March 2010 | Commentary | Smart Moves

Want a Promotion? Get an Education

Tags: Education & Careers

Dr. Michael Reilly is program director, the College of Business and Professional Studies at Ashford University, 800-798-0584 x2689

Success in any career is often measured by advancement, and logistics and supply chain management is no exception. Advancing to a C-suite job will likely require an MBA or a specialized master's degree.

To earn a degree, you don't have to quit your job, sacrifice your life, and go away to school. If you have a strong desire to complete your education, you can do it online.

Many colleges and universities offer excellent logistics and supply chain management bachelor's degree programs, or allow you to add a logistics management specialization to a bachelor's or master's degree program.

Undergraduate and graduate-level courses blend theory and practice at the optimum level to prepare practitioners for advancement and graduate students for various certification program exams, such as the International Society of Logistics Certified Professional Logistician or Certified Master Logistician.

The process of education is important because it is integrative; it teaches you how to be a critical thinker and self-learner. Logistics education prepares you to integrate your personal logistics/supply chain experience with the broader discipline.

Undergraduate and graduate study presents a broader view of business, and provides the analytic tools to assess the performance of your area of responsibility, and project future demands and trends. You won't just be ahead of the curve; you'll anticipate the curve itself.

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Employment demand for logisticians and supply chain managers is projected to grow much faster than the average through 2018, reports the U.S. Department of Labor. Employment prospects improve significantly with a bachelor's degree, and even more with a bachelor's-plus professional certification or a master's degree.

And, because all business is global, third-party logistics companies seek employees who can conduct sophisticated analysis of supply chain activities, coordinate logistics functions across international borders, and understand applicable laws and customs.

The ability to use and understand Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and the Internet, global positioning systems, and Decision Support Systems greatly enhances advancement opportunities. These technologies have been available for more than 15 years, but are now becoming widely used by 3PLs to deliver high-quality logistics services to customers. Understanding the growing business-to-business and business-to-consumer realities is critical to growing your career in the next few years.

The future for logisticians and supply chain managers is wrought with complexities. Risks are largely influenced by economies and shifts in consumer demand. Rapid changes in product variety; smaller inventories; shortened product life cycles; increased storage and transportation costs; increased governmental compliance requirements; and uncertain market demand create significant challenges and opportunities for business as well as for logisticians.

To succeed in this ever-changing global environment, logisticians and supply chain managers need to support their companies by devising effective and efficient operations and systems to sustain a competitive advantage. Doing so requires ever-increasing competencies and demands new ways of thinking. The supply chain will need more highly educated and sophisticated managers.