A recent article by Supply Chain Dive, a publication specializing in news and trends related to the supply chain industry, reported that the "supply chain median salary is 24% higher than the national median," has high job satisfaction and a low gender pay gap. A few of our Saunders College of Business professors weighed in on these statistics and gave their thoughts on supply chain management (SCM).

Zhi Tang, Ph.D., Global Supply Chain Management (GSCM) Program Director and Professor of International Business Management. His areas of expertise include emerging markets and entrepreneurship. 

Steven Carnovale, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management, has an educational background in the industry and is co-founder of the Logistics Management Index (LMI). LMI is a database designed to provide current supply chain measurements as well as predictions.

Q: ​The article by Supply Chain Dive talked about salary, can we expect continued salary growth in the industry? How has SCM been able to grow in the past years, and how do you predict it will change in the future?

Dr. Tang: GSCM positions have been growing due to the integration of online and offline businesses. We certainly expect this trend will grow. Trade wars and conflicts between the U.S. and the rest of the world, including China and the European Union, have significantly increased GSCM professionals' demands; on top of COVID-19 concerns. However, universities' capacity to produce GSCM graduates is reduced by the measures that universities have to adapt to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. This will further increase the appeal of this degree.

Dr. Carnovale: I expect that you will see continued growth in the field, writ large, as the need for efficient purchasing, production, distribution and related services will only continue to grow. Before the pandemic, what was driving the need/demand for SCM professionals was the growth in e-commerce and global sourcing proclivity. Now that we have seen how vital resilience is in a supply chain, the need for talented professionals will only continue.

Q: The Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) released a survey of 2,467 U.S. Supply Chain professionals and found that 88% of respondents say they have a positive career outlook and job satisfaction. As a professional in the industry, would you agree with this analysis? Why do you think the majority of supply chain workers have this mindset?

Dr. Tang: I agree with this assessment. Even though COVID-19 will pass and trade wars or conflicts may end, the online-offline business model will not subside. For example, WalMart+ is planning to launch soon to complete with Amazon Prime. With people shopping online more often, there is more effort to provide and ship products to customers. This industry will only continue to grow.

Dr. Carnovale: SCM is not like other fields where the trajectory is diagonal. Take finance, for example. Typically, after graduation, one starts as an analyst, then a senior analyst, then vice president of finance, with the ultimate goal of becoming a chief financial officer (CFO). SCM is different in that one can bounce around between production, logistics, operations, sourcing, etc. There is usually a 'zig-zag' path to the professionals' ultimate goal. People tend to be able to explore their options and interests more comprehensively throughout their careers.

Q: The article also claims that "Prior to the pandemic, there were six job openings in the supply chain industry for every qualified person available." How do you think the pandemic has affected the industry? Will there be a change in job availability? What can aspiring professionals do to make themselves desirable for these positions?

Dr. Tang: Professionals need to acquire a few essential skills to be desirable: global sourcing and procurement (no nation in the world has a market big enough to supply everything on its own), data analytics and database management (they are essential to handle the labor, product/service, information, and cash flows of a global supply chain), managerial skills, and of course, supply chain and operation knowledge.

Dr. Carnovale: I suspect that the need for the talent will still be there, but given the financial impact that the pandemic had on the economy (or, better yet, may still have on the economy) it is hard to say whether the companies who were previously expanding will continue to do so. I suspect that there will be industries like freight and the like, which will continue to grow in need and demand. 

Q: The last main point of the article has to do with the wage gap. It claims that "There is no gap between genders for employees under 30. But female supply chain professionals age 30 to 39 have a median salary that is 93% the size of their male counterparts." The gap is described as "narrowing." In addition, 37% of the total supply chain workforce is female. How do you think the supply chain industry, in general, has handled the wage gap and female inclusion compared to other industries?

Dr. Carnovale: Traditionally, the industry and the field overall were predominantly male. Fortunately, this is starting to shift as more women are being trained in SCM in programs like ours at Saunders College of Business and see that it is a fantastic career. Another benefit is that more and more female professors are teaching in SCM, which I suspect also helps.

Saunders College of Business offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in supply chain management. These degrees provide a solid foundation in business strategy and have the resources of a technical school.

Contact Matthew Cornwell, Assistant Director of Student Services and Outreach, for questions about the program.