7 Things You Need to Know About a Career in Logistics
A career in logistics—what does that even mean? You might have a basic understanding of what this field is about, but you definitely want to know more about a career in logistics before you start making any big plans for your future. You’re in the right place for that. In this article, we’ll give you a quick rundown of what logisticians do and what you can expect from a career in this crucial field.
Let’s start with the basics. Logisticians are in charge of managing a business or organization’s supply chain—their work falls under the broader umbrella of supply chain management (SCM). Typical job duties include developing relationships with suppliers, ensuring all materials are transported on time, understanding customer needs and finding ways to minimize the cost of moving goods and materials. But that’s just scratching the surface—if this sounds like the type of work that would interest you, read on for additional insight.
What you should know about a career in logistics
Logistics and supply chain careers are often-overlooked by the public—so let’s dig in to what you may have missed so far in your career search.
1. Logistics is a BIG business
Logistics is not a field that many people are regularly thinking of. But the fact of the matter is, it's an industry that plays a HUGE role in our economy. 18.1 billion tons of goods worth about $19.2 trillion moved on our nation’s transportation network in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.1 By 2045, total freight is projected to reach 27 billion tons while the value is expected to grow to $38 trillion, showing the sheer magnitude of this important, yet often overlooked, industry.1
If an organization makes something, or sells something another organization makes, they need logistics professionals to ensure their operations keep on smoothly rolling along.
2. Employment projections for logisticians look strong
Given the massive size of this career field, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s a pretty steady demand for skilled logistics professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of logisticians to grow 4 percent from 2019-2029—on pace with the national average.2
The Bureau of Labor Statistics writes that "overall [logistician] job opportunities should be good because of employment growth and the need to replace the logisticians who are expected to retire or otherwise leave the occupation."
While this is a fairly common trend across different occupations as the Baby Boomer generation begins to age out of the employment market, the general lack of spotlight being placed on this field could work to your benefit. Most people are aware of opportunities for nurses, accountants and lawyers and plan their education accordingly—but not as many may be pursuing the education needed to succeed in this field.
3. Work locations can vary
Logisticians have a lot to do every day, but exactly where do they do it from? There's no standard work setting, according to Rohit Sharma, a 12-year SCM veteran who now runs Perchingtree Inc. Logisticians can work anywhere from a factory setting to an office to a mobile location like a delivery or pickup center. This myriad of possibilities means it’s important to ask potential employers exactly what kind of environment you’ll be working in, he advises. Depending on the role, you may also be regularly required to travel to visit different facilities within a supply chain—another work environment factor you’ll want to consider.
4. It can be a high-pressure career
As a logistician, so many other people in the supply chain will depend on you. It’s your diligence and planning that will allow everyone else to do their job, but you may encounter sticky situations when the unexpected occurs.
“Logistics itself is a very challenging area within the SCM domain as most of the points of failure occur during logistics functions,” Sharma says.
For example, some days you may be on the hook for working out a back-up shipping plan that can have an enormous impact on an organization’s bottom line. That means you’ll need to keep calm under pressure and communicate effectively to stakeholders who are likely under pressure as well.
5. Understanding the big picture of supply chain management is crucial
Logistics is an important piece of the SCM puzzle, but it’s only one piece. Sharma says the most successful logisticians have a strong understanding of SCM as a whole.
“A lot of challenges occur as people working in individual parts do not know how the parts come together which also causes stress,” Sharma says.
To combat this, he recommends exploring courses and training offered by APICS, an organization for those in supply chain and operations management, to better understand SCM and the role a logistician plays. Additionally, a degree program focused squarely on Supply Chain and Logistics Management can provide an excellent foundation for understanding how all of the individual elements of supply chain management fit together.
6. It's been dubbed a “Best Business Job”
That’s right! U.S. News & World Report ranked logistician number 18 on their 2020 Best Business Jobs list.3 Several factors contribute to these rankings, including median salary, unemployment rate, job prospects, work-life balance and stress level.
Obviously every occupation has its pros and cons—and logistics careers are no different—but the total package appears to be a pretty appealing option for anyone considering a business career based on this criteria.
7. Education is an important first step
How can you qualify yourself to help fill the void? By getting educated! We used real-time job analysis software to examine over 70,000 logistics job postings from the past year and found that 70 percent were seeking candidates with a bachelor’s degree at a minimum.4 The BLS also states that while an associate’s degree will qualify you for some positions, bachelor’s degrees are becoming more desirable due to the increased complexity of the field.2
Motivation is another factor that helps logisticians catch the eye of their bosses, according to Sharma. “Managers are always looking for the next leader within the ranks who is motivated, knows the nuances of the spectrum and is willing to develop vertical knowledge,” he adds.
Is a logistics career for you?
For many, the idea of pursuing a career in logistics probably isn’t even on their radar. But now that you know more about this challenging-yet-rewarding global profession, you should have a better idea of whether it’s an option that’s right for you.
Of course, the work of a logistician is only part of the overall supply chain management field. If you’re strongly considering a degree in this field, you’ll want to check out our article, “What Can You Do With a Supply Chain Management Degree? 9 Careers to Consider” to learn more about how else you could apply this degree.
1U.S. Department of Transportation, Connections: Freight Shipments Projected to Continue to Grow, [accessed August 2020] https://www.transportation.gov/connections/freight-shipments-projected-continue-grow
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed August, 2020] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
3U.S. News & World Report, Best Business Jobs 2020, [accessed August, 2020] https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/best-business-jobs
4Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 71, 121 logistician, logistics manager and logistics analyst job postings, Aug. 1, 2019 - July 31, 2020)
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in July 2015. It has since been updated to include information relevant to Jul. 2020.