Updated December 2022
Supply chain management is a vast field. Think about the process a single piece of clothing or technology goes through, from point of origin to your local store shelf.
There are raw materials to source, a manufacturing process, warehousing, distribution, global transportation logistics, and local delivery networks.
At each stage, there are contracts to be made, negotiations, problem-solving, costs to manage, orders to track, and clients to update.
Supply chain management is a highly complex, global industry with many areas of specialization and potential career paths.
The good news? Demand is very strong in this field right now.
Supply chain management is a trillion-dollar industry that grows larger every year. Companies need skilled workers in a wide variety of roles, to run daily operations, reduce costs, and improve supply chain efficiency.
So, what are your supply chain career options if you’re new to the field and looking for entry-level positions?
These are eight supply chain careers you can start with a diploma in supply chain management. Compare jobs, explore training, and learn how to get started.
Supply Chain career #1: Procurement Agent
A procurement agent is responsible for obtaining the materials a company needs to manufacture its goods or provide its services.
The core objective of this role? To raise company profits by making the most high-quality and cost-effective purchases.
The procurement agent must ensure their employer has the raw materials and components necessary to meet client demand. To do that, they need to find the best suppliers, negotiate smart deals, and verify materials will arrive on time.
Typical responsibilities in this role include:
☑️ Analyze client needs and develop a procurement plan
☑️ Establish and manage supplier relationships
☑️ Select the most competitive vendors
☑️ Negotiate payment terms
☑️ Make contracts with suppliers
☑️ Prepare contract documents
☑️ Purchase required goods and materials
☑️ Prepare cost reports
☑️ Resolve any contract issues that arise
☑️ Track supply trends and deal with materials shortages
Supply Chain career #2: Purchasing Clerk
Purchasing sounds a lot like procurement, but it’s a different role within the supply chain industry. Purchasing clerks deal specifically with payment transactions, inventory, and records management.
They collect materials requests from different company departments and help process purchase orders for those supplies.
Purchasing clerk is an entry-level role that usually reports directly to a purchasing supervisor, buyer, or procurement specialist.
Typical responsibilities include:
☑️ Receive and process materials requests from all departments
☑️ Process payment transactions and forward receipts
☑️ Update inventory lists
☑️ Maintain purchase order records
☑️ Perform clerical/administrative tasks
Supply Chain career #3: Retail Buyer
This is another supply chain job that involves purchasing items. But in this case, the retail buyer isn’t purchasing raw materials or parts for the company to make products. Instead, she’s buying goods for direct re-sale to customers.
For example, the retail buyer works for a fashion brand and selects the clothing they will put on store racks each season.
Many buyers have a specialty, like shoes, clothes, sporting equipment, or medical supplies.
This is an extremely important position because the decisions the buyer makes can have a huge impact on company revenue. She needs to carefully track consumer trends and make sure the products she purchases will sell well in stores.
Typical responsibilities for this role include:
☑️ Analyze consumer trends to determine which products to buy
☑️ Do research and identify which vendors offer the best price
☑️ Build strong and trusting relationships with suppliers to ensure reliable, cost-effective deliveries
☑️ Verify the quality of goods before purchasing
☑️ Watch the market for new products and materials which could help reduce costs
☑️ Keep an eye on foreign exchange rates that could impact profitability
Supply Chain career #4: Supply Chain Coordinator
Supply chain coordinator is a wide-reaching role, responsible for almost every task we’ve covered so far. This position oversees the entire supply chain for a company. The Supply chain coordinator handles procurement, inventory management, shipping logistics, and client follow-up.
In most cases, they manage staff that helps carry out these functions, such as procurement agents, buyers, and purchasing clerks. Most supply chain coordinator jobs require several years of experience, so you won’t start out in this position straight after college.
However, not all employers require a university degree for this role. Your supply chain management diploma combined with proven experience can help you move into management.
Typical responsibilities for a supply chain coordinator include:
☑️ Oversee the buying of goods and services on behalf of the company or specific clients
☑️ Coordinate inbound and outbound orders
☑️ Organize the most efficient and cost-effective transportation carriers
☑️ Source vendors and negotiate contracts
☑️ Ensure the quality of purchased goods
☑️ Keep clients updated
☑️ Work with the sales team to forecast supply demand
☑️ Maintain adequate inventory
☑️ Analyze statistical data
☑️ Recommend strategies to optimize the supply chain and save costs
☑️ Prepare performance/management reports
Supply Chain career #5: Materials Handler
As the title suggests, materials handler is a hands-on warehousing position. This is an entry-level supply chain job that involves pulling and restocking goods and keeping the warehouse organized.
When an order comes through, it’s the materials handler who locates the item and prepares it for shipping. When a delivery arrives, the materials handler processes it and stores it in the correct place.
These procedures include several key steps and responsibilities:
☑️ Load and unload delivery trucks (often using special vehicles)
☑️ Document materials and supplies by recording units delivered and location of units
☑️ Verify supply codes and lot numbers
☑️ Store raw materials and other components in their proper places
☑️ Direct incoming goods to the correct section of the warehouse or manufacturing plant
☑️ Coordinate with the planning department on shipment and production schedules
☑️ Prepare stock for shipment by identifying, pulling, packing, crating, loading, and securing the product
☑️ Ensure incoming and outgoing shipments are accurate and undamaged
☑️ Inspect and maintain material-handling equipment
☑️ Assist with inventory checks
This is a job you can get straight out of supply chain management training. It's an excellent way to observe and understand the supply chain process and gain the experience needed to move into supervisor positions.
Supply Chain career #6: Shipping and Receiving Supervisor
After learning the ropes as a materials handler, you might want to tackle the role of shipping and receiving supervisor. A shipping and receiving supervisor manages the workers responsible for handling incoming and outgoing orders.
They set the shipping priorities, assign tasks, develop shipping procedures, determine storage space requirements, and supervise daily operations.
Shipping and receiving supervisors have the following responsibilities:
☑️ Supervise, train, and schedule warehouse employees
☑️ Optimize warehousing procedures to lower operating costs and improve shipping efficiency
☑️ Organize warehouse to optimize use of space
☑️ Plan and coordinate merchandise shelving and storage
☑️ Use software to track, check, prioritize and route orders
☑️ Organize drivers’ routes and schedules
☑️ Coordinate quality control inspections of incoming and outgoing products
☑️ Manage all important documents such as advanced shipping notice, pick slips, and bills of lading
☑️ Evaluate employee performance
Shipping and receiving supervisor jobs come in all shapes and sizes. In small companies, you might oversee just a few other workers. In a larger company, you might be in charge of 50 employees and hundreds of incoming and outgoing shipments each month.
Required qualifications range from just a year or two of related experience to 10+ years of proven expertise. Depending on the company, you can qualify for this role with a supply chain management diploma plus one to two years of work experience.
Supply Chain career #7: Warehouse Supervisor
The warehouse supervisor is responsible for everything that goes on in the warehouse—including staff, security, equipment maintenance, employee safety, inventory, and supplies.
This is a key role because warehousing procedures and efficiency have a direct impact on shipping, receiving, order fulfillment, and client satisfaction.
Warehouse supervisors handle the following tasks:
☑️ Optimize warehousing, shipping, and distribution procedures
☑️ Prepare budgets and financial reports
☑️ Recruit, hire, and train warehouse employees
☑️ Track and control inventory
☑️ Maintain documentation and keep accurate records of warehouse activities
☑️ Implement security measures to protect warehouse contents and operations
☑️ Maintain condition of the warehouse by organizing repairs and ordering new equipment
☑️ Protect workers by implementing occupational health and safety programs and ensuring compliance with safety legislation
Supply Chain career #8: Logistics Clerk
Logistic clerks handle the paperwork and clerical duties involved in shipping products. They work in offices and warehouses, recording and organizing incoming and outgoing deliveries.
If a manager wants to know where a shipment is, or the contents of a particular order, she will ask the logistics clerk.
This is an administrative role that typically involves the following responsibilities:
☑️ Maintain paper and electronic files on all orders
☑️ Track orders
☑️ Check for quality
☑️ Answer billing questions
☑️ Update the inventory database
☑️ Receive and process orders from the sales team
☑️ Coordinate deliveries
☑️ Choose delivery transportation methods based on size, cost, and when the items are needed
☑️ Resolve issues with carriers
ESSENTIAL Skills for All Supply Chain careers
Looking at these eight supply chain careers, it’s easy to see how the roles depend on each other and in some cases, overlap.
Every stage of the supply process relies on the next—one broken link can disrupt the entire chain.
This is an industry where teamwork and communication are king. To succeed in any supply chain management job, you need to possess:
☑️ Excellent communication and “people” skills
☑️ Ability to work well with others
☑️ Strong attention to detail
☑️ Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
☑️ Grace under pressure, ability to move and think quickly
☑️ Good customer service skills
☑️ Desire for continuous improvement, driven, hard-working
☑️ Effective computer skills, willing to learn new software
☑️ Fundamental understanding of supply chain processes, challenges, and opportunities
Get Your Supply Chain Management Career Started
Ready to take the next step and learn more about supply chain management training? You don’t need a university degree to get your career off the ground.
At Herzing College, we offer an accelerated 12-month supply chain management program that includes a six-week internship. This training is available both on campus and online.
The supply chain management program is taught by highly experienced professionals and focuses on the practical skills and knowledge required for entry-level jobs.
Herzing’s program is endorsed by Supply Chain Canada (SCC). Graduates get both a diploma from Herzing and a nationally-recognized Supply Chain Management Training (SMT) diploma from the SCC.
Click below to explore the program and chat live with an admissions advisor. We're here to help!