Should I Get My Supply Chain MBA?

Is a Supply Chain MBA an indispensable ticket to punch?

Supply Chain MBA
Supply Chain MBA. Getty Images

California State University – Long Beach’s (CSULB) Master of Science (MS) in Supply Chain is a new program. CSULB’s first Supply Chain MS cohorts are in the midst of the program’s initial academic year.  You may ask: Why did CSULB spend five years developing a new Supply Chain MS program? And then you might follow by asking: Does that signal that a Supply Chain MS or MBA is becoming an indispensable ticket to punch on the way to a successful supply chain career?

I’m glad you asked.

CSULB’s graduate business school had a longstanding MBA program. As of 2015, they now offer their Supply Chain MS, which is a collaboration with their Economics Department. The predecessor to their Supply Chain MS program was a MA degree in Global Logistics. CSULB isn’t – obviously – the only university offering Supply Chain MS or Supply Chain MBA’s, but they are uniquely situated in the vortex of a supply chain tornado.

The Port of Long Beach, just up Ocean Boulevard, is the second busiest container port in the United States. The busiest container port in the United States is the Port of Los Angeles, which is a fifteen-minute drive from the CSULB campus. As a result, many of the students who enroll in the CSULB Supply Chain MS program have real world work experience with global freight providers and other logistics companies.

The CSULB MS student population is a mix of professionals coming from industry and students who have just completed their undergraduate studies, which is why it made sense for CSULB to invest five years of their time and resources into creating their Supply Chain MS program.

Global supply chains will continue to grow in complexity – as companies and organizations chase low-cost manufacturing locations and tax incentivized geographies.  And supply chains will continue to have a more and more significant impact on a company’s financial performance. As a result, logistics hubs like the Port of Long Beach will get busier.

And the demand for supply chain professionals and experts will not abate anytime soon.

Recently, I spoke with Dr. Sabine Reddy, Associate Professor of Management at the CSULB College of Business Administration and Director of the Supply Chain MS program, who outlined some of the basics of the program. One of the aspects of the program that I found appealing was that the twenty-four MS students are engaged in their studies as a cohort unit.

Full-time cohort students will complete their 30 units (10 classes) after about 15 months of study.  Students who are in the program while also maintaining their careers will finish in 24 months.  The program focuses on the nitty-gritty of supply chain (economics, analytics, logistics and transportation courses – for example), but also prepares students for real-world supply chain challenges with courses in global strategy, leadership, and project management.

Students in the program come from not only across industries but also from throughout the United States and international locations.  International students, upon acceptance, must enroll on a full-time basis.  Anyone interested in learning more about the CSULB Supply Chain MS program can click here to find out more about this advanced and highly demanded training in modern supply chain management practices, analysis methods, technology applications, and strategy development.

It’s a program that will potentially advance your career prospects while preparing you for lifelong learning in a global supply chain environment.

Okay, that said – on to the second question at the top. I.e. Does this signal that a Supply Chain MS or MBA is becoming an indispensable ticket to punch on the way to a successful supply chain career?

Since I don’t have a Supply Chain MBA under my belt, I want to say no. But the answer is probably yes.  What I have instead of that Supply Chain MBA are a few decades in the supply chain trenches of global Fortune 100 companies, small businesses, and startups. I have traveled to China, Vietnam and other low-cost manufacturing countries dozens upon dozens upon dozens of times.  If your resume includes that and you’ve been entrenched in the muck of a 3PL transition, battled over cost of goods, and negotiated countless supplier agreements – then maybe, just maybe, you don’t need your Supply Chain MBA.

  But, even still, you probably do.

The simple math of it is that a quick glance at LinkedIn or Monster and you can see that, oftentimes, hundreds of applicants will scramble for a single supply chain professional role. And the good people who screen applicants need a fast way to winnow down the applicant pool. If you’ve got your Supply Chain MBA and you’re applying for a supply chain or purchasing or operations or logistics or sourcing or another procurement role, you’ve got a better chance of getting past that first screener.

And, beyond the simple math, a Supply Chain MBA is going to give you a head start on what your daily (transactional, tactical and strategic) tasks are going to be. Your job – oversimplified, for sure – is going to be delivering to your customers (internal and external ones) what they want, when those internal and external customers want it, – and spend as little money getting that done as possible.

That means you’ll need to master demand planning, inventory control, on-time delivery, total cost of ownership, business analytics and cost of goods and margin analysis – on Day One. By Day Two, you’re going to need to know how to design, launch, execute, and manage a global strategic sourcing project.

Will an MBA in Supply Chain help you accomplish that? Only you can answer that. 

And if the answer is yes, then MBA and MS programs like the one at CSULB can get you there. At CSULB and schools like it, you can attend full time or part time and there is a focus on global strategy and leadership. And at CSULB, you’ll find yourself located just minutes from two of the busiest container port facilities in the United States.