3 Supply Chain Certifications That Will Help You Land a Job

By: on July 21, 2021

Supply chain professionals considering a certification face a bewildering array of options—there are multiple organizations and certifications from which to choose.

While acquiring a certification can have a significant effect on your career trajectory, it’s a process that requires a considerable outlay of time and money. For individuals in the early stages of their career, it can be difficult to make an informed choice. To help make this professional development decision easier, we set out to learn which certifications are in fact worth pursuing.

Whatever certification you choose, you should first make sure it is as widely recognized as possible.

In this article, we focus on three well-known and reputable certifications:

To find out the benefits each certification offers and what positions they’re ideal for, we interviewed three supply chain professionals with almost a century of experience between them:

  • Bob Ferrarri, consultant and industry analyst who runs the prominent Supply Chain Matters blog;
  • Rich Sherman, “supply chain guru” at consulting firm Trissential and author of the book, Supply Chain Transformation: Practical Roadmap to Best Practice Results; and,
  • Monty Boyle, a strategy and transformation architect professional and consultant who has received almost all of the certifications discussed in this article

For each certification we’ll give an overview of the program, insights from our professional interviewees, go over the benefits, eligibility requirements, and costs. And at the end, we’ll cover an honorable mention certification of the SCPro from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP).

CSCP: Ideal for general supply chain careers

Before you select a professional certification, it’s essential to know what areas of supply chain management appeal to you. If you’re looking to first gain a broad overview, then Ferrarri, Boyle, and Sherman agree: the best certification is the CSCP from APICS.

First launched in 2006, over 13,000 supply chain professionals in 78 countries have since gained the CSCP. According to the APICS, it “provides you with a mastery of supply chain management best practices and distinguishes you as an industry expert with specialized, high-level knowledge and skills.”

But what’s actually in it? I asked Ferrarri, who, in spite of his three decades of experience in supply chain management, took the certification five years ago to see if he was “up to speed.” His reply? More or less “everything is in it.”

Boyle, who also took the APICS CSCP after working in supply chain management for decades, elaborates on this: “It teaches you to look at the supply chain from a broad perspective; to view the relations between the areas of planning, sourcing, manufacturing, and delivering and see how the overall supply chain integrates.”

Exam eligibility requirements

To be eligible to take the APICS CSCP exam, you must have at least one of the following:

  • Three years of business experience
  • A bachelor’s degree or an international equivalent
  • An active CPIM, CPIM-F, CIRM, SCOR-P, CPM, CPSM, CTL, or CLTD certification

CSCP costs

ASCM offers the exam and sells course materials individually, but also has a bundle deal. The cost and length of study varies according to which path you choose.

  • ASCM’s exam prep program cost $1,380 for non-members and $995 for members
  • APICS CSCP Certification Exam is $1,295 for non-members and $995 for members
  • The bundle which includes the exam prep program, the exam, and a 1-year membership is $2,011 for non-members and $1,791 for members
  • $220 ASCM individual PLUS membership

*Prices reflect those on the ASCM website as of June 2021.

A note on membership: ASCM members on average have a higher pass rate for APICS certification exams compared to non-members. You can and should ask your employers to sponsor your membership. You can’t get a yes if you don’t ask!

You can check out the exam content before registering here. Ferrarri estimates that a driven individual could be ready for the CSCP exam in three to six months.

Why get an APICS certification?

Here are some benefits supply chain professionals report from their certification:

  • APICS-certified individuals earn 21% more than their non-certified peers
  • Women under 40 years old report a median salary of $81,000 annually, which is $2,000 more than what men reported
  • 95% of all supply chain professionals kept their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Supply chain professionals with at least one APICS certification have a median salary of $90,000, which is 27% higher than those without one

*Based on the 2021 ASCM Supply Chain Salary and Career Survey Report and the 2020 ASCM Salary Survey

Another advantage of the CSCP, Ferrarri says, is that it’s what many employers want. “More and more companies today are seeking generalists—people with cross-functional knowledge, experience, and skills,” he explains.

Sherman agrees. “Supply chain management is evolving into a truly end-to-end process that synchronizes cross-functional activities and includes suppliers and customers,” he says.

“Employers want to have managers that not only have an understanding of the function they’re responsible for, but for how their processes interact with other functional processes and organizations. This is especially important as the person’s career moves forward and their responsibilities include more functions.”

CPIM: Ideal for a career in inventory management

The CSCP can be “mixed and matched” with other certifications, should you later decide to venture deeper into a specific area. According to our experts, if you’re seeking a career in inventory management, then the APICS CPIM is the best certification to get.

Over 100,000 people have pursued the CPIM since its inception in 1973, making it the most recognized of all the certifications discussed here. ASCM describes the CPIM in rather broad terms on its site, but Sherman boils it down to the following: “You get the CPIM if you want to learn production planning and scheduling and inventory management. It’s very plant floor focused.”

Below are the details provided by ASCM for the latest CPIM certification version 7.0, released on February 25, 2021.

Exam eligibility requirements

  • No bachelor’s degree is required, and you need only two or more years of experience in the field
  • CPIM Part 1 and CPIM Part 2 exams must be passed within three years of each other to earn the CPIM designation

Boyle, who has the CPIM, says that each individual will get something different out of it depending on their prior experience, but stresses that the certification training provides everyone with a solid grounding in the terminology and thought processes involved in production and inventory management.

As a result, people who have the CPIM share common concepts and terminology that are very valuable in the workplace. For example, Boyle highlights the section of the exam dedicated to manufacturing capacity planning, which categorizes capacity planning in three ways: By the master production schedule, by capacity bills, and by resource profiles. Anyone with the CPIM will likely approach capacity planning in a similar way.

CPIM costs

As with the CSCP, ASCM offers the exam and sells course materials individually, but also has a bundle deal. The cost and length of study varies according to which path you choose.

  • ASCM’s exam prep program for both Part 1 and Part 2 costs $1,240 total for non-members and $1,085 for members
  • ASCM’s CPIM Certification Exam costs for both Part 1 and Part 2 is $1,380 total for non-members and $1,185 for members
  • The bundle which includes the Part 1 and Part 2 exam prep program and exams, and a 1-year membership is $1,912 for non-members and $1,692 for members
  • $220 ASCM individual PLUS membership

*Prices reflect those on the ASCM website as of June 2021.

You can check out the exam content before registering here.

Why be certified

Here are some benefits professionals report from their certification:

  • According to ACM, those with the CPIM earn 14% more than those without it, while 64% believe getting certified had a positive impact on their careers
  • APICS-certified individuals earn 21% more than their non-certified peers
  • 95% of all supply chain professionals kept their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic

*Based on the 2021 ASCM Supply Chain Salary and Career Survey Report and the 2020 ASCM Salary Survey

CPSM: Ideal for a career in procurement

The ISM offers two certifications: The CPSM (Certified Professional in Supply Management) and the CPSD (Certified Professional in Supply Diversity). The consensus among our experts is that the CPSD is a highly specialized qualification best suited to individuals at a relatively advanced stage of their careers, so we won’t cover it here.

The CPSM was launched in 2008 and has a strong focus on procurement. Or, as Sherman puts it, “ISM is an organization for procurement and strategic sourcing people. The certification program is strongly focused on purchasing and procurement.”

Ferrarri agrees: “It’s very specialized—you’ll study procurement practices, contract management, financial management, and more. From what I see, it’s good for people who have maybe been in a procurement position for five years, and now want to advance.”

Boyle, who has the CPSM, stresses again that the certification equips professionals with shared language, terminology, and ideas. And like APICS, the ISM says that those with the certification can earn more: ISM’s own salary survey for 2018 states that professionals with a CPSM earn 14.7% more than those without it.

Exam eligibility requirements

  • Three years of full-time, professional supply management experience (non-clerical and nonsupport) with a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or international equivalent;

OR

  • Five years of full-time, professional supply management experience (non-clerical and nonsupport) without a qualified bachelor’s degree

The ISM is flexible and offers a wide array of resources for preparation. David Panzera, strategic sourcing manager at international chemicals firm Arkema, became CPSM certified in 2011. He wanted to demonstrate to potential recruiters that he was up to date in the field after spending a few years working in sales.

Studying by himself, it took Panzera about five months to gain the CPSM.

CPSM costs

There are three exams to prepare for with the CPSM: Supply Management Core, Supply Management Integration, and Leadership and Transformation in Supply Management.

  • ISM offers a CPSM Learning System at a cost of $1,631.25 for non-members and $1,113.75 for members
  • Each of the three required exams for CPSM cost $379 for non-members and $229 for members
  • After passing your exams, the CPSM application fee is $179 for non-members and $119 for members
  • ISM membership is $240 per year (plus any local chapter fees that may apply)

*Prices reflect those provided by ISM as of June 2021.

Why be certified

Indeed.com surveyed 76 CPSM professionals and got the following results:

  • 80% of job seekers said “help my career progression” was the biggest reason for earning their CPSM
  • 63% said earning their CPSM helped them make more money
  • 52% said earning their CPSM helped them get a job
  • 93% said they would recommend a family member or friend earn their CPSM

In addition to the benefits of the CPSM certification itself, Panzera says the ISM offers excellent networking opportunities—he’s very active in his local chapter in Philadelphia. Sherman says the same thing about APICS, and adds that managers may be more likely to recruit people with the same certification and group affiliations that these organizations have.

A future investment: The SCPro

Honorary mention goes to the SCPro certification, which is offered by the large and prestigious CSCMP. Traditionally an organization with a strong focus on logistics, the CSCMP is seeking to cover the broader supply chain field with its new certification program, which was launched in 2012.

Exam eligibility requirements

The SCPro is a multi-tiered certification. Below is pricing for each tier:

  • SCPro Fundamentals: No requirements needed.
  • Level One: Four-year degree or higher from an accredited university or college or four years of relevant supply chain management experience.
  • SCPro Bridge Exam: Four-year degree or higher from an accredited university or college or four years of relevant supply chain management experience and a previously earned credential or accelerated degree in supply chain management, logistics, or a related field.
  • Level Two: Current SCPro Level One certification plus a four-year degree and three years of relevant supply chain experience or seven years of relevant supply chain experience.
  • Level Three: Current SCPro Level Two certification plus a four-year degree and five years of relevant experience or nine years of relevant supply chain experience.

Ferrarri and Sherman both highlighted the SCPro as a certification to watch, even if it’s not yet widely recognized. Like the CSCP, the SCPro is intended as an end-to-end course. The certification has three levels, and thus offers those who take it the opportunity to explore supply chain issues on a much deeper level.

“I think that SCPro, with its three levels of study, will be much stronger down the road,” Sherman says. “It’s an advanced certificate in problem solving and project management. Level One is equivalent to the CSCP. At Level Two, you go deeper: There are case studies you have to solve, like you’d get in a master’s degree program. At Level Three, you execute performance improvement in an actual company—either your own company, or they’ll find you one. You have to make real world changes.”

SCPro certification costs

The SCPro certification is a three-tiered program:

  • SCPro Level One exam fee is $975 for non-members and $650 for members
  • SCPro Level Two exam fee is $1,500 for non-members and $1,095 for members
  • SCPro Level Three costs are not currently public

*Prices reflect those on the CSCMP site as of June 2021.

Sherman believes that the SCPro may ultimately benefit people in the long run, once the certification becomes more well-known in the job market. “It’s a future hedge,” he says. “If you have a CSCP or CPIM, look at the SCPro to give you a competitive edge five to ten years down the road. The investment will grow in value over time.”

For more information about the SCPro, click here.

Supply chain certifications: A valuable investment

There are many factors to consider when contemplating whether to get a professional supply chain certification, but our experts agree: All three certifications discussed here are excellent qualifications that will most likely set you apart from the competition when searching for a job.

In Ferrarri’s view, certifications are increasingly becoming a prerequisite in supply chain careers. Sherman points out that, if confronted with two candidates of equal experience, one of which has a formal certification, a recruiter will almost certainly opt for the certified individual. “It’s all about risk mitigation,” he explains.

Boyle agrees, but adds that ultimately, a lot comes down to you—you’ll need to take the time to do your research and think carefully about your own career goals to decide which certification is best for you.
 

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