Best Careers 2011: Logistician

Best Careers 2011: Logistician

Operaitons Management Logistics and Supply chainOperations Management Careers: Logistician

As one of the 50 Best Careers of 2011, this should have strong growth over the next decade

The rundown:

There’s an old saying in the military: Amateurs talk tactics; professionals talk logistics. It’s now true in business as well. Merchandise moves seamlessly—and speedily—between continents these days, and logisticians are the unsung heroes of global commerce. They’re the ones who manage the supply chain that includes all the raw materials that go into a finished product. They also oversee shipping and transportation, distribution to wholesalers or retailers, warehousing, and the just-in-time delivery that helps minimize costs and maximize productivity. Many of these jobs are in manufacturing or retail businesses, but logisticians are needed in virtually every field, including energy, communications, finance, information technology, and government. At top firms, the job involves way more than just making the trains run on time: One key advantage that has made Wal-Mart the world’s biggest retailer, for instance, is a superb logistical system that continually shaves costs and helps the company offer its famously low prices.

The outlook:

Logistics is a relatively narrow field, but with supply and distribution systems growing increasingly complex, job growth is likely to be higher than average. The Labor Department estimates that employment should increase by 20 percent between 2008 and 2018.


For college grads, typical entry-level pay is about $40,500, with median pay for all logisticians hitting about $68,000 in 2009. The top 10 percent of earners in this occupation pull in more than $104,500.

Upward mobility:

At most companies that move products around, logisticians are an essential part of operations, with responsibilities that directly affect the bottom line. That provides opportunities to ascend into middle and senior management, especially for those who find new ways to cut costs and improve efficiency. Some logisticians parlay their experience into a job with a consulting firm, or even start their own advisory or outsourcing firm.

Activity level:

High. Logisticians need to respond to problems fast, wherever they might occur. At businesses with an international footprint—which includes many companies these days, even small ones—they also need to sustain real-time communication with colleagues in many different time zones. In addition, there could be a fair amount of travel to places like Asia and Latin America, to check out possible new sources of raw materials or oversee manufacturing operations.

[See a list of the best operations management careers.]

Stress level:

Moderate to high. When things are humming, you might sleep soundly. But quality-control issues, delivery shortfalls, and other logistical problems can quickly mushroom into expensive snafus that set management’s hair on fire. You could be the one dousing the flames.

Education and preparation:

You’ll need to start with a bachelor’s degree in a field such as business, supply-chain management, process engineering, or industrial engineering. As logisticians rise into the management ranks, many get an M.B.A. or certification in various specialties. On-the-job experience counts for a lot, too, and logisticians should stay current on evolving technology like RFID tracking systems or new inventory-control software. Many logisticians also have a military background, since moving material under adverse conditions—a military specialty—is excellent training for the challenges of commerce.

Real advice from real people about landing a job as a logistician:

This job is often misunderstood, and people often don’t realize how comprehensive it is. Logisticians helped control the Gulf oil spill and are also integral to disaster relief efforts. “We tell everybody that logistics is not just supply-chain management, and it’s not just transportation. Logistics is everything. It’s embedded in every function from systems operation to design and support,” says Sarah James, executive director of SOLE — The International Society of Logistics.

Kimberly Palmer

Source:  US News

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