Distribution management degrees and training programs may be offered under the titles of operations and supply management, logistics management, or supply chain management. Degrees may be earned at the associate, bachelor's and master's levels. Graduate certificates are also available. Many undergraduate programs include internship opportunities.
These programs are widely available at 2- and 4-year colleges, as well as online.
Associate Degree in Distribution Management
Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees in distribution management may also be titled logistics management or logistics technology. Highly technical information systems are used to manage orders and keep track of products as they progress through the supply network. Associate degree students will be given the basic knowledge and computer skills needed to operate these systems and manage the shipping, tracking and receiving goods. They can learn principles of customer service as well.
Most distribution or logistics management associate degree programs do not have prerequisites for admission beyond a high school diploma or GED. A few programs require minimum grades in core general education core courses in reading comprehension, English composition and math.
A number of programs include an introduction to computers as part of the required curriculum. Other common courses include:
- Transportation basics
- Marketing theories
- International trade
- Logistics and warehousing
- Management fundamentals
Bachelor's Degree in Distribution Management
According to O*Net, most careers in distribution management require a bachelor's degree (online.onetcenter.org). Such a degree can be in distribution management or in management with a logistics and distribution management concentration. The program explains the process and logistics of managing transportation and warehousing systems. A few programs have several lab courses. Nearly all programs have an internship or externship program to give students experience in the field.
Many bachelor's programs in distribution management have no special prerequisites. Some schools may require that students complete some foundational business courses in accounting and economics.
A distribution management program can include traditional courses and hands-on internship opportunities. Coursework found on the bachelor's level includes:
- Materials procurement
- Distribution in the supply chain
- Transportation management
- Project management
- Pricing strategies
- Business management and consulting
Master's Degree in Distribution Management
The field of distribution management is continually evolving and growing its use of technology. Master's programs tend to focus on using this technology to solve problems, control quality, plan productivity improvements, manage systems and much more. Students often work closely with faculty on research projects. The goal of the program is to prepare individuals for upper-level positions.
Master's degree programs require applicants to have a bachelor's degree, though the major does not always need to be in distribution or business. However, the program may have business prerequisites that students will need to complete before entering. Those with a business bachelor's degree may be able to use their undergraduate credits to waive some or all of these prerequisites.
Programs require 30 to 33 hours of graduate credit. The exact courses taken will vary by school; some schools offer a greater amount of customization through electives. Required courses may include:
- Corporate financial tools
- Managerial statistics
- Human resources management
- Quality management
- Supply network collaboration
Popular Career Options
An associate degree is generally sufficient to gain an entry level job in distribution. Jobs at this level include:
- Transportation sales representative
- Purchasing assistant
- Inventory control specialist
- Logistics account representative
Those with a master's degree in distribution or supply chain management are prepared to move into higher-level management roles and executive positions. Potential jobs include:
- Vice-president of purchasing
- Chief operations officer
- Distribution consultant
- Supply chain design
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that the number of jobs for both transportation, storage and distribution managers and logisticians will both grow from 2019-2029 by 4%. The BLS reported that logisticians made a median salary of $76,270 in May 2020. Transportation, storage and distribution managers made a median salary of $96,390.
There are several options for continuing education once one has an associate degree in logistics or distribution management. Graduates can continue on in school to earn a bachelor's degree in the field. They can also join a professional association such as the Association for Operations Management and take their course to earn certification as a Certified Production and Inventory Management (CPIM).
Another potential certification for the associate graduate is the Professional Designation in Logistics and Supply Chain Management (PLS) from the American Society of Transportation and Logistics. It is designed as an entry-level certification.
In addition to pursuing a master's degree in the field of distribution and logistics, graduates seeking advancement may choose to join the American Society of Transportation and Logistics. The organization offers two certifications for those in distribution management: the Professional Designation in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and the Certification in Transportation and Logistics (CTL). The association offers exam preparation for both certifications.
Private management training companies also offer training programs. These companies often offer the programs through employers for employee training. This training can be provided through seminars or via computer software.
Transportation and distribution management training and education can come in the form of an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree program. Graduates often progress into careers as purchasing assistants and distribution consultants, among others.