There are a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses available for those wishing to enter a career in transport, distribution, logistics, and supply chain management..
General management courses increasingly include modules on these subjects while other courses focus on particular supply chain management disciplines. Many graduates complete their first degree in a subject that was of interest to them when they were at school. Subsequently, they wish to pursue a more career-orientated postgraduate programme.
This is a well-recognised approach, and it is often one followed by those who ‘discover’ supply chain management and wish to make their career in this area. Supply chain management crosses all company boundaries – a truly integrated discipline, offering many interesting, challenging, and wide-ranging career opportunities.
Why a postgraduate course?
There are several reasons:
- For many it is a step towards a first job. Most programmes provide an opportunity to work in a company and carry out a project of real benefit. This offers sound practical experience for the student as well as being attractive on their CV.
- A Masters degree is capable of opening many doors to job opportunities. The studying is intense but is far outweighed by the advantages throughout your career of holding a postgraduate qualification.
- Many companies with interesting and well-paid jobs in their supply chain give preference to those with a Master’s degree.
- The chance to differentiate yourself in the job market by demonstrating self direction and originality in solving supply chain problems and displaying the qualities and transferable skills necessary to plan, implement, and communicate complex supply chain solutions in a commercial environment.
What to look for
The course content itself is clearly important; find an up-to-date syllabus which has clear core subject areas and a set of electives that demonstrates the course is current and relevant. Ensure that the mode of study offered (full or part-time) suits your needs. The overall style of teaching is important. It should include the traditional techniques of lectures and seminars combined with more modern and interactive techniques such as business games, practical workshops, case studies, and computer simulations. Consider carefully the overall approach and the course philosophy.
A key feature of any good programme is the extent of industrial contact. The course should have a practical orientation that promotes contact with private sector businesses and public sector organisations. It is a good idea to check if some or all of the following items are included as a vital part of the MSc course:
- The use of external speakers.
- A series of visits to view company operations.
- An international study tour.
- A group project, where students, guided by a member of faculty, undertake a practical study for an organisation.
- An individual (thesis) project which can involve students spending several months with an organisation in a bid to understand, assess, analyse, and resolve a specific issue. The potential benefits to both the individual and the organisation are tremendous. Especially as it can lead to an employment opportunity with that organisation.
An important aspect of any Masters programme is, of course, the outcome – not just in obtaining the qualification, but also in successfully getting a job! All students should bear this in mind when choosing both a course and a place to study.
Check that the university you have shortlisted gives students every assistance to help them identify and pursue their career choice. Does it have close links with organisations across a broad range of sectors? Is there a yearly register of CVs of all students seeking employment produced and sent to major companies and organisations? Do companies make presentations and visits specifically to recruit logistics graduates? Is there an established alumni association with a relevant special interest group run by past graduates, which will provide a continuing opportunity for networking?
Finally, a key point to look for, perhaps the key point, is the reputation of the course and the university concerned. It is certainly worth making sure that the course of your choice is one that is well thought of in the profession as a whole, and can therefore provide the career enhancement you are looking for. Company and personal endorsements are an excellent way of helping you choose.