IT professionals looking for a great field to conquer should consider the supply chain, which drives the retail and manufacturing industries globally. Experts recommend one or more of these five certifications as a surefire ticket to supply chain management success.
For those looking for lots of opportunity and action, supply chain management is a terrific focus for an IT career. Gartner estimates that the total supply chain management market for software topped $13 billion in 2017, up 11 percent from 2016. This includes an abundance of software applications designed for the supply chain, the web of vendors and suppliers who design, build, ship, and deliver component parts and finished goods of all kinds.
IT professionals can find jobs in managing systems and tracking activity, quality, and schedules across the entire supply chain. Plus, there is plenty more work to be found building and maintaining systems to manage that supply chain, from raw materials all the way to post-delivery customer support and service.
In general, supply chain management (usually abbreviated as SCM) breaks down into several separate but interlocking disciplines, including:
- Planning and procurement
- Logistics analytics
- Visualization and reporting
- Sales and operations
Throughout the entire SCM lifecycle, analytics (big data) plays an important role. Such analytics support improved strategic decision-making, help organizations improve their market positions, and offer optimized returns on investment that often lead to accelerated growth and higher profits. Because there's big money in the supply chain, there's also lots of opportunity, particularly for those who possess the technical skills to extract analytical insights from the wealth of data involved.
When evaluating prospective SCM IT candidates, employers increasingly look to certification as a measure of interest and excellence as well as a commitment to formal processes and quality controls. In this article, we dig into five SCM-related certifications we consider to be leaders in this field today. They are:
- Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM)
- Certified Supply Chain Management Professional (CSCP)
- Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM)
- ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB)
- Oracle E-Business Suite Supply Chain Certified Implementation Specialist
These credentials are intermediate to senior level in terms of their depth and breadth of coverage, and in their assumed levels of knowledge, skills, and experience for qualified candidates. At the end of this article, we offer additional certification options. That's because the SCM field is large and growing, with numerous other options that interested IT pros can choose from.
Supply chain management jobs cover lots of territory, and they include such titles as SC analyst, SC developer, SC administrator, SC architect, and more. Average salaries for SCM professionals vary widely by location and specialty. That said, salaries for CPIMs range from a low of under $30,000 to a high of $117,000, with a median of about $57,000, according to SimplyHired's salary estimator. The CPSM scored the highest salary, at more than $125,000. A general search on "supply chain manager" produced the following annual salaries: $54,000 (low), $90,000 (median), $149,000 (high).
If you're seriously interested in supply chain management, certification is a great option to advance your career. A variety of experts from the field, including a SCM project manager at Boeing, a three-member panel that included SCM practitioners and consultants, and a market research firm, all identified certifications as anywhere from helpful to essential for aspiring SCM professionals. We can't help but do likewise here.
Before digging into the minutiae of our top five SCM certifications, look over our informal job board survey. This data reports the number of job posts nationwide for which our featured credentials were mentioned on a specific day. These numbers should give you a good grasp on the relative popularity and demand for each of these certifications.
Job Board Search Results (in alphabetical order, by certification)
Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM)
The CPIM comes from the Association for Operations Management, aka APICS. It was originally called the American Production and Inventory Control Society, whence its acronym comes. Now, some 60 years after it was founded, APICs is an international body that includes arms devoted to production, inventory control, supply chain management, and transportation and logistics. As such things go, the CPIM has been around for a long time, having first been offered in 1973. More than 100,000 people hold this credential. [Take a Certified in Production & Inventory Management Practice Test at Udemy]
The CPIM seeks to identify individuals with a strong working knowledge of supply chain management concepts and best practices. The subject matter covered in the certification training and testing includes demand management, procurement and supplier planning, material requirements planning, capacity requirements planning, sales and operations planning, master scheduling, supplier relationships. There is also a strong emphasis on quality control and continuous improvement methods and practices.
CPIM Facts and Figures
|Certification Name||Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM)|
|Prerequisites & Required Courses||Training is required, but may be self-paced ($1,240 and up) or in the classroom ($1,750 for members; $1,980 for nonmembers and up)|
|Number of Exams||Two Exams: CPIM Part 1 and Part 2, which cover five major topic areas (also define in-class modules taught for this curriculum)|
Basics of Supply Chain Management
Master Planning of Resources
Detailed Scheduling and Planning
Execution and Control of Operations
Strategic Management of Resources
|Cost of Exam||Learning bundles that include training plus exams add $440 to the above prices. Annual association membership (dues are $220) is also required.|
|Self-Study Materials||APICS sells online training, practice tests and exams through its CPIM page. Local APICS chapters offer instructor-led training at regular intervals.|
Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM)
The CPSM is issued by the Institute for Supply Management, or ISM. On its history page, the organization claims "more than 100 years of experience." They also claim that more than 60,000 CPSMs have been earned, though this number includes both lapsed and current credentials.
The ISM takes the certification process very seriously. It uses practicing SMEs and performs detailed job task analyses to determine what topics to cover on its exams. SMEs also write candidate questions, then review them as a committee, to select questions for inclusion on exams. Question banks are subject to ongoing psychometric analysis so they accurately test for real-world skills and knowledge, and reflect candidate's analytical, understanding, and problem-solving abilities.
The CPSM is valid for three years, after which holders must apply for recertification, along with documentation for 60 hours of approved continuing education hours (CEHs as ISM calls them).
The ISM provides a CPSM FAQ that documents average costs to earn the credential: $1,200 to $1,800 for ISM members; $2,000 to $2,400 for nonmembers. Topics on the three required CPSM exams come from a variety of domains, and are fully documented in the CPSM FAQ and its Exam Specifications.
The ISM wants CPSMs to have a strong grasp of all major topics, trends and technologies, and best practices as they relate to supply management. In addition, ISM also offers a CPSD (Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity) credential, which seeks to help organizations engage in supplier diversity.
CPSM Facts and Figures
|Certification Name||Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM)|
|Prerequisites & Required Courses||Three years' full-time supply management experience in a non-clerical, non-support role, plus a regionally accredited bachelor's degree. Alternatively, five years of like experience (nonclerical, nonsupport) is also acceptable. Courses are optional.|
|Number of Exams|
Exams may be taken at Pearson VUE testing centers or by prior arrangement with ISM for on-site training/testing combinations.
|Cost of Exam||$229 for ISM members; $379 for first exam for nonmembers (includes price of membership in the cost; subsequent exams will be at member cost.) Annual membership is required and costs $210 to join, and $190 thereafter to maintain.|
|Self-Study Materials||ISM offers a range of exam-preparation materials, including study tips and study materials that include a reading list, three volumes of study guides ($79/$119 member/nonmember and up), self-study workbooks, practice tests, and more. A variety of bundles is available, and members qualify for discounts.|
Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)
The CSCP is another certification from APICS (it also sponsors the CPIM certification). This credential has been available since 2006, and more than 21,000 professionals from around the world have earned it since then. The stated goal of the certification is to help professionals demonstrate their supply chain skills and knowledge and to develop "more streamlined operations." Eligibility requirements for the CSCP require that candidates meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Three years of related business experience
- Bachelor's degree (or international equivalent degree or level of study)
- Candidate holds the CPIM, CLTD or CSCP, CTL, CFPIM, CIRM, SCOR-P, C.P.M., CSM or CPSM certifications
As with the CPIM, candidates must complete training to take the exam. Self-study options are available through the CSCP Learning System (PLUS members pay $995; CORE or nonmembers pay $1,380). Instructor-led online courses are available from Fox Valley Technical College. Instructor-led training is available through various APICS training partners, starting at $3,095 ($3,295, which includes APICS membership). APICS also offers another certification aimed at supply chain logistics: the CLTD (Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution).
CSCP Facts and Figures
|Certification Name||Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)|
|Prerequisites & Required Courses||Training is required, but may be self-paced ($995/$1,380 and up) or in the classroom ($3,095 for members; $3,295 for nonmembers and up)|
|Number of Exams||One Exam (3:30, 150 multiple-choice questions)|
Available through Pearson VUE (authorization to test form must be completed to purchase the exam)
|Cost of Exam||PLUS Member $695|
CORE Member/Non-member price: $915 (retake $450 [all categories])
Annual association membership of $220 also required
|Self-Study Materials||APICS sells online training, practice tests and exams through its CSCP page. Local APICS chapters and other training outlets offer instructor-led training at regular intervals.|
ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt Certification (CSSBB)
There are several sources for Six Sigma certification. We chose one of the most popular as our exemplar here. But the number of available jobs undercount the total demand for Six Sigma-certified Black Belts, because there's more than one authorized sponsor for this kind of certification.
That said, all Six Sigma Black Belts should be able to explain Six Sigma philosophies and principles as well as the systems and tools that support them. Also, such a person must demonstrate team leadership, thoroughly understands team dynamics, and is able to assign and manage team member roles and responsibilities. [Take a Six Sigma Black Belt Course on Udemy]
Six Sigma Black Belts deeply understand the DMAIC model (define, measure, analyze, improve and control) as it relates to Six Sigma principles and practices, particularly as it relates to manufacturing and service delivery. They also possess basic knowledge about lean enterprise concepts, and can identify non-value-added elements and activities. They also know how to use specific tools and techniques.
CSSBB certification requires two completed projects, each with a signed affidavit. Alternatively, a person with three years' work experience in one or more areas of the certification's body of knowledge, plus a single signed affidavit, may also qualify. Recertification is required every three years. ASQ and other certifying organizations offer other Six Sigma credentials as well, for those interested in quality control and lean enterprise principles.
CSSBB Facts and Figures
|Certification Name||Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB)|
|Prerequisites & Required Courses||Training is required but may be self-paced ($995/$1,380 and up) or in the classroom ($3,095 for members; $3,295 for nonmembers and up)|
Number of Exams
|One Exam, two forms:|
Computer-based (4:30, 165 multiple-choice questions)
Paper & pencil (4:00, 150 multiple-choice questions)
Detailed info appears in the CSSBB brochure (PDF format)
Exams are made available on specific dates for both types, see date information on the CSSBB page under the CBT and Special Administration headings.
|Cost of Exam||ASQ Members: $388|
|Self-Study Materials||ASQ lists Training, Books (a detailed reading list) and other resources on the CSSBB page.|
Oracle E-Business Suite 12 Supply Chain Certified Implementation Specialist: Oracle Purchasing
Not only is this Oracle credential a real mouthful, it's one of the most popular, as measured by specific mention in the job posting sites. Although this certification is more narrowly focused than the other five designations – it takes purchasing for the supply chain as its primary topic – it appears to be in high and general demand. That likely reflects Oracle's dominant position in the enterprise database market, as much as it reflects the importance of best purchasing procedures and practices within the broader field of SCM.
Somewhat atypically, Oracle does not require training to earn this credential, though several optional courses are available:
- Candidates may take either R12.2 Oracle E-Business Suite Fundamentals or R12.x Oracle E-Business Suite Essentials for Implementers
- Candidates may also take R12.x Oracle Purchasing Fundamentals
Only a single exam is required to earn this credential, as further explained in the Facts and Figures section. Oracle offers numerous other certifications under the E-Business Suite 12 Supply Chain and other headings, including:
- Oracle E-Business Suite 12 Supply Chain Certified Implementation Specialist: Oracle Inventory
- Oracle E-Business Suite 12 Supply Chain Certified Implementation Specialist: Oracle Order Management
- Oracle E-Business Suite R12 Advanced Supply Chain Planning Certified Expert
- JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Distribution 9.2 Certified Implementation Specialist
- Oracle Transportation Management Cloud Service 2017 Certified Implementation Specialist
- Oracle Procurement Cloud 2016 Certified Implementation Specialist
- Oracle Procurement Cloud 2017 Certified Implementation Specialist
- Oracle Inventory Cloud 2017 Certified Implementation Specialist
- Oracle Manufacturing Cloud 2017 Certified Implementation Specialist
- Oracle Planning Central Cloud Service 2017 Certified Implementation Specialist
Oracle offers a variety of single-exam implementation specialist credentials that cover many, if not most, job roles associated with designing, building, and maintaining database applications to address supply chain topics and technologies. The details, while specific to one such exam, generally describe what anyone seeking one of the preceding SCM-related credentials is likely to encounter.
Visit the All Certifications page at Oracle University to see everything that's available in Oracle's enormous certification program. Dozens of items there, primarily under the Applications and Oracle Cloud headings, focus on SCM topics and technologies.
Oracle E-Business Suite Procurement Facts and Figures
|Certification Name||Oracle E-Business Suite 12 Supply Chain Certified Implementation Specialist: Oracle Purchasing)|
|Prerequisites & Required Courses||Training is optional and is available on-demand ($2,445), in the classroom ($2,790), or as a live virtual class ($2,640). All classes run three days (regardless of the form). Links to classes cited above appear on the certification home page link provided under the following URL heading here.|
|Number of Exams||One Exam 1Z0-520 (2:30, 80 multiple-choice questions)|
|Cost of Exam||$245|
|Self-Study Materials||Oracle also offers a partners-only E-Business Suite R12.1 Supply Chain Management Essentials Implementation Boot Camp.|
Beyond the Top Five Supply Chain Certifications
Once you go outside our top five picks, there are still plenty of SCM certification options from which IT pros can choose to pursue their career development and advancement options. SAP, for example, offers three Application (Solution) Consultant SAP SCM credentials: one on Planning & Manufacturing, one on ERP Procurement (Material Management), and one on ERP Order Fulfillment (Sales Order Management). Taken en masse, these three items almost matched the job counts for the Six Sigma Black Belt that finished in last place in our top five, so these credentials have some market presence and heft.
Relative newcomer Kinaxis, which offers multiple certifications for its RapidResponse product, may also be worth a look. Their current credentials cover people who solve business issues using simulations (called Contributors); developers who build and modify RapidResponse resources, such as worksheets, dashboards, and alerts (called Authors); and people who install, configure, and maintain RapidResponse systems users and data (called Administrators). Learn more about their offerings on the company's Certification Program home page.
Other SCM certifications are no doubt available in this busy and active marketplace. As always, we suggest that you look at any other player's program (and business) longevity, the size of their certified population, and the rigor of their certification program (Do they do job task analysis? Psychometrics? Formal item evaluation and screening?) before investing your hard-earned money and precious time into such offerings. But with SCM such a potent force in the workplace, we're convinced it's a great focus for a long and interesting IT career.