I knew I wanted more schooling in it. I knew I wanted to dive deeper, says Ryan. He completed his master's degree at the university's Leeds School of Business immediately after college. He now works as a logistics process analyst for Shell Oil Co.
People like Ryan, who have a strong interest and expertise in supply chain management, are a hot commodity in the business community. Among employers who responded to a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council, 27 percent are actively seeking graduates from supply chain management master's programs, according to the council's June report.
Many business schools offer master's degrees in supply chain management, giving prospective students a range of options. In these programs students learn about managing and distributing products, as well as sustainability. Because schools vary when it comes to how they teach, business school applicants should consider three factors when deciding which program to attend, experts say.
1. Format: Several schools offer this degree online, but a Web-only approach may not always be the ideal choice.
The best option is to have sort of the blended program where you have online and on-site elements, says David Closs, chairperson of the department of supply chain management at the Michigan State University Broad Graduate School of Management. You don't get the same level of networking and interaction and learning on the online environment.
At Broad, students receive much of their education online, but meet in person four times for three days during the course of their entire program, which lasts for 24 months. In face-to-face meetups, they may work on case studies or projects, Closs says.
Other schools, such as Leeds, offer a more traditional classroom-based learning environment. Broad, however, targets working professionals who need more flexible schedules and have less time for campus visits.
If people have a full-time job and a family and obligations, that option is not typically available to them, says Closs.
2. Work experience: At Broad, most students enter the master's program with eight to 10 years of work experience on average in supply chain management, and continue to work while getting their degree.
At Leeds, however, students can enter the program straight out of undergrad. The school makes getting students real-world experience a core part of the curriculum.
To complement classroom learning, students complete an internship during the spring semester of the yearlong program.
It's for credit and for pay, says Gregg Macaluso, faculty director for the master's programs in supply chain management and business analytics at Leeds.
3. Degree options: Graduate-level supply chain programs are usually offered in two formats – an MBA that allows students to specialize in the subject or a master's degree exclusively focused on supply chain management.
At New York University's Stern School of Business, for example, MBA students can choose supply chain management as their concentration.
When learning about supply chain management as part of the leadership-oriented MBA degree, students may also gain knowledge in areas of business that can complement their supply chain studies, says Natalia Levina, one of the academic advisers for the supply chain management and global sourcing specialization in Stern's MBA program.
Most MBA programs teach accounting, finance, marketing and other core areas of business.