Logistics Careers: 2021 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary

Logistics Careers: 2021 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary
Imed Bouchrika by Imed Bouchrika
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

In 2020, ecommerce companies posted a 25% increase in global deliveries. This was fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had people staying indoors and relying on deliveries for their needs. This upbeat demand is expected to remain a trend beyond the pandemic. Plus, vaccine deliveries around the world will be driving last-mile logistics (Hillyer, 2021).

This upbeat development in online deliveries has made logistics professionals like logisticians more in demand. The same is the case for delivery drivers, delivery truck drivers, and driver/sales workers (BLS, 2021 Kristof, 2021). In this article, we look at logistics careers, the requirements to become a professional in the field, the jobs and salaries, and alternative careers.

Logistics Careers Table of Contents

  1. Why pursue a career in logistics?
  2. Logistics Career Outlook
  3. Required Skills for Logistics
  4. How to Start Your Career in Logistics
  5. How can I advance my career in Logistics?
  6. Alternative Career Options for Logistics

There are four degree types in logistics. These are associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. Most jobs in supply chain management and logistics require a bachelor’s degree. There are positions in the field that accept lesser academic achievements like an associate’s degree or a certificate.

Specializations are available in the industry, too, such as warehouse management, transport management, procurement, routing and scheduling, and distribution. These are tied to the different functions of logistics. We will explore these as well as the requirements for higher education for career advancement. Below, we discuss essential skills for a logistics career, too.

Why pursue a career in logistics?

A career in logistics takes individuals into a world where they are responsible for ensuring the smooth operation of the supply chain or parts of it. This means their role has them developing and implementing logistics plans, analyzing logistics techniques, and overseeing transportation.

Additionally, a logistics career path may take you into warehouse management, inventory management, and procurement. In these roles, the responsibilities revolve around accounting for every item in the warehouse and ensuring that there are enough materials for production or distribution.

We noted the positive growth in the field. With the surge in ecommerce, logistics professionals will have their hands full. Thus, boredom will not be a part of the job expectation. You can likewise find opportunities for career advancement. Plus, you do not have to stay in one location only. Depending on your role, you may need to travel occasionally (Shuttleworth, 2018).

And, yes, the salaries and benefits are good. Supply chain professionals are happy with their careers and there are plenty of opportunities for more earnings (ASCM, 2020).

supply chain professionals who have a positive outlook of their career

Logistics Career Outlook

The demand for logisticians is going with the flow of the ecommerce industry. The job outlook for the profession is 4%, as fast as the national average, from 2019 to 2029 (BLS, 2021). Moreover, the global logistics market is predicted to grow to $12.68 billion by 2023. The industry’s compound annual growth rate was estimated to be 3.49% from 2017 to 2023.

On that note, transportation and material moving occupations are anticipated to grow by 3% from 2019 to 2029. While that is about the same as the national average, there are individual occupations whose demand rate is the same or faster. For example, airline and commercial pilots have a 5% positive job outlook within the period, faster than average. The same is the case for delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers.

Logistics Careers Median Salaries and Demand

RoleSalaryDemand
Freight forwarder$43,7707%
Logistician$76,2704%
Transportation planner$87,2602%
Supply chain manager$96,3904%
Purchasing manager$125,9404%
Logistics engineers$76,2703%
Production, planning, and expediting clerk$49,6403%
Airline and commercial pilots$130,4405%
Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers$34,3405%
Shipping, receiving, and inventory clerks$35,260-1%
Source: BLS, 2021; O*NET OnLine, 2021

Required Skills for Logistics

A role in supply chain management and logistics is a high-pressure career. One needs to be adaptable and to be a quick thinker. These are important skills to have in the field, as there are numerous changes in the industry that one has to face. Plus, plenty of problems could arise, such as delays in transport. Being quick on your feet helps in adjusting plans and coming up with viable solutions. This is why flexibility and quick-thinking are critical in this industry.

Essential Skills for Logistics

Project management. Supply chain management has many details that greatly affect how smoothly the entire operation would be. Paying keen attention to these is necessary to be proficient in a supply chain and logistics role. Moreover, they have to be organized and plan their day, week, or month ahead. This is because workflows in the industry require long-term management and sticking to a schedule is a must (Scherman, 2018).

  1. Information technology and automation knowledge. You have to be tech-savvy to be in logistics or at least willing to learn to use essential technology. Supply chains nowadays operate using software like enterprise resource planning systems or warehouse management tools. These are designed to be intuitive and user-friendly but if you do not know your way around an application generally, then you may encounter difficulties (Supply Chain Leaders Academy, 2020).
  2. Market dynamics understanding. Logistics market dynamics are affected by various factors but most importantly by rapid changes in consumer demand. You need to be able to understand these or even predict them (Supply Chain Leaders Academy, 2020) to ensure your strategies are still relevant.
  3. Numerical and analytical skills. While one does not have to be a numbers genius, it pays to have good numerical skills accompanied by analytical skills. You may have to face data and come up with accurate interpretations to help the company become more efficient. And in some cases, ensure that the products and clients the organization moves and serves are profitable (GlobalTranz, 2017).
  4. Best practices knowledge. Knowing the best practices in supply chain and logistics and applying them religiously allows you to produce the best results. Best practices are the standard way of doing things, such as in compliance with legal or ethical provisions. These are often set by a governing body in the industry or by a government agency.

General Skills

  1. Communication. People may get tired of hearing this but communication is an often neglected soft skill. In supply chain and logistics, details need to be relayed as is or as accurately as possible, as one smidgen of error could hold back fulfillment or worse, make the whole process collapse.
  2. Stress management. As mentioned before, logistics is a high-pressure industry. There is a constant expectation for you to do your best because there are people up and down the ladder who rely on you. You need to deal with unexpected situations, too (Scherman, 2018). Thus, you have to have good stress management for you to be able to think calmly and logically.
  3. Problem-solving. Not all the time does a process goes without complications. That is why you need to be effective in problem-solving. This means you have to use every resource possible for positive outcomes (Scherman, 2018).

logistics coordinator resumes

How to Start Your Career in Logistics

There are a few logistics careers that you can get with an associate’s degree or even a certificate. You can even advance with just these as long as you augment them with certifications. However, there are more lucrative jobs in the logistics industry that require a bachelor’s degree or higher.

General requirements for admission to a degree program include the following (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 2021):

  • Official high school transcripts for high school graduates
  • Official high school and college transcripts for transferees or college graduates
  • GED scores
  • ACT and/or SAT scores

What can I do with an associate’s degree in logistics?

Inventory Analyst

An inventory analyst is responsible for reporting the following: excess inventory, commodity inventory, and obsolete inventory. Other inventory-related tasks may be required. This means they have to work with data—and their analytical skills come into play here.

Median salary: $55,433

Buyer or Purchasing Agent

The main responsibility of a buyer or a purchasing agent is to procure the materials needed for manufacturing or production. These could be materials for use in the offices as well, such as pens and papers. For this role, an associate’s degree will suffice. However, there are cases where a certificate or even a high school diploma is accepted.

Median salary: $62,920

Production, Planning, and Expediting Clerk

This role is necessary to ensure that the flow of materials within or between departments is smooth and according to schedule. Part of the job is to review and distribute production and shipping schedules. On top of that, they compile reports regarding the progress of work, inventory levels, and any production problems encountered.

Median salary: $46,670

What can I do with a bachelor’s degree in logistics?

Airline and commercial pilot

Airline pilots do not necessarily need a bachelor’s degree in logistics, as their top requirements are a pilot license, a certificate from the FAA, and hundreds of hours of flying experience. However, a degree in logistics can be helpful to understand the movement of goods and people by air.

Median salary: $160,970 per year

Logistician

Logisticians are concerned with the organization’s supply chain—they analyze and coordinate the process to move a product from the supplier to the consumer. They also build and maintain relationships with suppliers and clients. It is also part of their responsibilities to identify areas of improvement.

Median salary: $76,270 per year

Logistics Engineer

The role covers developing and implementing projects. They have a hand in the planning of projects and in setting the timelines. Logistics engineers work closely with subcontractors and other personnel. They are first in line in resolving problems with regard to the logistics of contractual commitments.

Median salary: $74,623 per year

Can you get a logistics job with just a certificate?

Yes, you can get a logistics job with just a certificate. An example of a role in logistics you can apply for with a certificate is logistics technician. They are primarily concerned with procedures and facility management. It might also involve packing goods and ensuring they have the right shipping labels (Chegg, 2017).

How can I advance my career in logistics?

To pursue higher education, whether a master’s or doctorate degree, one needs to have an educational background in the same or related field. Therefore, if you have a bachelor’s degree in business administration or finance, it is possible to proceed to a master’s and eventually doctorate degree in logistics.

Moreover, you need to note that it is also possible to proceed with an MBA with a concentration on logistics and supply chain management.

However, if you would rather advance your career goals while augmenting your knowledge and skills without enrolling in higher degree programs, it is possible. There are certifications in logistics and supply management available. We will discuss this further below.

What can I do with a Master’s in Logistics?

Purchasing Director

Purchasing directors oversee all purchasing activities. They plan and establish strategic purchasing workflows to ensure a smooth process every time. They also develop objectives and policies to guide purchasing and control inventory flow. They can be concerned with planning and implementing a purchasing budget as well. While it typically requires a bachelor’s degree only and more than five years of managerial experience, a master’s degree in logistics can boost your chances.

Median salary: $161,217 per year

Supply Chain Manager

The supply chain manager takes on the tasks of planning, organizing, and implementing projects that involve the whole supply chain system. They have a hand in large purchases to make certain that the company receives the best prices possible. Supply chain managers provide support to others, too, by ensuring that all the materials they need are on hand.

Median salary: $111,073 per year

Operations Research Analyst

While a bachelor’s degree is acceptable to some employers, there are many companies that prefer their operations research analysts to have a master’s degree. Their job entails identifying problems in logistics and coming up with the right solutions. A strong grasp of mathematics, analytics, and information technology can be of big help to those aiming to become operations research analysts.

Median salary: $86,200 per year

What kind of job can I get with a doctorate in logistics?

Academia

A doctorate degree in logistics is best for those who want to venture into the academic world. With a Ph.D., one can become an instructor at a four-year college or university. They can also handle courses at the master’s level. Plus, they can be involved in research concerning the industry.

One common thread of research in the logistics field nowadays is sustainability. For example, Zhang, et. al (2020) conducted a study regarding green logistics policies (GLP). The researchers shared in their paper, What influences the effectiveness of green logistics policies? A grounded theory analysis, that the perfection of GLP system, the green governance capacity of government, the level of perception of logistics enterprises on GLP, the level of social supervision, and the development level of logistics industry affect the effectiveness of GLP.

Median salary: $88,010 per year

Chief Operating Officer

The COO handles all the operations of a company and these include logistics and supply chain. They are at the top when maintaining the high quality of products or services as well as the efficiency and productivity of the whole line.

Median salary: $143,480 per year

Which certification is best for logistics?

The field of supply chain management is continuously growing and changing. A certification in logistics could help individuals in keeping up with the trends. As well, the information they gain while working for their certifications can assist them in analyzing data and predicting future trends and outcomes. And, getting at least one certification boosts earnings. Indeed, 21% of those who have at least one APICS certification reported that they have a higher median logistics salary compared to those without (ASCM, 2021).

On that note, here are some of the best supply chain management certifications:

Top 5 Supply Chain Management Certifications

CertificationExam FeeRetake FeeRenewal FeeExpiration
APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional$965 for Core non-members, $695 for Plus Members$450$150 for non-members, $75 for members10 years
APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management$690 for Core and non-members, $495 per exam for Plus members$250$150 for non-members, $75 for members10 years
APICS Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR-P) Endorsementexam fee included in course fee$350
ISM Certified Professional in Supply Management$379 for non-members, $229 for members$379$150 for non-members, $75 for members4 years
ISM Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity$379 for non-members, $229 for members$379$150 for non-members, $75 for members3 years
Source: White, 2018

Alternative Career Options for Logistics

A career in logistics may not be for everyone in the long run. If you would rather look at a profession outside the supply chain and logistics sector or diverge from your original career development plan, there are plenty of opportunities for you. These may be in other industries but your knowledge of and experience in logistics will be of great help to you.

What else can a logistics professional do?

Event Planner

Your experience in logistics would be able to help you in planning events. Since you already know the process, you would not have difficulties in arranging events, such as meetings, conventions, and even weddings and other events. Your skill in negotiation will also work for you when you work with suppliers.

Median salary: $51,560 per year

Customer Service Representative

As a customer service representative, you have close interactions with customers. You handle their complaints and resolve them. If not, you relay their issues to the proper department. Your logistics experience can help you with following the protocols or procedures in handling customer cases.

Median salary: $35,830 per year

Management Analyst

Being a management analyst means you identify ways that the company can improve its efficiency. You have to work with managers and supervisors in implementing those changes and in keeping track of whether those changes are working or not.

Median salary: $87,660 per year

Growing Career Paths in Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Before an item or a package arrives at a consumer’s door, it undergoes a thorough logistics process. There are people behind it to make sure that it arrives at a buyer on time. Logistics professionals are responsible for planning optimal routes and finding ways when those are not available.

Aside from that, supply chain professionals make sure that an organization’s needs in terms of materials and logistics are always met. They have a hand in controlling inventory flow and in planning and implementing the procurement budget. In between, they have to deal with customers and suppliers.

While logistics and supply chain management can be a whole industry, a career in the sector can be in other fields like engineering, food and beverage, and manufacturing. Some can even work in military branches as logistics officers. Every industry and organization requires individuals capable of handling the flow of supplies and maintaining inventories.

Also, as mentioned earlier, one does not have to get a degree in logistics and supply management. It is possible to become a logistics professional by taking a business analysis degree or a business administration degree. These are broad degree programs and there are postsecondary institutions offering specializations.

The outlook for a career in logistics is looking good, too, in general. With the increase in ecommerce deliveries, as well as the need to distribute vaccines and necessities better and faster, logistics professionals are critical in making transport happen smoothly.

If you are still weighing your options, however, and not sure which degree to take up, why not check these best companies to work for without a degree? Perhaps experience in any of these companies will give you the perspective that you need.

 

References:

  1. ASCM. (2020). 2020 supply chain salary and career survey report. ASCM.
  2. BLS. (2021, April 9). Airline and commercial pilots: Occupational outlook handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  3. BLS. (2021, April 9). Delivery truck drivers and driver/Sales workers: Occupational outlook handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  4. BLS. (2021, April 9). Logisticians: Occupational outlook handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  5. Chegg. (2017, November 25). Logistics technician. Chegg Careermatch.
  6. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (2021). Admissions. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
  7. GlobalTranz. (2017, July 18). 10 skills you should have to be a successful logistics manager. GlobalTranz.
  8. Hillyer, M. (2021, April 29). COVID-19 has reshaped last-mile logistics, with e-Commerce deliveries rising 25% in 2020. World Economic Forum.
  9. Kristof, K. (2021, March 13). Pandemic fuels high demand for delivery drivers, tutors and creative types. Los Angeles Times.
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  11. O*NET OnLine. (2021, May 5). 11-3071.04 – Supply chain managers. O*NET OnLine.
  12. O*NET OnLine. (2021, May 25). 13-1081.01 – Logistics engineers. O*NET OnLine.
  13. O*NET OnLine. (2021, May 25). 19-3099.01 – Transportation planners. O*NET OnLine.
  14. O*NET OnLine. (2021, May 25). 43-5011.01 – Freight forwarders. O*NET OnLine.
  15. O*NET OnLine. (2021, May 25). 43-5071.00 – Shipping, receiving, and inventory clerks. O*NET OnLine.
  16. Scherman, J. (2018, July 25). 8 logistics skills that can help advance your supply chain career. Rasmussen University.
  17. Shuttleworth, J. (2018, April 27). Five reasons to pursue a career in logistics. Forbes.
  18. Supply Chain Leaders Academy. (2020, June 15). 7 essential supply chain leader’s skills and why you need them. Logistics Bureau.
  19. Talent Trader Group. (2021). Specializations – Logistics & supply chain. Talent Trader Group.
  20. White, S. K. (2018, August 1). The top 8 supply chain management certifications. CIO.
  21. Zhang, W., Zhang, M.Zhang, W., Zhou, Q., & Zhang, X. (2020). What influences the effectiveness of green logistics policies? A grounded theory analysis. The Science of the total environment, 714, . doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.136731
  22. ZipRecruiter. (2021). Logistics coordinator must-have resume skills and keywords. ZipRecruiter.

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