Employers of entry-level distribution workers generally look for a high school diploma or equivalent, and these workers typically complete on-the job training. Supervisors, distribution managers, and assistant managers typically need 1-2 years of work experience. They may begin as entry-level workers and be promoted from within.
Those interested in supervisory or management positions may want to consider 2- and 4-year degree programs, as distribution managers for large warehouses may be required to have a 4-year degree and several years of relevant work experience. Very few schools offer degree programs in distribution, but many offer related programs in logistics management and operations management. However, managers in smaller warehouses may only need a high school diploma or equivalent and experience.
Since most distribution managers work in warehouses with large equipment and boxes, companies usually look for workers who are physically fit and able to lift loads up to a certain weight. Employers also look for workers with strong team-building skills and may prefer bilingual managers.
Associate of Applied Science in Logistics
An AAS in Logistics provides prospective distribution managers an understanding of the factors that go into distributing a product. Students examine safety regulations, warehouse operations, and transportation options. Students may take courses in the following subjects:
Bachelor of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
This degree program may be offered as a concentration in a Bachelor of Business Administration program or as a unique degree. The degree prepares students for upper-level distribution jobs, such as global distribution managers. Coursework in a bachelor's degree program covers topics such as:
- Distribution systems
- Transportation options
- Supply chain management
Bachelor of Science in Business (Operations Management)
Although operations management degrees prepare students for jobs in quality assurance, logistics, and manufacturing, students also learn distribution fundamentals. Graduates can look for management positions in distribution centers, warehouses, and factories. Coursework includes business classes.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2015 that transportation, storage, and distribution managers earned a median salary of $86,630.
There are no licenses for distribution managers, but professional organizations for operations, logistics, and supply chain management offer voluntary certifications. Few employers of distribution managers require certification.
A voluntary certification called Certified Professional in Supply Chain Management is offered by the Association for Operations Management (APICS). Professionals who work in distribution and other areas related to supply chain management must take a test. Exam preparation is offered online and on campus from some vocational schools. Test takers can use study materials to prepare independently.
The American Society of Transportation and Logistics offers a transportation and logistics certification. Before registering for the certification exam, applicants must join the society, earn a 4-year degree, and accumulate three years of work experience.
Distribution managers interested in workshops and seminars can join professional organizations and attend webinars. Some community colleges and vocational schools offer 1- or 2-day seminars on distribution topics. Distribution managers who have earned certification must attend seminars and conferences in order to maintain their certified status.
Distribution managers can attend conferences on distribution and related topics, which are often sponsored by professional organizations, to network, and learn about new technologies. Managers can also stay up-to-date on current distribution news and resources by reading online articles and blogs on distribution management. Modern Distribution Management (www.mdm.com) has news stories, blogs, and webcasts for distribution professionals hoping to stay up to date on the industry.
Associate's and bachelor's degrees are the most common form of education for students to earn while pursuing a career in distribution. These degrees can improve your employability and lead you to management positions more easily, along with professional certification and many forms of continuing education to stay up to date on your skills.