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How to Start a Career as a Logistics and Operations Manager

A logistics and operations manager — also known as a logistics engineer, logistics officer or lead logistician — is a job that plays a vital role in practically all companies. Logisticians are in charge of managing supply chain processes efficiently and cost-effectively, and their duties are often diverse and complex.

All businesses wanting to remain competitive in this continually growing global marketplace will hire these professionals. If you’re the fast-paced type who is interested in a job with much responsibility and pressure, read this guide on how to start a career in operations management.

What Is a Logistics and Operations Manager?

The most basic task of a logistics and operations manager is to oversee a distribution facility and make sure everything is running smoothly. They make sure the right products leave the facility at the scheduled time, are in the correct quantity and are being shipped to the right destination in the most cost-effective way possible.

Responsibilities

The job description of a logistics and operations manager includes a variety of responsibilities. They must make sure that products arriving are stored correctly and that materials leaving the facility are in good condition. Many logistics engineers speak with transportation companies to negotiate rates and look over bills and customs documents. Sometimes problems will arise with customers, suppliers, transportation companies or workers, and the logistics and operations manager will be expected to investigate and resolve them.

They also are often responsible for overseeing several departments such as manufacturing, purchasing and warehousing. Depending on how large the company is, some logistics and operations managers also help to establish sales targets. They must ensure that their organization is conducting its business safely and that is it adhering to environmental regulations.

Although the duties of an operations logistics manager will vary depending on where they work and what product they specialize in, all managers will be involved in the following three areas:

  • Operations Management: Logistics and operations managers should be able to find the most efficient ways for people to do their jobs. They should also strive to improve processes and systems according to the mission of their organization.
  • Financial Management: They oversee many financial aspects of the facility such as planning and management and also arrange fiscal documents with the chief coordinating officer. They manage how certain measures such as budgeting and cost-cutting affect their organization’s cash flow.
  • Resource Management: Logistics and operations managers are also responsible for making the HR, finance and IT departments more effective and efficient by improving certain functions and communicating between business and support functions. They also should create a work environment where employees feel empowered, and teams can work more productively.

Logistics and operations managers should create a work environment where employees feel empowered, and teams can work more productively.

Some examples of specific duties logisticians may be assigned include:

  • Overseeing and directing logistics analysts
  • Assessing the performance of certain technologies such as GPS, RFIP (radio-frequency identification) and satellite linkup systems to make transportation more efficient
  • Devising extensive supply chains that are as cost-effective and environmentally friendly as possible
  • Auditing logistics activities like distribution, transportation and storage
  • Creating scenarios to predict the effects of changing certain conditions like fuel costs, energy taxes or road pricing
  • Determining whether logistical processes are effective
  • Creating designs for plant distribution centers
  • Establishing regulations for tools, equipment, factory layouts and more
  • Interviewing important staff members to learn about opportunities to improve efficiency or reduce costs
  • Looking over commitments in contracts or customer requirements to figure out support or logistics specifications
  • Developing rules and procedures to make processes more efficient
  • Determining the feasibility of adding new facilities or altering existing ones based on space, cost, technical specifications and more

Education

Although an associate’s degree can qualify you for some logistics manager positions, most companies prefer applicants to have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering, business or supply chain management. It is also generally preferred that candidates have worked a few years in logistics positions in warehouses or distribution centers before becoming a manager.

Associate’s degree programs teach skills such as supply chain management and customer service, and bachelor’s degree programs include classes in transportation systems, business and finance operations. Master’s degree programs focus on skills such as management, accounting and systems dynamics, and will probably require you to compose a thesis.

Completing a vocational logistics program in college is another way to obtain a position. You can even become professionally certified in the field by the American Society of Transportation and Logistics and other organizations.

Depending on whether you want to focus more on the technical side or business side, you have the choice of obtaining either a degree in operations management or business. During your career as a logistics engineer, you can take operations management classes online to make sure your skills are up-to-date.

At all levels of this industry, it is necessary to continue your education because the software is continually evolving and pressure to boost profits and reduce costs is always increasing.

It is common for people in logistics to come from the U.S. military. Logistics is a field of great importance to the military, so it is typically easy for veterans to obtain jobs as logistics engineers. Four years of service often provides them with enough experience for a mid-level position as a logistics engineer.

Logistics is a field of great importance to the military, so it is typically easy for veterans to obtain jobs as logistics engineers.

Certifications

You do not need to be licensed or certified to become a logistics manager, but if you wish you can become certified by the International Society of Logistics. Three certifications are available and must be obtained in the following order:

  1. Demonstrated Logistician Program
  2. Certified Master Logistician 
  3. Certified Professional Logistician

The first certification is given early in a manager’s career and is based on their professional development. The other two require the manager to pass a test.

Skills

Being a logistics manager requires a variety of skills. They must both have an eye for small details and be able to step back and see the big picture. They have to attend to smaller everyday issues and also larger issues like establishing goals. To achieve these things, a logistics manager must be organized and systematic.

Other skills required for the position are:

  • Interpersonal Skills: For operations to progress, you must be able to communicate well with a variety of people and state expectations clearly and diplomatically.
  • Leadership Skills: You must have the ability to direct, teach and motivate your team. This often requires leading by example.
  • A Command of Business Planning Software: This comes in handy for quickly making financial projections, expense budgets, loss statements and much more.
  • Delegating: Good operations managers know that they can’t do everything by themselves in an efficient way. They should delegate jobs they can’t do well to other workers.
  • Using Staff Appropriately: Managers should take the time to know their employees’ strengths and weaknesses so they can figure out which employee should be assigned each task.
  • Tracking Staff Performance: It is important for managers to track the productivity and work quality of each employee.

Industries

Because the role is so important to the prosperity of businesses, there are positions for logistics and operations managers in almost all industries. This includes retail, insurance, hospitality, healthcare and construction.

Some managers work for the government while others are employed in the logistical department of a company. Retailers that ship many goods daily also employ numerous logistics and operations managers.

Practically all companies can benefit from the skills of experienced logistics and operations managers. The military also hires managers to assist with moving large amounts of supplies and personnel — a task the requires much logistical experience to perform well and cost-effectively.

Location

There is no standard workplace for logistics and operations managers. Because so many industries rely on logistics, getting a job in this field could mean working in a variety of places. Some managers work in a factory and others may work remotely. For this reason, it is important to ask about the work environment when searching for jobs.

There is no standard workplace for logistics and operations managers. Because so many industries rely on logistics, getting a job in this field could mean working in a variety of places.

There is also a chance you could work abroad to visit customers or inspect supply chains, making this job a great opportunity to work with people around the world.

While many jobs require you to move to a specific area, a career in operations and logistics can be found anywhere. However, certain cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago are thought to be hotspots for logistics.

Entry Level Positions

People starting out in logistics often work in customer service management. Other entry-level positions include product inventory management and management of supplies required for manufacturing.

Advancement

Logistics managers wanting to advance to higher jobs and leadership positions often have a master’s degree in supply finance, business, industrial engineering or supply chain management. If you want to rise to become a chief coordinating officer, you will probably need to obtain an MBA or a Ph.D.

Many managers become members of professional associations to make connections that will help their careers.

Stepping Stone

Logistics is considered a good stepping stone to obtaining a career in international business. Many logisticians find that they end up gaining a lot of experience in international business.

Logistics and operations is a versatile career, and the skills you acquire as a manager can be used in other sectors and industries. They also make for an interesting and varied resume.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, logistics and operations managers are projected to grow by seven percent from 2016 to 2025. This is roughly the average growth rate for the majority of jobs. In 2016, 148,700 people had this job title, and it is estimated that 159,000 will have it in 2026.

This career field is not very visible and ambitious business people rarely give it the consideration it deserves. Highly-visible industries like marketing or finance draw more professionals, while logistics and operations careers get overlooked. Recruiters and employers continue to find it difficult to fill these vital positions. By 2018, 1.4 million logisticians are expected to be hired. This increase in job opportunities and the lack of interested candidates means that those who have the credentials will most likely land a job.

This career is considered relatively secure and is in high demand, so if you have the necessary credentials, there is a high chance you’ll be hired. The perks of the job are also desirable and often include a nice office and a generous expense account.

Although most logisticians have been male historically, more and more females are working in the field at all levels. Many work at or near the top at logistics companies.

Salary 

Back in 2002, logistics and operations managers earned an average salary of $53,000, and in 2017, they earned an average of $74,590. The best-paid logistics managers work for the federal government, where they earned an average of $84,200 in 2017. The city where logisticians are best paid is Bellingham, Washington, where they earn an average of $96,740.

The income of logistics and operations managers increases moderately as they gain more experience. Most managers transfer to higher-level jobs after being in the field for around 20 years.

The income of logistics and operations managers increases moderately as they gain more experience. Most managers transfer to higher-level jobs after being in the field for around 20 years.

To earn more as a logistics and operations manager, you’ll need to hone the following skills:

  • Logistics
  • Budget management
  • Project management
  • Production management

Hours

Most managers are full-time employees and work regular hours. However, sometimes managers will be required to work overtime in the evening or during the weekend when the company is especially busy or undergoing big changes.

Due to the crucial role that a logistics and operations manager plays, there is little flexibility when it comes to working hours or job sharing. On the plus side, jobs are typically permanent and there are often many opportunities for promotion.

Ranking

Logistics and operations manager came in number six on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Business Jobs and ranked 26 on its list of 100 Best Jobs. These rankings are based on criteria such as wages, stress level and job prospects.

A 2012 survey conducted by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals also revealed that 79% of logistics and operations managers were satisfied with their work.

Start Your Logistics and Operations Management Career

If you’re interested in getting the qualifications to become an operations manager, explore our Logistics and Operations Associate Degree at Vista College. Our classes are online and are great for those looking to elevate their career or switch to a new line of work.

Our classes are offered at an accelerated pace, meaning that you don’t have to wait long to graduate. You also don’t have to wait long to enroll, as our classes are offered every five weeks.

Our class sizes are also small. This high professor-to-student ratio allows for instruction to be personalized. Our courses also feature hands-on learning, which makes our education more effective.

We offer a variety of class schedules that are likely to meet your needs. This includes night classes to accommodate students with busy schedules during the day.

Even after you graduate, you’re not all on your own — we offer Lifetime Career Services assistance, where graduates searching for jobs can come for advice.

It is our mission at Vista College to help you find a rewarding career by providing excellent, in-depth career preparations. When you succeed, we succeed. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

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