The process of supply chain management (SCM) involves many components, including the negotiating, sourcing, leveraging, networking, monitoring, channeling and shipping of raw materials or assembled products. An online associate's degree program in supply chain management covers these complex steps and prepares graduates for entry-level work in the field. The goal of these programs is to train students to maintain a reliable yet flexible infrastructure of business-to-business networks in order to create a consistent profit.
Distance learning associate's degree programs in supply chain management are often found at community colleges. They typically take about two years to complete and could be offered totally online or in a hybrid format requiring some campus-based or on-site participation. Students need to be comfortable using virtual learning platforms like Blackboard or WebCT. Below are some common characteristics of an SCM associate's degree program.
Campus-based and online programs in this field of study are designed to require the same coursework. Students must take general education classes along with their studies in SCM. Programs focus on teaching students how to effectively manage the supply chain. This includes legal issues in the field, the function of distribution facilities, industrial safety concerns, inventory methods and supervisory skills. Other courses typically required in an SCM associate's program include the following:
- Business administration and law
- Business management
- Information systems
Online Learning Considerations
As with any online program, students must have a great deal of self-discipline, as well as a familiarity with electronic course portals, such as Blackboard or WebCT. Students use virtual learning tools, including e-mail and video or audio technology and software. They log on to an online classroom through their school's Web site to access lecture materials, assignments and interact with instructors or classmates.
Online learning offers flexibility and convenience, but on-campus programs may offer more educational options, such as earning an industry-relevant certificate along with the degree. Students should keep in mind that even those associate's programs with completely online coursework may still require on-site practicums in order to gain supervised experience in SCM. These are held at real companies directly involved in industry.
The supply chain management field is growing in importance as businesses are expanding globally to promote their products. Employers are looking for responsible, technology-savvy individuals to add a competitive edge to their teams. Graduates may find jobs as operations, import and export, receiving or shipping clerks. The following career skills emphasize the kinds of job tasks that are associated with supply chain management teams:
- Administering business-to-business operations
- Distribution planning
- Configuring supply chain
- Managing global operations
- Fulfilling and returning orders
- Servicing customers
An associate's degree program in supply chain management can be earned fully online, but students may need to complete some on-site activities. Through online lectures, assignments and class discussions, students can gain the logistics education necessary for an entry-level job.