Earning a Ph.D. in Supply Chain Management Online

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Become Team
July 30, 2019

Logistics is a massive and growing field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Earning a Ph.D. in supply chain management online shows that an individual has mastered the field and can organize and maintain complex networks within a supply chain.

Anyone who currently works in logistics but wants to rise to a top-level position should consider a Ph.D. in supply chain management. Those who want to continue working while earning their degree should strongly consider studying online. Online education allows students to choose a program that fits their career needs without needing to relocate.

What Can You Do with a Ph.D. in Supply Chain Management?

A Ph.D. in supply chain management is meant for current logisticians who have at least a master's degree in a related field. A Ph.D. demonstrates that an individual can run entire supply chain operations. With this degree, graduates often work with a third-party logistics company or on the client side.

Potential Careers and Salaries

Supply chain managers ensure goods and materials are shipped, stocked, and stored optimally to keep costs low. Many online doctoral supply chain management program graduates work in manufacturing, wholesale, or enterprise. The government also employs many supply chain managers where workers find cost-effective ways to manage the government's assets.

Most jobs for supply chain managers exist in the private sector, typically with large companies that can afford to invest in logistics. However, graduates can find jobs in nearly every industry, particularly those with shipping.

Cost Estimators

Annual Median Salary: $64,040

Cost estimators analyze entire supply chains to determine expected operating costs. This includes finding the costs of labor, manufacturing, purchasing materials, and lost income due to sitting inventory. Cost estimators work closely with everyone involved in the supply chain.

Industrial Production Managers

Annual Median Salary: $103,380

Industrial production managers monitor day-to-day operations. They oversee production employees and find ways to maximize output without increasing costs. Industrial production managers also monitor plant quality and worker safety.


Annual Median Salary: $74,600

Logisticians work directly in the supply chain, finding better ways to acquire, store, and ship products and materials. They analyze existing supply chains to find more efficient methods to reduce operating costs.

Management Analysts

Annual Median Salary: $83,610

Also known as management consultants, management analysts look at entire organizations and find ways to increase efficiency. They accomplish this through observation and analysis. Management analysts apply other supply chain practices to organizations, but don't usually work on supply chains.

Supply Chain Managers

Annual Median Salary: $81,519

Supply chain managers create, optimize, and evaluate new or existing supply chains. This includes running cost-effectiveness analyses, optimizing inventory and shipping, and training workers to perform at a high level. Supply chain managers usually have previous management experience.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics & PayScale

Traits of a Successful Supply Chain Manager

To be an effective supply chain manager, individuals must be able to effectively acquire, store, and move products and materials. They should also understand pricing and acquiring and selling goods at an effective price point. Supply chain managers must be able to analyze and negotiate to keep operating costs low. They must also manage workers in warehouses, production plants, and shipping fleets.

Supply chain management requires software, and managers must use computer tools to use each software correctly. Computer, leadership, communication, and analytical skills are necessary.

Supply chains are complex and sometimes the best decision isn't clear. Supply chain managers must be able to analyze a scenario and make a strategic decision.
Supply chains are composed of many moving parts, and a supply chain manager must evaluate each part of the system to ensure they're working toward a common goal. Supply chain managers determine if a system must be altered.
Supply chain managers must monitor each part of a supply chain to ensure efficiency. Better monitoring minimizes the chance of lost income. This skill includes monitoring employee productivity.

Salary by Experience Level

Prior to working as a supply chain manager, individuals must first gain business and management experience and then learn to manage complex supply chains. Experience is huge for employers, especially if an individual can demonstrate supply chain management experience. That's why many midcareer supply chain managers see a jump in their salary. Eventually, pay can plateau since supply chain managers can only do so much on their own. However, salaries for late-career supply chain managers are high.

Pay by Experience Level for Supply Chain Managers
Entry Level (0-12 Months) $65,000
Early Career (1-4 Years) $83,000
Midcareer (5-9 Years) $92,000
Experienced (10-19 Years) $93,000

Steps to Earning a Ph.D. in Supply Chain Management Online

Every accredited school is different, especially when it comes to distance education. An online Ph.D. in supply chain management might require full-time study at one institution while another could allow for more flexibility. Requirements, courses, outcomes, and expectations vary, but most universities follow a similar structure.

Find the Right Program for You

The program you choose will have a profound impact on your future career. Consider each school's curriculum, format, requirements, and online capabilities. Just because a program is online doesn't mean you can complete the entire degree remotely. Also, look at courses offered. Some schools allow students to choose their own courses to specialize their degree. Others maintain rigid curriculum structures. Research every school and find the perfect fit for your career goals.


Before applying, you need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a business-related field. Most online graduate schools also require GMAT and GRE scores. Once you gather your materials, you can complete an application in which you submit your college transcript(s), your test scores, your professional resume, and an application fee. Once started, applications should take less than an hour to complete.

Capstone, Dissertation, or Thesis

At the doctoral level, most programs require a capstone or dissertation. A capstone project gives students work-related experience by conducting a career-minded project. A dissertation is a long, written body of work that proves a student's academic expertise in a field. Remote supply chain management students should expect to complete a dissertation. This dissertation demonstrates an individual's knowledge of supply chains and any niche area they chose to study.

Fellowship or Internship

A fellowship or internship is sometimes required at the end of a doctoral degree. Fellowships focus on providing professional development while internships offer professional experience. Most supply chain management Ph.D. programs online require either an internship or neither. Supply chain managers need experience working with supply chains since they're often moving up from other analytic roles. However, many industries accept a doctoral degree as enough proof that an individual is qualified to manage supply chains.

Curriculum for an Online Ph.D. in Supply Chain Management

The specific skills learned and areas studied by online supply chain management Ph.D. students vary depending on their chosen specialization. Students must complete core classes which focus on optimization, market analysis, supply chain theories, and behavioral studies. Supply chain managers must be able to manage both supply chains and workers, so expect a blend of economic theory and management theory in the curriculum. Students receive individual research time in their final year to prepare for their dissertation.

  1. Microeconomics: Microeconomics is the study of economics applied to smaller markets, such as business. Students explore a constantly changing point of cost and production equilibrium through game theory. This type of microeconomics is math intensive and requires previous calculus experience.

  2. Data Mining: In this computer-intensive course, supply chain management students explore data mining, collecting data, data analysis, and storing data sets. This is typically taught through supply chain management software and tools to provide real-world experience. Data mining teaches important logistics skills.

  3. Business Ethics: Supply chain managers are in charge of workers at different levels of the organization. Whenever people are involved, ethical business decisions must be made. Some business ethics courses also stress environmental ethics, a growing area of concern for supply chain businesses looking to avoid government fines.

  4. Theory in Supply Chain Management: Supply chain management practices are based on various theories, the most important of which students cover. Students also learn to apply specific theories to hypothetical scenarios to maintain an effective supply chain. Each theory has practical applications in the professional world.

  5. Operations Analysis: Operations analysis seeks to make organizations better through more informed decision making. This course combines skills learned in other courses, such as economics and data analytics. Supply chain managers use operations analyses to reduce costs, increase output, and maximize efficiency within the supply chain.

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