Logistics and materials management programs prepare people to plan and direct how materials and equipment are used to produce goods and services. Students learn how to manage inventory, allocate resources, and make sure goods are shipped on time. They also learn how to manage staff and computer systems for keeping records.
You know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But if you have ever booked a flight between two small cities, using the Internet or a travel agent, you probably discovered that the cheapest route was not a straight line.
As an industrial traffic manager or materials manager, you are keenly aware of this fact. You arrange the transportation of raw materials, supplies, and finished goods. You decide which are the fastest or cheapest means of transportation. You also decide about different options for storing materials and finished goods.
Computers are helping companies to use a "just-in-time" strategy for producing goods. This means that they manufacture a product only when the buyer needs it. Thus they save on warehousing costs. But this strategy means that logistics experts must be able to move finished products quickly and forecast spikes in demand.
That's what you learn when you study the subject of logistics and materials management. About 40 colleges and universities offer a bachelor's degree in this subject. This degree normally requires four years of full-time study beyond high school.
About a dozen two-year colleges offer an associate degree in this subject. Often it is a specialization within a business management major. You can enter this field with a two-year degree and learn through work experience. However, the job outlook is better with a bachelor's. About 60 colleges offer a bachelor's degree in this subject.
Some students get a master's degree in this subject. Others study it as a specialization while they earn a master's in business administration. This kind of program usually requires two years of full-time study beyond the bachelor's. About 15 universities offer it.
In this field you get a broad grounding in business subjects. This helps you understand what causes some methods of transportation and storage to be better than others. You also have to understand how the nation's economy works. With this knowledge you'll be better able to predict customer demand, supply of materials, and rates charged by various modes of transportation.