What Does a Supply Chain Manager Do? (And How to Become One)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Supply chain managers work to ensure efficient, cost-effective production and shipping timelines. This career guide provides insights into this high-growth job.

[Featured Image] A supply chain manager discusses strategies with a team member.

Have you ever wondered how your laptop gets from overseas manufacturers to your local electronics shop? Well, it is a complex supply chain system that is in part run by supply chain managers. You might be excited by the prospect of turning these logistical challenges into a career path.

Supply chain managers help businesses overcome logistical challenges by driving efficiency and lowering production, manufacturing, and distribution costs.

In this guide, you’ll gain insight into this high-growth job and learn how to become a supply chain manager.

What is a supply chain manager?

Supply chain managers are responsible for overseeing the import, export, and sometimes the creation of raw materials or finished products for a company. They monitor the lifecycle of the product manufacturing process, ensuring the factories have enough supplies. They manage the distribution and product flow from factory to warehouse in various countries. 

A step up from supply chain analysts, supply chain managers often hold a leadership role in an organization. They manage the operations overseas using software tools like SAP or Oracle, and maintaining communications with teams by email or phone calls. For larger companies with robust supply chains, a manager might focus on an area such as demand planning or logistics.

Supply chain managers typically work in an office environment where they can oversee day-to-day operations—either in a company’s headquarters (with other departments), or near the production facility itself. They may occasionally travel to other manufacturing sites or visit new vendors to find raw materials suppliers.

Post-pandemic supply chain shortages means more jobs

The COVID-19 pandemic and other political events in recent years have disrupted the global supply chain. Transportation and government sanctions drove up food and gas prices, causing shortages in nearly every product category. On the plus side, that means supply chain-related jobs are in demand. The number of jobs is expected to increase 28% in the next decade [1].


Tasks and responsibilities

As a supply chain manager, you’ll be managing teams and leading the strategy toward more efficient, cost-effective production timelines. Here’s what you can expect your day-to-day tasks to be:

  • Managing the manufacturing and distribution processes

  • Working with procurement managers, buyers, and vendors to source the right materials or products

  • Negotiating contracts with suppliers, vendors, contractors, and customers

  • Utilizing software to track goods from factory to warehouse

  • Using data analytics to forecast demand for inventory, analyze performance of products, and measure against the economy (and other factors)

  • Cutting costs at every level while maintaining quality and meeting sustainability targets

  • Developing new and existing relationships with suppliers and partners

  • Innovating the supply chain process and efficiency

  • Staying abreast of trends and developments in the sector and technologies

Salary and job outlook 

As a supply chain manager, you’ll come in at a higher level than supply chain analysts, with the expectation that you can lead a team and implement cost-cutting strategies. You can expect to earn a median annual salary of $77,030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [1]. 

The projected job growth rate between 2021 and 2031 is 28 percent, which is much faster than the average of 5.3 percent [1, 2]. That means there are plenty of jobs in supply chain management in the upcoming years as e-commerce retail continues to grow alongside complex supply chain challenges.

Related job titles and roles

Supply chain managers can be the sole person in a small company working on supply chain logistics—or, they can manage a team within a large supply chain department. Related areas of focus in supply chain management include:

  • Network design planning

  • Demand planning

  • Production planning

  • Supplier management

  • Logistics management

  • Supply chain analytics

  • Inventory management

  • Raw material sourcing

  • Distributing planning

Depending on the company’s needs, there may be entire teams devoted to demand planning or a supply chain team in which one person fulfills the role of “demand planner,” as an example.

Examples of job titles relating to supply chain manager include:

  • Operations Manager

  • Logistics Manager

  • Transportation Analyst

  • Production Planner

  • Supply Chain Consultant

  • Buyer and/or Planner

  • Demand Planner

  • Inventory Analyst

  • Procurement Specialist

  • Purchasing Manager

  • Production Manager

  • Head of Supply Chain

  • Global Account Supply Chain Manager

And so on. Keep in mind that often “manager,” “specialist,” and “analyst” can mean different experience levels at some companies. At others, they may mean the same thing. Search on LinkedIn or Glassdoor for more information if you’re curious about a company’s standard for titling.

Digital transformation in supply chain management

Digital transformation is a hot term in supply chain management. Consultants may be hired to conduct an audit and craft a customized roadmap toward digital supply chain management. Check out the course Digital Transformation from the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business and Boston Consulting Group.


Skills needed to become a supply chain manager

Supply chain managers must have a strong grasp of the supply chain and logistics landscape while also cultivating soft skills to lead teams. Here are some skills that supply chain managers should have:

How to become a supply chain manager

Supply chain managers will have many opportunities in the upcoming years. Here’s how you can get started today.

1. Consider earning your bachelor’s degree.

Like many jobs in business, supply chain managers tend to have at least a bachelor’s degree. According to Zippia, 70 percent of supply chain managers have a bachelor’s degree, 17 percent have a master’s, and only 9 percent have an associate degree [3].

That means a bachelor’s degree at minimum is typically required for these jobs. Sometimes, an MBA or master’s degree in a related discipline can elevate your resume for promotions or competitive organizations.

2. Develop supply chain management skills.

You’ll want to gain experience in supply chain management, either as an intern or in an entry-level role. Develop your skills directly in supply chain management, as well as those listed above, which are transferable skills used in many business management positions.

Taking a course in Supply Chain Principles such as this one from Georgia Tech can help you brush up on terminology such as just-in-time manufacturing. You’ll gain a solid introduction to supply chain management.

3. Prepare your resume. 

As you gear up to start applying for jobs, you’ll want to prepare your resume for supply chain management roles. If switching careers, look at job descriptions for supply chain managers to pepper your resume with relevant terminology and skills.

Next, add any Coursera credentials to your resume, include action words, and find ways to enhance your resume. It is a best practice to match your resume to keywords in the specific job you’re applying for. Small adjustments every time you submit your resume can make a big difference to hiring managers or recruiters.

Read more: How to Make a Resume: 2022 Resume Writing Guide

4. Start working as a supply chain analyst.

Once you’ve polished your resume and sent off job applications, you might land an entry-level position as a supply chain analyst or related role. Congratulations! You’re well on your way to becoming a supply chain manager. As a supply chain analyst, you’ll gain knowledge of your specific industry and hopefully an insight into how logistics and demand planning work for your organization.

Our advice? Be a sponge. There are so many complex moving parts to supply chain management. Learn as much as you can from fellow colleagues, managers, and partners, so you can be a supply chain expert.

5. Get promoted to supply chain manager.

While it is possible to get started as a supply chain manager if you’re switching from an adjacent role and have a few years of work experience under your belt, the most logical way to become a supply chain manager is to get promoted from supply chain analyst. You’ll be well-versed in the specific processes and develop all the necessary skills to succeed as a manager.

Developing strong relationships with your manager, director, and colleagues can be beneficial when you’re in line for a promotion. Do your best work, put forth your most positive self, and that promotion to supply chain manager could be yours.

Read more: 10 High-Paying Entry-Level Management Jobs + How to Get One

Learn supply chain management

With Rutgers University’s Supply Chain Management specialization, you can master the fundamentals of logistics, operations, planning, sourcing, and strategy. You’ll even get to solve a real-life business case study. Consider enrolling and complete the program in six months or less—no degree or experience required.

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Logisticians, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/logisticians.htm.” Accessed April 26, 2023.

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