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Supply chain certifications: What's the difference?

Professional development opportunities abound, so choose the one that's the best fit for your ambitions.

Whether just starting out in the supply chain industry or trying to move up the ladder, obtaining certification may give you an edge. But choosing the best certification for you can be difficult.

As a broad overview of the three supply chain industry groups, Bill Seliger, Director of Supply Chain at LSC Communications said that generally, those in CSCMP come out of the trucking industry; APICS draws professionals from manufacturing; and ISM focuses more on procurement and sourcing. However, “they’ve all expanded in supply chain value chain space,” he said.

In fact, both Seliger and Michael Cohn, Director of Supply Chain Operations at SDI Technologies, stress that certification is a huge advantage to those in the supply chain industry. 

Should you get certified?

In interviewing hundreds of candidates over the years, Cohn said the number one benefit he sees is the confidence it gives applicants through their knowledge. 

“It enables you to speak more intelligently during an interview, to tell a company what you can do for them,” Cohn said. That candidate’s knowledge may give them an advantage over someone without a certification, and it can make a difference if the company is laying off employees as well, if that employee has the ability to expertly handle a larger amount of work.


Without a doubt, any certification would bump up someone in the job pool.

Bill Seliger

Director of Supply Chain, LSC Communications


Work experience counts for a lot, and Seliger and Cohn both said they wouldn’t hire based on certification alone. But, “it makes a huge difference if someone cares and has invested in getting that knowledge, and they took an exam,” Seliger said. “Without a doubt, any certification would bump up someone in the job pool.”

Certification can make a difference in pay as well. Several of the institutes mentioned cite studies showing higher pay for those with their designations, and Cohn and Seliger both agree with that assessment. Someone who is more knowledgeable will bring more to the position and the company, says Cohn. Even in the initial hire, it can bump up the pay. “If I’m hiring a planning manager, I’d consider paying more to someone who is APICS certified. I’d pay them more than someone with the same experience who is not certified,” he said.

Those in the supply chain field should consider getting certification early in their career, shortly after college graduation, Cohn said. Each certification program has experience or degree requirements, so those early in their careers should first see what’s required.

Choosing the best fit program

Choosing a certification program should be based both on what you’re doing now, and what you hope to be doing later in your career. However, going through each certification's benefits and requirements can be a daunting task. For that reason, Supply Chain Dive put together a brief, non-exclusive overview of the various programs.

APICS

The best known certifications at APICS are the CPIM (Certified in Production and Inventory Management) and CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional), although the company recently launched its third program: CLTD (Certified Logistics, Transportation and Distribution).

Seliger told Supply Chain Dive the main difference between the programs lies in the position it is meant to train, with CPIM tailored to professionals "within the four walls of the factory," whereas CSCP focuses on tasks outside the factory, like managing tier one and two suppliers. 

Meanwhile, the new program reflects the association's expansion — founded as the American Production and Inventory Control Society, the organization has recently merged with the Supply Chain Council and the American Society of Transportation and Logistics. APICS says it has certified more than 125,000 in the industry.

CSCMP

The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals offers the SCPro three-level certification program. The emphasis is on logistics and distribution, said Seliger. The SCPro designation is newer, as it started in 2012. “It has not, for whatever reasons, gained the traction in the marketplace,” according to Seliger.

While CSCMP focuses mostly on logistics, this certification program does cover a broad view of the supply chain field, covering the supply chain end-to-end. The SCPro certification is good for those involved in project management and problem solving, and it uses case studies as well as hands-on performance improvement projects as part of the curriculum. In the higher levels, the program does a deep dive, like you’d find in master’s degree programs.

ISM

The Institute for Supply Management started out in procurement and sourcing, said Seliger. The CPSM (Certified Professional in Supply Management) and CPSD (Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity) are good designations for practitioners and leaders with a particular focus in those spaces, he said.

The certifications are highly specialized, focusing on areas like contract and financial management, supplier relationship management, organizational global strategy, risk compliance and procurement practices. The CPSM, started in 2008, requires successfully passing three tests, covering supply management foundations, effective supply management performance and leadership, while the CPSD requires two tests, supply management foundations and essentials in supplier diversity. The CPSD was launched in 2011.

Other designations

Of course, these aren’t the only types of certifications and education a supply chain professional might want or need. Seliger said the PMP (Project Management Professional) certification is helpful to many, and he holds that one as well.

Also, MIT offers a Masters in Engineering with logistics and supply chain focus that requires either two semesters on campus, or one semester after successfully completing five specific modules online, plus a proctored exam. The deeply quantitative program would benefit supply chain engineers and data analysts with a strong math background.

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Filed Under: Communications