As with any career, continuing education is a critical element for success. Obtaining certifications, certificates, degrees, licenses, and other credentials increase your knowledge and add evidence to your skills. This is especially true for Supply Chain because of the constantly changing nature of supply chains, whether you are in planning, sourcing/purchasing, production/manufacturing/operations, or logistics/distribution.
Supply Chain Certifications, Certificates, and Other Credentials: What’s the Difference?
Note that certifications, certificates, degrees, licenses, and badges are all different forms of credentials. Although the word credential is not often used in job descriptions, it is the generic word for the wide range of ways you can earn recognition for what you learn. Generally, degrees take the most time and work as you take courses to earn that type of credential. Certifications and licenses are the next highest, typically requiring a level of study and testing, plus often on-the-job experience, then continued evidence of continuing education to maintain them. Don’t confuse certifications with certificates because they do not mean the same thing. Certificates may be granted for something as short as a few hours of a course or training, but they may also be quite rigorous, requiring a level of work that may be similar to certifications. Just make sure you know their level of acceptance in industry and what level of work and expense is required to both obtain them and maintain your credentials.
What Credentials Do for Your Career
Obtaining supply chain credentials enables you to advance your expertise and grow your professional skills. As a result, earning a supply chain credential can increase your eligibility for moving into different areas of SCM and increase your earning potential. Many employers leave it up to employees as to whether they get certifications; however, some employer’s job descriptions require or prefer that candidates for management or specialty roles have professional certifications.
Pursuing supply chain credentials shows that you are willing to go above and beyond in order to give your career more momentum. It shows that you have a long-term commitment to your field, making you more marketable to a potential employer. And, continuing education offers rewards by honing your skills and keeping you on the cutting edge of what’s new. These are beneficial if you want to be a high-performer in your field.
Credentials are also important if you are just getting into an SC career. Credentials can indicate your aptitude and understanding of different scenarios, which you will encounter consistently in your career, showing that you can properly analyze, adapt, and expand on the basics of SC.
There are many roles in SC and multiple relevant certifications for these roles. In this article, we want to discuss some of the most important certificates in supply chain management, the specific roles the certificates address, and any prerequisites.
The Growing Need for Supply Chain Credentials
There are many more options now than in the past for obtaining credentials. Not only is there a large and growing market for job seekers and currently employed workers to add to their knowledge and skill sets through gaining credentials, but also the market is growing as an alternative to undergraduate and graduate higher education degrees.
The article “Educational Credentials Come of Age” by Sean R. Gallagher, Ed.D. from Northeastern University cites several factors causing the growth of micro-credentials in post-secondary education such as a tight job market, a shortage of talent, an increase in online learning, and the rise of college costs. Outside of the educational aspect of obtaining credentials, employers have a need for talent that possesses the most current skillsets, with the most aptitude, a desire for continual learning, and an ability to pivot quickly as market conditions shifts (reference: “The Growing Importance of Non-Degree Credentials”).
Many employers are transitioning their focus from specific undergraduate degrees to specific job skills and work experience for certain professions. As a result, many colleges are including micro-credentials in their curricula for individual fields of study. (Micro-credentials are mini-qualifications that demonstrate skills, knowledge, and/or experience.) This need has also increased the market for professional associations to offer targeted programs that sharpen skill sets and expand knowledge in specific supply chain disciplines.
In the supply chain industry, organizations such as the following offer certificates and certification programs for disciplines within supply chain like logistics, procurement, contract management, and warehousing:
This is not a comprehensive list and does not dive into the many technology-focused credentials that are valuable for specific software, platforms, tools and technologies. There are various certificates, certifications, licenses, etc. that enable individuals to become drivers of specific vehicles and equipment, or to demonstrate their knowledge of enterprise-wide or individual software platforms, or to show their proficiency to be better installers or maintainers of integrated supply chain hardware/software systems. If you think something needs to be included in the next generation of this article, let us know!
Certifications in Supply Chain Management
This certification is offered through the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM, previously APICS) and is recognized as the standard of professional competence in procurement and inventory management. Employers rely on CPIM designees to maximize their return on investment and increase customer satisfaction. This certification increases your comprehension of your company’s operations through a deep understanding of production planning, materials management, master scheduling, forecasting and production as well as how operations apply to the extended supply chain. This focus is on internal business issues within your company.
Prerequisites: There is no experience or degree requirement for earning a CPIM, making it good to pursue if you’re new to logistics and supply chain management.
The APICS CSCP certification program helps you demonstrate your knowledge and organizational skills for developing more streamlined operations. This is an upper-level certification for more experienced supply chain professionals as compared to the CPIM designation. This program teaches how to manage an end-to-end global supply chain. Designees develop skills to effectively coordinate suppliers, plants, distributors, and customers located anywhere in the world. The focus is on issues that are external to your company.
Topics covered in three modules include:
- Supply chain strategy and design
- Supply chain planning and execution, including procurement and managing reverse logistics
- Supply chain improvement and best practices, including analytics and sustainable best practices
Prerequisites: Candidates must have at least one of the following in order to pursue a CSCP:
- Three years of related business experience
- A bachelor’s degree or equivalent level of study
- CPIM or one of several other industry designations
The International Society of Logistics (SOLE) provides this program whereby you can earn the Certified Professional Logistician credential. Logistics are an important aspect of supply chain management including government, defense, commerce, and education. This is an upper-level certification. The exam for this certification is separated into four different sections that are spread out over eight hours. The questions are multiple-choice.
Prerequisites: To be eligible for the CPL exam, you must have one of these qualifications:
- Nine years of experience teaching or practicing logistics as well as two years of experience in two or more areas of logistics
- A bachelor’s degree and five years of relevant experience
- A master’s degree and four years of relevant experience
- A doctoral degree and three years of relevant experience
CIPS is a UK headquartered organization (with a US presence) that promotes itself as the premier global organization serving the procurement and supply profession. CIPS offers a certification in Procurement and Supply Operations that provides the skills employers are looking for. If you are new to procurement and supply or if you are wanting to develop your existing skills, you can benefit from obtaining these certificates. The certification is offered in different levels:
You can earn the CPSM certification from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) to validate your supply management expertise. This designation is designed to teach how to apply supply management principles across various industries. You get a comprehensive understanding of end-to-end supply management, the challenges and opportunities, as it crosses the following disciplines:
- Category management
- Legal and contractual
- Supplier relationship management
- Cost and price management
- Financial analysis
- Supply chain strategy
- Sales and operations planning
- Quality management
- Leadership and business acumen
- Systems capability and technology
- Risk and compliance
Prerequisites: The CPSM requires the following:
- Three years of full-time, professional supply management experience (non-clerical and nonsupport) with a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or international equivalent, or
- Five years of full-time, professional supply management experience (non-clerical and nonsupport) without a qualified bachelor’s degree
This certification is also offered through ISM. As demographics continue to change, organizations increasingly need experts to implement and/or oversee their supplier diversity programs. A certificate in supplier diversity makes you an expert in identifying opportunities and challenges that arise to make intelligent supplier diversity decisions.
Prerequisites: To qualify for this credential, you must have a bachelor’s degree and three years of experience in supplier management or five years of relevant professional experience.
APICS offers the CLTD certification that shows you possess an in-depth understanding of the best strategies for streamlining logistics, transportation, and distribution. Activities like warehouse management, inventory tracking and ordering are covered in this certification.
Prerequisites: To be eligible to take the CLTD exam, you must have:
- 3 years of related business experience or
- Bachelor’s degree or
- Have one or more of these certifications active or in good standing:
- CSM or CPSM designation
The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) offers the SCPro certification, which contains three levels that are designed to evaluate your skills and knowledge of supply chain procedures. This certification validates your ability to analyze case studies, identify an organization’s challenges, develop improvements for supply chain activities, and implement a project plan that achieves strategic results.
Prerequisites: Each level of this certification process has specific eligibility requirements and an exam:
- SCPro Level One – To qualify for the Level One exam, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree or four years of professional experience in supply chain management. You are given four hours to complete the exam, which consists of 160 multiple-choice questions divided across eight sections.
- SCPro Level Two – In order to sit for the Level Two exam, you must have your Level One certification as well as either a bachelor’s degree and three years of relevant professional experience or seven years of experience in supply chain management. You are given a business case in this test and asked to create a case study analysis in essay format. You have four hours to complete the exam.
- SCPro Level Three – After earning the Level One and Level Two certifications, as well as either a bachelor’s degree and five years of relevant professional experience or nine years of experience in supply chain management, you can complete Level Three of the SCPro certification process. Instead of a traditional exam, this level requires you to apply your knowledge in a practical way by performing an analysis of an actual organization and developing a project plan that enables the company to address their issues and generate real results. You are paired with an academic advisor during this level who guides you through the process. Then your efforts are assessed by a panel of experts in supply chain management.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) offer the Project Management Professional designation, considered to be one of the most prominent project manager certifications in the industry. The exam is 200 questions.
- Bachelor’s degree, three years of experience leading projects and either a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) or 35 hours of training in project management
- At least a high school diploma, five years of experience leading projects and either a CAPM or 35 hours of training in project management
The International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA) offers three different certification programs:
Certifications through the Institute of Business Forecasting and Planning (IBF)
The IBF is a membership organization that provides premier full-service demand planning, forecasting, business analytics, sales & operations planning (S&OP), and integrated business planning (IBP). The two certification programs they offer are 1) Certified Professional Forecaster (CPF) Certification and 2) Advanced Certified Professional Forecaster (ACPF) Certification.
Other Related Supply Chain Certifications
There are other related credentials that can enhance the skills you use in performing supply chain activities. These tend to be cross-functional and can be applied to all types of businesses and processes. Here are a few:
Six Sigma – Six Sigma focusses on quality output (the final product) through finding and eliminating the causes of defects. Certification includes first-hand experience beyond training alone and is for the ranks of Green Belts and Black Belts, while certificates may be earned by White Belts, Yellow Belts, Green Belts, and Black Belts.
Lean Manufacturing – Lean is a philosophy of Continuous Improvement, focusing on increasing customer value, the elimination of waste and optimizing operations. The key components of Lean can be applied to all types of businesses and processes.
Process Improvement – Process Improvement is the proactive task of identifying, analyzing, and improving upon existing business processes within an organization for optimization and to meet new quotas or standards of quality.
Kaizen – Kaizen improves business as a whole by creating a standard way of working by increasing efficiency and eliminating business waste.
Supply Chain Management Roles and Certifications
This section organizes the certifications according to SCM roles.
Logistics, Transportation, and Distribution
Planning and Inventory Management
Procurement and Supply
Supply Chain Management
Business Forecasting and Planning