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Supply Chain and Transportation Management Degrees

The transportation and distribution industry supports the delivery of raw materials and finished products to consumers, businesses and government agencies. To learn more about job options and employment outlook, earnings and education for transportation and distribution workers, read on.

Types of Degrees in Transportation & Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management is a broad field that includes degrees in stand-alone subjects, like supply chain management degrees and logistics degrees, as well as degrees that combine different areas of the field, like transportation and logistics degrees. In general, these degree programs explore topics in product life cycles and the various processes involved from creating a product to its distribution. Often the degree programs in various areas focus on one aspect of these processes. For example, degrees in logistics and supply chain management focus on overseeing and coordinating the supply chain, while transportation degrees focus on moving products.

Students interested in learning how goods move from production to store shelves, or how passenger travel is coordinated across cities and countries, may find a degree in transportation and supply chain management rewarding. Here we explore the different degree programs available.

Associate's Degrees in Supply Chain Management

Associate's degree programs in supply chain management are available as degrees specifically in supply chain management, as well as closely related areas, like logistics and supply chain management, logistics management, logistics and operations management, and transportation logistics and management. Most commonly an associate's degree in supply chain management results in an Associate of Science (AS), but Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees are available. Typically, these degree programs require around 60 credits, can be completed in 2 years, and may include coursework in areas like managing inventory, service delivery systems, logistics, and product life cycle management.

Bachelor's Degrees in Supply Chain Management

There are bachelor's degree programs in supply chain management and related areas like transportation and logistics management, logistics and supply chain management, and logistics management. There are also degrees available with specific concentrations, such as a degree in operations management with a concentration in logistics and transportation or global supply chain management. Bachelor's degrees in supply chain management usually result in a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, usually require around 120 credits, and may take 4 years to complete. Coursework may include topics in logistics management, supply chain management, and transportation management.

Master's Degrees in Supply Chain Management

At the master's level, students can pursue degree programs like a master's in supply chain management, logistics and supply chain management, logistics management, transportation and logistics management, transportation management, and transportation policy, operations, and logistics. Master's degrees in supply chain management usually award a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA) degree, and some of these programs can be completed in as little as 10 months, but usually take 2 years or less. These degree programs may range between 30 and 36 credits and may cover courses such as transportation logistics, ethics, international operations management, and supply chain strategy.

PhD Degrees in Supply Chain Management

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in the field are usually focused in one specific area, such as a PhD in Supply Chain Management, a PhD in Logistics, or a PhD in Transportation, but there are still some combined areas, like a PhD in Logistics and Supply Chain Management. Students who already hold a master's degree may be required to take around 60 credits to complete their doctorate, and some of these programs may take around 5 years to complete. Students in these programs may have teaching and/or research responsibilities in addition to coursework. They typically culminate in a dissertation or research project. While coursework varies greatly at the doctoral level, students may take courses in areas like supply chain management theories, research processes in supply chain management, and research methods.

Online Supply Chain Management Degrees

Online supply chain management degrees are available at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree levels. Due to the required research components of a doctorate degree, most PhD programs in supply chain management are not available online, but students can find related online degrees, like a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) with a concentration in supply chain management. Online supply chain management degrees, logistics and supply chain management degrees online, and logistics degrees online can usually be completed fully online due to the lecture-based format of the courses. Students should be sure to look for accredited, online schools to ensure that academic standards of quality have been met.

Transportation & Supply Chain Management Certifications

While professional certification is not necessarily required for careers in transportation and supply chain management, these certifications can help demonstrate proficiency and expertise in the field to employers. For example, some students may decide to pursue supply chain management certification through the Association for Supply Chain Management, which is built on APICS global standards, as a Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), or SOLE Certified Professional Logistician (CPL) certification in logistics. Some degree programs may even include specialized coursework for earning specific certifications, such as Six Sigma Certification. Gaining certification typically requires passing a certification exam.

It is also common for professionals in the field of transportation and supply chain management to need additional licenses or specialized training based on their position. For example, workers in ground transportation may need to have a commercial driver's license (CDL), while those in air transportation wishing to work as air traffic controllers may need to earn a degree from a program approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Hazmat training is also common for department of transportation professionals.

Accreditation for Transportation & Supply Chain Management Programs

Accreditation helps students ensure that the academic program of their choice meets specific standards. Typically, post-secondary institutions are accredited by a regional accrediting body at the institution-level for the different levels of degree programs, but there are also program-specific accrediting bodies. These accrediting bodies help to further assure students that they are earning a quality education in their particular field of interest. For transportation and supply chain management degree programs, many fall under business-related accrediting bodies, such as the International Accreditation Council for Business Education or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

Transportation & Supply Chain Management Majors

Within the larger umbrella of supply chain management, there are several different areas of specialization available to students. Students may choose to focus their studies in areas like supply chain management, logistics, and transportation. Sometimes students can even further specialize within a certain area, such as air traffic control or ground transportation. Below, we explore a few of these specializations in greater detail.

Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management degrees are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Students in a supply chain management major examine how to coordinate the activities of different players in the supply chain, like suppliers, manufacturers, and consumers. Coursework for this major may focus on topics like warehousing and distribution, supply chain management, logistics operations, supply markets, and sourcing. At the graduate level, applicants to these programs may need to have a few years of work experience in supply chain management. Graduates with degrees in supply chain management may find careers as management analysts, operations managers, or supply chain managers.

Logistics

Usually offered as a degree in logistics or logistics management, students can pursue study in the field at the associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Students in logistics degree programs study how to coordinate various operational processes and the flow of information and products in the organization. Course topics for logistics majors may include business logistics, materials handling, transportation logistics, and organizational behavior. Applicants for graduate programs in the field may need to take the GMAT and hold a bachelor's degree. Graduates of logistics programs generally pursue careers as logisticians but may also work in inventory/materials management or systems management.

Transportation Management

At the undergraduate level, students can usually pursue a degree in transportation and logistics management, while at the graduate level, students may find degrees specifically in transportation management or transportation. Students in transportation management may study how to optimize transit systems and the policies related to various modes of transportation. These programs may include coursework that covers transportation management, transit maintenance, transportation systems analysis, transportation planning, and more. At the graduate levels, applicants may need a bachelor's degree and/or prior coursework in areas like mathematics and statistics. Graduates may work in transportation management, traffic management, or dispatching.

Air Traffic Control

Degree programs in air traffic control are usually only available at the undergraduate level as associate's or bachelor's degrees. Students can commonly pursue a degree in air traffic control or air traffic management. These degree programs may use training and simulations to equip students with the necessary skills to manage air traffic from control towers and communicate effectively with all parties involved. Students in these programs may take courses in areas such as navigation, traffic control, radar, control tower operations, and airspace capacity management. Graduates of air traffic control programs typically take on careers as air traffic controllers.

Ground Transportation

There are not typically degree programs available specifically in ground transportation, but students can study transportation management at the undergraduate and graduate levels. There are also additional related degrees in the field of transportation, such as graduate programs in transportation planning and engineering or civil engineering with a concentration in highway and traffic engineering. Students in transportation degree programs usually focus on ground transportation as they explore ways to increase the efficiency of transportation systems. Coursework may discuss topics in travel demand, traffic operations, urban transportation, and more. Graduates may work in transportation management, distribution management, or traffic management.

Careers in Transportation & Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management jobs are diverse and available across various areas of the field, including manufacturing positions, transportation jobs, logistics jobs, careers in merchandising, and jobs in warehousing. Graduates may take on roles as various kinds of supply chain managers and other related positions to work for the government, transportation companies, consulting firms, service institutions, retailers, and more. Compare a handful of transportation and supply chain management positions in the table below.

CareerJob DescriptionDegree RequirementsMedian Salary (2019)*Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Logisticians Coordinate and analyze supply chains Bachelor's Degree$74,7505%
Air Traffic Controllers Manage movements of aircraft Associate's Degree$122,9901%
Operations Research Analysts Analyze and solve logistics issues Bachelor's Degree$84,81026%
Purchasing Managers Manage the purchasing of products and services Bachelor's Degree$69,600-6% (Decline)
General and Operations Managers Oversee the daily operations of an organization Bachelor's Degree$100,7807%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)