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When it comes to degrees, a Master’s in operations and supply chain management isn’t flashy or ostentatious, but it’s one of the more important fields of the global age. The world’s economies are inextricably linked, sending supplies, manufactured goods, resources, and other products around the world 24 hours a day. Making all of those systems work together is the purview of operations and supply chain management, the quiet puppet master of the global economy. Below is our list of the best online Master’s programs in Operations and Supply Chain Management, all intended to help you achieve your career goals.
What makes supply chain management so powerful is that it transcends so much. “The interdisciplinary role of supply chain management spans logistics, distribution, purchasing, manufacturing, inventory management, marketing, and product development. It involves diverse skills and knowledge, along with multicultural and global perspectives,” notes North Carolina State University. People in the field work for myriad companies, including “air cargo, parcel delivery, warehousing, distribution, transportation, manufacturing, and large-scale retailers,” says Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Think about that in the Amazon age—without incredibly knowledgeable people and machines working behind the scenes, a pillar of global commerce simply couldn’t exist. “Supply Chain Management has become an essential skill set for managing global enterprises involving the strategic flow of goods and services for meeting customers’ needs,” correctly notes the University of Hartford. It takes the kind of knowhow taught by the universities in our ten best online Master’s programs in operations and supply chain management to make all of that possible. And it’s not like the phenomenon shows any signs of slowing down; the world will only continue to grow more dependent on these vast networks as time passes, which makes a career in operations and supply chain management look like a good bet—and thus a Master’s in the field a smart investment.
Some statistics bear that out. Consulting company Logistics Bureau recently referenced a 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey that showed businesses with optimal supply chains experience 15% lower supply chain costs, have less than 50% of the inventory holdings, and boast cash-to-cash cycles at least three times faster than companies with non-optimized supply chains. That biz-speak translates to, “Companies with efficient supply chains do a lot better than ones lacking them.” However, only 22% of companies take an active approach to their supply chain network’s design, per the Logistics Bureau. Studying operations and supply chain management includes a lot of supply chain analysis, with many programs basing their instruction on real-world examples. In some cases, like North Carolina State, students partner with real companies to solve actual issues they’re experiencing.
When it comes to operations and supply chain management, real-world experience goes a long way, and the schools in our top ten work to include some form of it in their curriculum, whether it’s working with partner companies, investigating case studies, or having students present research projects based on real-world issues. They don’t have to travel far to find them. As Seb Heese, a professor of supply chain management at NC State puts it, “Operations and supply chain management are the core of everything in business.”
See Also: 10 Best Master’s in Industrial Engineering
COMMON APPLICATION AND ADMISSION QUESTIONS
The programs in our list are based online—though a few offer classes on their respective campuses or a hybrid of both—so students can do their coursework on their schedules while juggling personal and professional obligations. Online education typically works in an asynchronous format, meaning students watch lecture videos, study, and complete their coursework when it’s convenient to them, though instructors will give deadlines for assignments and exams. Many universities offer operations and supply chain management as a specialization within a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Those tend to have more relaxed admission requirements, as MBA programs are designed to be friendly to working professionals. Applicants won’t necessarily need to have an undergraduate degree in business or professional experience; they may not even need to take the GRE or GMAT. Usually the minimum for any program is a bachelor’s degree (often with a 3.0 GPA or better on a 4.0 scale), transcripts for all university coursework, and a resume.
That said, they may expect students to have a baseline knowledge in subjects like accounting, statistics, and management, which may necessitate some foundation courses that won’t count toward Master’s credit. Some schools also require a personal statement or essay, which usually involves talking about your academic and professional background as well what you hope to achieve with the degree. They may also require personal and professional letters of reference as well as an interview with an administrator.
The universities that award a Master of Science in operations and supply chain management tend to make applicants clear a higher bar. That can mean a specific type of undergraduate degree, a minimum amount of professional experience, or at the very least the completion of foundation courses. For example, the University of South Dakota’s program requires 54 credit hours, which seems like a lot until you realize 18 of those come from foundation courses that can be waived if you’ve completed similar classes. Others are less flexible, like North Carolina State, which requires two years of post-bachelor’s professional experience. That’s the most stringent of programs in our top ten, though, and most of the others are more approachable. Many of them are designed to be part-time, so they take two to three years to complete, though they can usually be completed in about a year and a half of full-time study.
Business schools that offer operations and supply chain management as part of an MBA often vie for accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Any school that has it is usually eager to share that only 5% of business schools earn the accreditation, which is a years-long process. For students, it means the university has to meet certain standards and high-level practices, so it’s basically a mark of quality assurance. Something else you may find as you research these programs is language about where the university is authorized to operate. It’s a highly regulated industry, and universities must have the permission of states to offer instruction there. So if you live in Ohio but want to do Indiana University’s MS in global supply chain management, IU needs the state of Ohio’s authorization to do that. So double check that any program you’re interested in is legally allowed to work with you.
One other wrinkle with online education: some schools require exams to be proctored, which means a disinterested third party must supervise you during one. This service is often offered at libraries and schools, so check the National College Testing Association for accredited testing centers nationwide.
WHAT ABOUT FINANCIAL AID & SCHOLARSHIPS?
What about them? You need them. We tabulate the average cost per academic year for each university on our list, using the school’s tuition as a base and factoring in financial aid opportunities. Our top ten has a spread from a low of $11,931 (Indiana University) to a high of $39,036 (Kettering University). It averages out to $20,188, with a median of $16,396. Generally speaking, online programs tend to be cheaper than their on-campus counterparts, which is one of their selling points, aside from convenience. Tuition rates may still differ for in-state and out-of-state students at public universities, however, even though all online students are distance learners to some degree.
When it comes to funding your education, the first place to start is your employer (if you have one). Many companies reimburse or partially reimburse employees for continuing education related to work. The second thing to do is fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid from the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid program. For a preview of what aid you may qualify for, use the site’s FAFSA4caster. The entire Federal Student Aid website is really useful, as it breaks down the various types of aid available to students (including a comprehensive overview of who gets aid), and, importantly, a section called Avoiding Scams. That brings us to one of the most obvious forms of financial aid: student loans. The Federal Student Aid website has a whole section on how to repay loans, with a handy Repayment Estimator and tons of useful information (including, again, a section called Avoiding Loan Scams). Thanks to bad headlines and political attention, there are a lot more tools to avoid the sort of predatory student loans that have crippled people financially, so make sure to do the research.
The other most obvious forms of financial aid? Scholarships and grants. Scholarships tend to be based on merit, grants on need, and there tend to be fewer of both for graduate studies. The first place to start is whatever university you select. It will likely offer its own scholarships and grants, maybe some even specific to your program. The University of Wisconsin in Platteville, for example, links to three available scholarships on its operations and supply chain management page, including two geared toward distance learners. The University of Alabama in Huntsville has a great grid for exploring financial aid, from a “cost of attendance” calculator to links to scholarships, fellowships, loans, veterans’ programs, and even summer financial aid. Not every university will be so helpful, but they all at least have financial aid offices that will work with you to figure out how to pay for your education—it’s in their interest to do so. Beyond the university, check what scholarships your state offers, as well as private industry. Because operations and supply chain management is so specific, and every company works with it to some degree, there may be scholarships geared toward people working in that field.
There are numerous scholarship-information aggregators online, and a good place to start, as always, is the Federal Student Aid website, which links out to scholarship sites and offers more information on how scholarships work. Speaking of the government, veterans and active-duty military will want to research the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which provides funds for college studies. Finally, because these are distance-learning programs, chances are students won’t have opportunities to work as teaching or research assistants, but they may still qualify for Federal Work-Study, which provides part-time work related to their field of study.
HOW MUCH CAN I MAKE WITH A MASTER’S IN OPERATIONS AND SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT?
Operations and supply chain management contains multitudes. That makes a big, round number difficult to come by, and pay naturally varies by title and experience level. Kettering University offers some insight on its program page, with VP-level managers making $163,140, distribution and logistics managers $94,335, supply chain managers $81,569, and purchasing managers $72,665. The best place to look for salary and job data is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks just about everything.
The BLS data for logisticians—who “analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain”—finds a median salary of $74,800, with 174,900 total jobs in the U.S. The BLS expects the number of jobs to grow at a rate of 5% through 2028, so another 8,400 logisticians positions will be added in the coming decade. That’s about average for all occupations in the U.S. BLS data also shows some significant variations in the number of logisticians jobs and their salaries by location. California employs the most of them on the state level, though the New York/Newark/Jersey City metropolitan area has the most jobs (8,020). Rhode Island offers the highest average salary at the state level ($105,730), and the Lake Charles, LA, metropolitan area—located on the Calcasieu Ship Channel and home to numerous petrochemical plants—pays the most: $114,060. The BLS also has data for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents, who make a median salary of $67,600. However, the BLS estimates the industry will lose 29,200 jobs by 2028, due to “increased automation and outsourcing of some procurement tasks.”
Another related area: operations research analysts, who make a median salary of $83,390 according to the BLS. The outlook for them is much rosier, with job growth expected to be a staggering 26% through 2028, for a total of 137,800 such jobs in the U.S. As it stands right now, most of those jobs are in California and Texas, though the highest paying ones tend to be in Washington, D.C. ($109,400 on average). The future also looks bright for management analysts, who make a median salary of $83,610. The field is expected to grow by 14% through 2028, for a total of 994,600 jobs in the U.S. alone. California and Virginia have the most of those jobs, and they pay higher than the median, $95,310 and $105,700, respectively. All of this is a long way of saying that operations and supply chain management affords myriad employment possibilities, and with generally strong growth expectations for the coming decade. A degree from one of our ten best online master’s programs in operations and supply chain management will only help your chances of finding a good, well-paying job.
OUR RANKING CRITERIA
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Check out our ranking of the ten best online Master’s programs in operations and supply chain management!
#1. KETTERING UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
Kettering University in Flint, MI, began 100 years ago as the School of Automobile Trades to train engineers and management personnel for the nascent auto industry. The school was so closely aligned with that industry that it even renamed itself the General Motors Institute a few years after its founding. GM hasn’t owned it since 1982, and these days the university makes STEM education a pillar of its mission. Maybe that’s why it’s supply chain management degree is a Master of Science—if nothing else, moving products around the world is a science. Kettering’s Master’s is a 40-credit program of ten courses, comprising seven core classes and three electives. Those last three provide a graduate certificate in global leadership, operations management, healthcare management, or supply chain management (level one or two). The curriculum provides “a foundation to the field, insight into logistics, the importance of the customer relationship and how to manage it,” per Kettering’s website. The core coursework bears out that mission, with classes like Foundations of Supply Chain Management, Supply Chain Logistics, Procurement and Risk Management (suggestion: a screening of Captain Phillips to understand the shipping risk), Collaboration in Supply Chain Management, and others. The core coursework ends with a capstone in Supply Chain Planning, where students either analyze a supply chain to suggest ways to streamline it, or write an “in-depth response” to a supply chain challenge from a current or past workplace.
As mentioned, students complete another trio of classes for their graduate certificate, though there is some overlap with the core coursework. Supply Chain Management Level 2 includes Procurement and Risk Management, for example—and students opting for this certificate will find another supply-chain capstone project waiting for them. Courses last six or eight weeks, and Kettering strives to make its online learning program go beyond the meat-and-potatoes approach of recorded lecture videos and group chats. Kettering faculty create “focused learning modules” with specialized accompanying materials to take what the school calls a “seminar approach” to learning. The school also makes admission simple: prospective students need only an undergraduate degree with a 3.0 GPA or better, resume, and transcripts. No statement of purpose or professional references required. Kettering boasts about its program’s affordability, but at $39,036, it’s the most expensive in our top ten and nearly double the average cost of programs on our list. That said, the program is designed for working professionals, with maximum flexibility so that students can work at their own pace with the same support on-campus students receive, including an advisor who works with them from enrollment through graduation.
#2. INDIANA UNIVERSITY–BLOOMINGTON
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
Indiana University in Bloomington has been around for 200 years, but its devotion to online learning keeps the school au courant. U.S. News and World Report ranks it No. 1 in Best Online Graduate Business Programs (Excluding MBA). Through the Kelley Direct platform offered by IU’s Kelley School of Business, students work in teams “in real time and around the world” on actual business cases to get experience. The university’s Master of Science in supply chain management is a 30-hour degree that can be completed in as little as 15 months (or in a maximum of three years). Through the curriculum, IU says students will understand material sourcing, distribution and inventory management, operations management, accounting, and the supply chain. The coursework consists of ten classes, four of them focused on specific aspects of supply chain management: sourcing, distribution and inventory management, enterprise operations and planning, and project management and process analysis. The coursework includes a variety of management classes on topics like finance, strategic marketing, and supply chains. There’s even one called Sustainable Operations, which “examines sustainability from an operations perspective, and studies related strategies and tools.”
A sample plan of study from IU suggests taking two courses per session (fall, winter, spring, and summer)—each lasting 12 weeks—then finishing with two courses the following fall. Everything is conducted via Canvas, one of the more popular platforms for online learning, where students find course materials, turn in assignments, talk to instructors, and communicate with fellow students. IU doesn’t throw students into the deep end with Canvas, either, giving them several opportunities to familiarize themselves with it and take a short orientation course. Should something go wrong, IU has a responsive tech-support team. To get into the program, the Kelley School of Business requires transcripts (no minimum undergraduate GPA or major is specified), a personal statement, resume, personal/professional recommendations, GMAT or GRE scores, and an interview. Applicants with at least five years of full-time professional experience are eligible to apply for a GMAT/GRE waiver, a process IU describes as “competitive,” noting people with at least ten years of experience are the most likely to get one of the few waivers granted by the university. Once they’ve applied, prospective students typically find out if they’ve been accepted within three weeks.
At $11,931 per academic year, the cost of IU’s MS degree is significantly lower than the average and median price for the ten best online master’s programs in operations and supply chain management. Once enrolled, students are assigned a career coach to guide them throughout their time at IU, from assisting with course selection to career planning for what comes after graduation.
#3. EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN LOGISTICS AND SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
With “Aeronautical” right there in its name, Embry-Riddle’s history as an aviation and aerospace school is plain. The association works for the university’s Master of Science in logistics and supply chain management; Embry-Riddle’s founders recognized early on the business potential that accompanied the aviation boom. Nearly 100 years since the university’s founding, planes remain a critical piece of logistics and supply chains. As the website for Embry-Riddle’s MS program notes, the world economy “is sustained by global logistics and supply chain management,” and demand for people who can make sense of that complex network will only increase. Embry-Riddle’s online Master’s in logistics and supply chain management—ranked No. 59 by U.S. News and World Report for Best Online Graduate Business Programs (Excluding MBA)—is a 30-credit-hour program of eight core courses and two electives. All but two of the core classes have some version of the word “management” in them—Transportation Management, Purchasing for Logistics and Supply Chain Managers, Management Science, etc.—but there’s also Information Analytics, Visualization in Decision Making and Production, and Procurement in the Aviation and Aerospace Industry (Embry-Riddle’s forte).
The core coursework concludes with a capstone in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, which includes a comprehensive exam to test how much knowledge students have retained. Electives include courses like Operations Research, Business Research Methods, and the 19-syllable Philosophy, Principles, and Practices of Management of Quality. Once they’ve completed their studies, students will be prepared to apply for a number of certifications, according to the university: Certified Supply Chain Professional (from the Association of Operations Management), Certified Professional Logistics (from the International Society of Logistics), and Certified Professional in Supply Management (from the Institute for Supply Management). The school notes its program prepares students for management positions in “government, military, and the private sector,” three worlds with close ties to Embry-Riddle. Those close ties help students who are veterans or active military, as the school offers discounted rates to them and operates at 90 military installations around the world. The university’s history as an aviation and aerospace school perhaps informs its fairly stringent admission requirements. It’s less interested in flowery stuff like statements of purpose and professional references, and more interested in the skill set of applicants.
All prospective students are required to have prerequisite knowledge in management, accounting methods, finance, quantitative methods, economics, and marketing. That knowledge can be validated via transcripts of undergraduate or graduate coursework, test scores from CLEP, DSST, or PEP exams, or completion of Embry-Riddle’s Business Foundations introductory course. When it comes to cost per academic year, Embry-Riddle comes in a little below average, at $18,922, and about $2,000 more than the median cost of programs in our top ten.
#4. UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND GLOBAL CAMPUS
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN MANAGEMENT – ACQUISITION AND SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT SPECIALIZATION
Until the summer of 2019, the University of Maryland Global Campus went by the more awkward name University of Maryland University College, a moniker so perplexing it had to be explained near the top of the school’s Wikipedia page. Short version: It comes from pedantic British nomenclature that makes sense only to people in academia, though “University College” sounds like a shirt Bluto would wear in Animal House. At any rate, “Global Campus” more accurately reflects the University of Maryland’s mission, and it sounds way cooler too. The school offers a Master of Science in management with a specialization in acquisition and supply chain management. It’s a 36-credit program “designed for mid-career professionals”—though newbies are also welcome—looking to “build a foundation in the strategic and operational aspects of the end-to-end supply chain and procurement functions.” Perhaps the most interesting part of the program is that the curriculum draws from projects “sponsored by real clients” and case studies from actual supply-chain management issues. In the past, students have studied an actual collaborative supply chain from a candy company, and they’ve used simulations to serve analyze problems in chains. The list goes on, and the thinking is that real-world curriculum translates into real-world know-how after graduation.
Speaking of the real world, the master’s coursework readies graduates to take certification exams from the American Production and Inventory Control Society, Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act, and National Contract Management Association. The coursework is divided among core and specialization courses, with a zero-credit introductory course getting the ball rolling (Orientation to Graduate Studies at UMGC). There are only three core courses: Organizational Theory and Behavior (six credits), Financial Decision Making for Managers (three), and Statistics for Managerial Decision Making (three).
The seven specialization courses get into the nitty-gritty, from Purchasing and Materials Management to Integrative Supply Chain Management to Contemporary Logistics. It all leads up to a three-credit Strategic Management capstone where students investigate “how strategy interacts with and guides an organization within its internal and external environments.” The lengthy course description explains how much deeper it goes than that, but the capstone mixes case studies and course material with what students have learned in the program. What kind of stuff should they know before they enter the program? UMGC recommends they have “strong writing and analytical skills” with a background in statistics, finance, and accounting. Those who lack that stuff can take a trio of introductory courses—Introduction to Research Methods, Introduction to Accounting & Financial Management, and Effective Graduate Writing—to get up to speed. Beyond that, prospective students need the usual stuff like an undergraduate degree and transcripts, but no GRE or GMAT is required. Plan to spend $13,672, which is the second cheapest option among our ten best online master’s programs in operations and supply chain management.
#5. LEHIGH UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION – OPERATIONS AND SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT SPECIALIZATION
Bethlehem, PA, was once synonymous with manufacturing. At the peak of its 146-year run, Bethlehem Steel was a giant of American industry, and the city was also home to the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which was a force during its heyday. The man who made it a success, Asa Packer, used his wealth to found Lehigh University. Shuttling coal on trains around the country in the 19th century required supply-chain logistics, so it makes sense that, 150 years later, Packer’s university offers an MBA with a concentration in supply-chain management. Lehigh brands its program the “FLEX MBA,” emphasizing its flexibility for working professionals. The 36-credit program features 21 credits of core classes—such as Financial Reporting for Managers & Investors, Managing Information, and Basic Statistics for Business & Industry—and 15 of electives. Twelve hours of those electives come from the concentration, beginning with three required courses: Demand and Supply Chain Planning, Strategic Supply Management, and Transportation and Logistics Management.
The concentration work concludes with one more course from a selection of four options: Negotiation, Applied Supply Chain Models, Business Analytics for Decision Making, and Special Topics. Degree work concludes with an intense capstone course that involves “a simulation, case presentations, and [a] cross core project.” The average time to complete the whole program, per the university, is 42 months, but ranges from 24-72. Coursework is delivered online via a couple of methods: ClassroomLIVE (synchronous, real-time lectures as they happen) and Classroom Online (streaming video of recorded lectures). All classes in the core curriculum are available via ClassroomLIVE, and a “limited number” of electives are available via Classroom Online. Lehigh says that students can choose one platform exclusively, or mix and match them. While the coursework for the MBA can be completed online, all students must attend a “fun and informative” weekend orientation in Bethlehem at the beginning to meet their fellow students and participate in a case-study collaboration. Getting into the MBA program requires the usual stuff: transcripts; resume; GMAT/GRE scores (some may qualify for a waiver); letters of recommendation; and an essay summarizing your career objectives, work experience, and “leadership experience and skills.”
Beyond that, prospective students will need prerequisite business knowledge in financial accounting, statistics, and principles of economics, along with a statement of computer literacy. However, Lehigh notes in big capital letters that “prerequisites DO NOT NEED TO BE COMPLETED” prior to enrolling in the MBA; the university has several courses that will bring students up to speed. Waivers in computer literacy can be granted after a review of an applicant’s resume and transcript. If all of this sounds interesting but you’re not sold, Lehigh periodically offers MBA “test drives” of the program and ClassroomLIVE technology, so prospective students can get an idea of what’s in store before committing. And it is a commitment in more ways than one: Lehigh’s program costs $26,782 per academic year, the third most expensive in our top ten.
#6. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH DAKOTA
MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION – OPERATIONS AND SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT SPECIALIZATION
The University of South Dakota lies in Vermillion, less than ten miles north of the Missouri River and the Nebraska border. Weatherspark.com helpfully notes that the temperature “rarely” drops below -6 degrees, so in other words, distance learning is a great option (even though USD has a lovely campus). U.S. News and World Report ranks it No. 73 for Best Online MBA Programs and No. 39 for Best Online MBA Programs for Veterans. Offered as a specialization within the MBA from the Beacom School of Business—which has that sought-after AACSB accreditation—USD’s operations and supply chain management program “includes the study of network relationship integration, quality and process improvement methods, and project management with the goal of maximizing the effective use of a firm’s resources.” Students may learn elements of Lean Management and Six Sigma to stay appropriately on trend. The degree requires 36-54 credit hours of coursework, which seems like a massive spread, but 18 of those hours are “foundation courses”—Foundations of Accounting, Foundations of Finance, etc.—that can be waived if students have completed similar coursework already (like an undergrad business degree).
The foundation courses here are a little different from their undergraduate counterparts, though, as they cram everything in a shorter amount of time and are taught slightly differently. If students have done some of the prerequisite courses, they’ll work with an advisor to create an individualized study plan. They can also take challenge exams to see if they test out of the prerequisites. Minus the foundation courses, the actual degree coursework amounts to 36 credit hours, with 27 coming from core classes and nine from the supply-chain specialization. The core courses provide the broad knowledge expected of an MBA, with topics like managerial finance, accounting, marketing, and economics, along with stuff like Quantitative Analysis and Operations Management. The specialization has one required class, Supply Chain Management, then students select two courses from a list of five for the remaining credits—among them are the aforementioned Lean Management and Quality and Six Sigma Management.
There’s also a Topics in Business option “devoted to a particular issue in a specified field” that features guest lecturers or experts as instructors, though that requires approval by a program coordinator. Admission to Beacom’s online MBA requires an undergrad degree with a minimum 2.7 GPA, transcripts, GMAT scores (applicants can apply for waivers), three letters of recommendation (at least one needs to be professional), a statement of purpose, and resume. When it comes to cost, USD comes in at $17,354, a little above the median cost for the ten best online master’s programs in operations and supply chain management.
#7. UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN–PLATTEVILLE
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN INTEGRATED SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
Where some universities offer supply chain management as a concentration within another degree, the University of Wisconsin in Platteville not only awards an MS in integrated supply chain management, but it also offers six areas of emphasis within it: analysis (find ways to improve the supply chain), customer relationship management (keeping and attracting customers), logistics (moving and storing goods), management (leadership theory and communication), operations (a design POV to production and manufacturing), and purchasing (understanding all aspects of procurement). Platteville itself has history with supply chain management, as the city owes its existence to a mining boom in the early 19th century. In fact, increasing population in the area led to the founding of the Normal School in 1866 to train teachers, the first such institution in the young state.
That school eventually became the University of Wisconsin–Platteville, so the issues at the heart of the university’s MS in integrated supply chain management go back to the city’s founding more than 150 years ago. The program requires 30-33 graduate credits, beginning with two foundational courses, International Supply Chain Management and Supply Chain Management. Nine core courses remain, which includes course credits for thesis research, a seminar paper, and a capstone in Integrated Supply Chain Management. Other courses include Organizational Change Leadership: Theory and Practice, Purchasing Management, and Supply Chain Logistics. The program can be completed in as little as two years.
Coursework is completed via the Canvas platform, and UW-Platteville offers a sample course in it so prospective students can get a sense of how it works (along with additional information on academic programs and admission). Speaking of admission, UW-Platteville’s MS has more rigorous admission standards than an MBA. The university requires either a bachelor’s degree—with a minimum 2.75 GPA—in a related field (business administration, industrial technology management, industrial engineering, etc.), though other undergrad degrees are okay if students can “demonstrate extensive experience in one of the areas of emphasis.”
That said, applicants who can’t do that may still get in through “the comprehensive review process.” The good news? No GRE or GMAT, personal statement, or letters of recommendation are required. The university offers program start dates in the spring, summer, and fall, so prospective students have several opportunities during the year to begin their studies. The program’s website also helpfully links to three potential scholarships (two for distance learners, one for science) available to students earning their MS in integrated supply chain management. Financial aid is always welcome, even at a reasonably priced school like UW-Platteville, whose program costs $14,158 per academic year—the third cheapest option in our top ten.
#8. UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA IN HUNTSVILLE
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN SUPPLY CHAIN AND LOGISTICS MANAGEMENT
Huntsville, AL, has long been a technological hub, thanks to its history with the space program—it’s the home of Space Camp, after all—and missile development, along with a more recent push into biotech. That carries over to the University of Alabama campus in the city, including its supply chain and logistics program. As noted on its website, the Army Materiel Command, NASA, and other defense and space organizations have partnered with the UA-Huntsville for its supply chain and logistics expertise. It’s “Why MS-SCLM at UAH?” even reads like a pitch for consulting services from the university than a list of reasons students should study there: “Because we… conduct analyses necessary for designing management systems that fulfill an organization’s supply chain strategy,” reads one.
That said, the 30-credit-hour program is designed for working professionals and can be completed in 22 months of part-time study (or 12 months full-time). All of it is completed online, without any on-campus meetings or exams. UAH offers start times in the spring, summer, and fall, so students don’t have to wait for long to begin their studies once they’re accepted. Speaking of acceptance, UAH keeps its simple, requiring a bachelor’s degree in any field, but with a “demonstration of competency in statistics.” It doesn’t specify how that’s demonstrated, though it’s presumably via undergraduate coursework or make-up classes before/at the start of graduate work.
The university also requires the GMAT (the GRE is accepted), and although it doesn’t specify a minimum score, the 2018 class averaged 535. Waivers are available for people who have another master’s degree or five years of professional work experience—the most recent average among students is 7.85 years—and a 3.0 undergrad GPA. Applicants with “exceptional” test scores and undergrad GPAs are automatically considered for the Graduate Student Fellowship Scholarship, which can pay up to 30% of their tuition. If prospective applicants are unsure about their viability, UAH College of Business Graduate Programs offers a free candidacy assessment; all they need to do is email their unofficial transcripts. Once accepted, students will take nine required courses like Decision Modeling, Quantitative Methods, and Supply Chain Management Systems, along with a capstone course involving a team-based practicum project that applies what students have learned to real-world problems. The tenth class is an elective (the university recommends Contract Pricing & Cost Analysis), though students who vie for the optional thesis skip that. Go-getters who want to take the thesis route need to declare their intention before completing 12 hours of graduate study. And before starting any graduate study, they’ll need $15,437, below the average and median tuition costs for the schools on our list.
#9. NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION – SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT EMPHASIS
NC State is based in Raleigh, NC, one-third of the state’s tech-heavy “Research Triangle” that includes Durham and Chapel Hill. As the university’s website notes, the area’s big employers—IBM, Cisco Systems, and GlaxoSmithKline among them—are some of the biggest hirers of NC State graduates. Online students can get a feel for the area when they come to Raleigh for the two mandatory on-campus “residencies” they complete during the program. Each lasts three days, and students complete the first one during their first semester and the second prior to graduation. Why force distance learners to make the trek? The residencies aim “to provide important lessons on non-verbal communication, presentation, and networking skills,” though active-duty military can waive the requirement and take another elective.
NC State offers supply chain management as one of five emphasis areas within its 40-credit online MBA program. Students take six credit hours of coursework in supply chain management, though they can dive deeper into it via the nine credit hours of electives. Among the supply-chain courses: Supply Management, Analytical Supply Chain Management, Strategic Operations Management, and Planning and Control Systems. Core coursework accounts for 19 hours, with subjects divided into three areas: finance and markets, analyzing the value chain, and managing the organization. At a more macro level, the university describes the core curriculum as focusing on technology, business processes, and practical applications, all expressed via a mix of coursework, simulations, and team projects. All of the coursework builds to a practicum taken during the final term, where students work in teams to address an issue from a real partner company from the Supply Chain Resource Consortium. Students complete their coursework via WolfWare, the university’s online learning platform that incorporates popular learning tools like Moodle and Blackboard Collaborate, along with non-proprietary stuff like streaming video and discussion boards.
NC State describes the process as asynchronous with synchronous elements, meaning students complete their studies at a time convenient to them, but within deadlines set by an instructor. The university also helpfully notes that students should expect to spend two to three hours working for every hour spent “in the virtual classroom.” Unique to NC State is the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative, an “industry-university partnership” that connects “students, thought leaders, and industry professionals to create a full circle of impact, innovation, and real-world solutions.” The SCRC offers a way for companies to tap into the university’s resources, and students to get experience before they enter the workforce. The organization has a big annual event called the SCRC Gallery Walk, which attracts representatives of 20 supply-chain companies to hear research presentations from students based on their practicums and other projects.
“Regular interaction with real-world companies is key,” notes the program’s website, adding that students meet with company reps, conduct mock interviews, and give presentations as part of that interaction. Getting into the program requires a bachelor’s degree with an undergraduate statistics course (though one can be taken via NC State prior to graduate studies), as well as two years of full-time professional employment post-undergrad. Online students don’t have to take the GMAT or GRE, though. The program also requires $14,771, well below the average for the ten best online master’s programs in operations and supply chain management.
#10. UNIVERSITY OF HARTFORD
MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION – SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT CONCENTRATION
Despite its municipal name, the University of Hartford is a private university with a fairly short history by university standards—it began as a commuter school after World War II to accommodate veterans taking advantage of the G.I. Bill. Considering its hometown is a manufacturing center—it was home to conglomerate United Technologies for decades—the school’s supply chain management program feels especially appropriate. UHart’s AACSB-accredited Barney School of Business offers supply chain management as one of nine possible specializations within its Master of Business Administration. Where other MBA programs expect students to have some background in business, the core of UHart’s program is created for those who don’t.
The program is open to professionals from a number of fields, all of whom can push their careers forward with the help of an MBA. UHart’s MBA is meant “to provide a broad exposure to the knowledge, skills, and values needed by successful managers,” and management is emphasized in the MBA’s core curriculum. The school even offers free, self-paced educational modules in statistics, accounting, and finance so enrolled students can do any necessary catch-up work for their MBA studies. Prior to beginning those, students need only have a “working knowledge” of computers, word-processing software, and spreadsheets. Well, to apply, they’ll also need transcripts of undergraduate studies, GMAT scores (waivers are available in “extraordinary circumstances”), a letter of intent, and a resume. No one factor determines an applicant’s viability for admission, as the university takes all of that together and the motivation expressed in their letter of intent, so make sure your letter is enthusiastic.
Because UHart is private, it’s pricey—$29,819, the second most expensive option on our list, and far above the average and median costs for similar programs on our list. But students who have the money and earn acceptance to the university will find a 12-course 36-credit program that takes two years of part-time work to complete. The curriculum is built around nine required courses and three electives, which is where the supply chain management specialization happens. Core courses include a lot of MBA studies like Managerial Statistics and Analytics, Organizational Leadership, Global Strategic Management, Managing Organizational Processes, and Accounting for Decision Makers. All of the program’s supply chain management coursework comes from three electives: Bargaining and Negotiations, Supply Chain Management, and Logistics and Supply Chain Engineering. Interestingly, the courses are open to students from the Barney School and the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture, so course instructors come from both colleges. Coursework concludes with a capstone integrating “functional approaches and environment issues by having students make strategic business decisions.” UHart students use the Blackboard learning platform for their online coursework, though the university also offers the courses on campus for students who live in the Hartford area.
OTHER NOTABLE PROGRAMS
#11. Georgia College and State University
Location: Milledgeville, GA
Degree: Master of Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Net Price: $20,478
#12. University of Texas–Dallas
Degree: Master of Science in Supply Chain Management
Net Price: $9,989
#13. Michigan State University
Location: East Lansing, MI
Degree: Master of Science in Supply Chain Management
Net Price: $16,227
#14. Arkansas State University
Location: Jonesboro, AR
Degree: Master of Business Administration – Supply Chain Management Concentration
Net Price: $13,459
#15. Portland State University
Location: Portland, OR
Degree: Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management
Net Price: $13,758
#16. Fontbonne University
Location: St. Louis
Degree: Master of Science in Supply Chain Management
Net Price: $21,861
#17. University of Washington
Degree: Master of Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics
Net Price: $9,765
#18. University of Wisconsin–Whitewater
Location: Whitewater, WI
Degree: Master of Business Administration – Supply Chain Management Concentration
Net Price: $12,094
#19. Rutgers University
Location: New Brunswick, NJ
Degree: Master of Science in Supply Chain Management
Net Price: $16,295
#20. Golden Gate University
Location: San Francisco
Degree: Master of Business Administration – Global Supply Chain Management Certificate
Net Price: $15,840