Distribution Supervisor: Education and Career Roadmap

Aug 17, 2018

Research the requirements to become a distribution supervisor. Learn about the job description, and explore the step-by-step process to start a career in distribution management. View article »

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Distribution Supervisor Overview

Distribution supervisors typically coordinate the transition of products from warehouses or other storage locations to destinations like retail stores. They may also be called warehouse supervisors or shipping managers. Typical job duties include selecting and training warehouse personnel, coordinating deliveries, preparing budgets and issuing work orders. Distribution supervisors must be able to communicate well and build relationships, in addition to staying organized and solving problems. This occupation can be physically demanding, and supervising unmotivated workers can be challenging.

Degree Level Associate's degree is standard; however, some positions may require a bachelor's degree
Degree Field Business, logistics or related degrees may be preferred
Experience Varies from one year to several years of industry experience; sometimes a few years of previous supervisory experience are needed
Key Skills Ability to communicate well and build relationships, stay organized and solve problems
Salary $51,061 (Median salary from July 2015 for distribution supervisors)

Sources: Job postings (July 2012), PayScale.com, O*NET Online

Let's look at the education and other requirements to become a distribution supervisor.

Step 1: Gain Experience

One way to get experience is to work as a laborer (typically a freight, stock or material mover in a warehouse or distribution center). This job involves physically moving materials from one place to another and keeping track of where items are in the facility. Shipping, receiving and traffic clerks also work in a warehouse environment, as do order fillers, stock clerks and truck operators. Laborers usually don't need to meet any particular educational qualifications, but employees in other warehouse positions are generally required to hold a high school diploma.

Success Tip

  • Get help with tuition. Some employers of warehouse personnel have tuition assistance programs to help employees pay for college. Aspiring supervisors can take advantage of these programs to get education that will help them advance in their careers.

Step 2: Earn a Degree

Although not all distribution supervisors need postsecondary education, many positions require an associate's degree or at least some college coursework in business administration, logistics or supply chain management. In some cases, a bachelor's degree is preferred. For those who are able to work or attend school part-time, this step may be completed in conjunction with the first step. For those who would like to focus on their studies exclusively, full-time programs are available as well.

Step 3: Get Supervisory Experience

Some higher-level distribution supervisor jobs require previous supervisory experience in addition to - or in lieu of - general warehouse experience. A job as a warehouse lead or lead warehouse associate, for example, can help future distribution supervisors get the introductory experience they need to advance.

In summary, distribution supervisors typically need both warehouse laborer and entry-level warehouse supervisory experience. Additionally, some employers prefer candidates with postsecondary education, such as an associate's or bachelor's degree in business administration, logistics or supply chain management.

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