other so-called “soft skills” that employers value.

Many high school programs prepare students to earn industry-recognized certifications, including the Certified Logistics Technician certification from the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council and the Global Logistics Associate certification from the American Society of Transportation and Logistics.

High schools often develop their programs in collaboration with local businesses, which then hire many of the programs' graduates. These businesses often report dramatic decreases in employee turnover because they are able to hire employees who understand the warehousing environment and are eager to put their new skills to work.

MHI's Technical Career Education Program builds curriculums, provides instructional materials, and trains teachers for many high school programs across the country.

Visit our schools page for a list of high school programs in materials handling and logistics in your geographic area.

Technical and Community Colleges

Technical and community colleges offer a wide range of supply chain-related classes and programs, depending on the mission of the college and the student population it serves.

Many community colleges aim to prepare students to transfer to four-year colleges and universities. They may offer material handling, logistics, and supply chain classes for students who intend to earn bachelor's degrees in business or engineering.

Other technical and community colleges focus on career training. They may offer material handling or logistics programs that prepare students for frontline warehousing and distribution jobs, much like programs at vocational and technical high schools. Many of these colleges have training facilities where students gain hands-on experience with modern material handling software and equipment.

These colleges often work closely with local companies to provide tailored, accelerated training programs for the companies' new or seasonal employees.

Visit our schools page for a list of supply chain related technical and community college programs in your area.

Universities

Four- year university degrees are usually required for corporate-level supply chain positions and for jobs at the management level of a factory or distribution center. Most material handling, logistics, and supply chain professionals hold bachelor's or master's degrees in either engineering or business.

As supply chain operations become more important to corporate success, companies are increasingly looking for employees with degrees specifically related to the supply chain. This means that more college students are choosing supply chain specialties, and more working professionals are returning to college—or taking online courses—to earn certifications and advanced degrees in supply chain management.

Visit our degrees page for specific descriptions of the engineering and business degrees commonly held by professionals working in supply chain careers.

Visit our schools page for a list of supply chain-related college and university programs.

Adult Career Training Centers

While many Americans are looking for reliable jobs, the material handling and logistics industry is in need of qualified frontline employees. MHI's Technical Career Education Program is helping to develop programs designed to train the unemployed, the under-employed, and job changers to fill positions in this growing industry.

Visit our schools page for a list of adult training programs in materials handling and logistics in your area.

Strong industry connections are vital to academic programs in material handling, logistics, and supply chain. Industry partners can provide training for teachers and professors, facility tours for students, equipment, instructional materials, and more. Industry benefits from these connections too—as companies turn to their academic partners for recruitment of well-trained employees and for research they can apply to improving their operations.

MHI's Educational Programs

MHI operates three programs designed to connect academics and practitioners in our industry:

Other Resources for Academics

Several other professional organizations in our industry offer programs and conferences for academics: