Master's in supply chain management or MBA? |

Master's in supply chain management or MBA?

By Nunzio Quacquarelli

Updated Updated

Ambitious managers looking to capitalise on the growing demand for operations and supply chain managers have a difficult choice to make. 

Should you take time out to study to deepen your skills, and if so, which of the many available master's or MBA courses is right for you?

The good news is that with growing corporate focus on ESG requirements, there is a greater demand than ever for ‘ethical supply chains’ and effective project management skills, but the roles are becoming more technical and analytical, requiring the acquisition of relevant skills.

According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2023, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution…..and the urgent need for a green and energy transition are …. stimulating demand for new occupations and skills. Global supply chains must also quickly adapt.”

In fact sustainability specialists are forecast to be the second-fastest-growing career and project management and supply chain skills are usually required for these roles. 

What career options are available to MBA & master’s in supply chain management graduates?

Leonard Morrison, SCM Manager at MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics says, “Every year, global employers from technology, consulting, manufacturing and retail sectors recruit supply chain management (SCM) students for leadership roles. As such, the overwhelming majority of students (over 95 percent) will have secured at least one offer of employment prior to graduation."

Here are some career options which often now advertise the requirement for a master’s degree – either a master's in SCM or MBA.

  • Supply Chain Manager/Director: These professionals oversee the entire supply chain process, from procurement and production to distribution and logistics. They are responsible for optimising the supply chain to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
  • Logistics/Procurement/Operations Managers: They are more junior and manage the respective components of the supply chain. These roles can be global in scope and often have an e-commerce component.
  • Consultant: Supply chain consultants work for consulting firms or as independent contractors. They provide advice and solutions to companies looking to improve their supply chain processes.
  • Sustainability Manager: Sustainability managers focus on making supply chains more environmentally friendly. 
  • Risk & Quality Control Manager: These professionals ensure that products and processes within the supply chain meet quality standards and mitigate potential disruptions.
  • Data Analyst/Supply Chain Analyst: These professionals analyse data to identify trends, make forecasts, and optimise supply chain operations. 

Today, many operations management and supply chain roles require strong project management as well as analytical and problem-solving skills, the ability to work with cross-functional teams, and a deep understanding of supply chain technology and best practices.

Why pick a master’s in supply chain management?

Many MBAs offer a specialisation in supply chain or operations management and the choice often comes down to how much career flexibility you're seeking.

If you're committed to supply chain and wish to specialise, a master’s is often a quicker and cheaper option and will provide greater depth in the field. The curricula will be entirely aligned to your chosen career path and so, if you have limited prior work experience, you will be better prepared to hit the ground running. A specialist master’s will also have better networking opportunities with SCM professionals and often provide relevant project or internship experiences.

Leonard Morrison recommends the master’s programme to learn “advanced analytical methods and modelling systems to address critical supply chain management and logistics challenges; And leadership, communication and critical thinking skills to confidently lead global organisations.”

However, there are also reasons why you might choose an MBA, as long as it has a supply chain specialisation.

An MBA provides a broader business education covering finance, marketing, strategy and leadership, better suited to more experienced professionals looking to take a more senior role. And most importantly it enhances career flexibility for those who might want to change course in the future or start their own business.

Dr. Sime Curkovic, Professor of Operations/Supply Chain at Haworth College of Business says: “Companies now desire specialisation in core areas like supply chain management, influencing business schools to adapt. While both MS and MBA programs enhance supply chain expertise, the former delves deeper technically, and the latter broadens managerial competence.

"Today, supply chain experts, fortified with advanced degrees, are positioned to become influential global executives, able to navigate and lead complex supply dynamics.” 

Dr Sime Curkovic

Master's in supply chain management vs MBA: Post-graduation salaries

According to the QS Global Employer Survey, salaries for graduates with an SCM master's and those with an MBA can vary significantly based on industry, location, years of experience, and the specific roles and responsibilities. 

Supply Chain Management

With Masters

With MBA


US$91.4k mean - highest in US, Australia and Japan

US$108.8k mean but can rise up to $200k for consulting type roles


US$150k+ for Supply Chain Managers often with global benchmarks

Senior roles will align with industry benchmarks and can often be in excess of $250k

It's important to note that while MBA graduates tend to command higher salaries on average, they also tend to have higher student loan debt due to the cost of MBA programmes. Additionally, the versatility of an MBA means that graduates have a broader range of career options.

Ultimately, salary outcomes depend on a combination of factors. It is essential to consider your own career goals and aspirations when choosing a degree programme, as well as the potential return on investment in terms of increased earning potential and job opportunities.

How does QS rank master's in supply chain management?

The 2024 edition of the QS Business Master's Rankings: Supply Chain Management has remained remarkably stable, with two new entries into the top 20, emlyon and City University of Hong Kong.

As a highly specialised field, it is noticeable that many of the world’s top MBA providers are absent. In fact only MIT appears in the top 20 of both the QS Global MBA Rankings and the QS Master's in Supply Chain Management ranking, and even at MIT it is a separate Center for Transportation and Logistics, which, in some respects competes with the MBA.

Leonard Morrison of MIT says: “Our SCM programme is cost-effective and can be completed in 10 months… It also delivers an unparalleled return on investment (ROI) with employment outcomes that rival those of top tier MBA programmes.”

Overall rank Previous rank


Country / Territory

1 1

MIT’s Center for Transportation & Logistics

United States

=2 3

Michigan (Ross)

United States

=2 2

WU Vienna University of Economics and Business


4 4

Erasmus (RSM)



emlyon Business School


6 5

USC (Marshall)

United States

7 6

Manchester (Alliance)

United Kingdom

8 7

Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin


9 8

Politecnico di Milano


10 9

Washington (Foster)

United States


City University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong

12 14

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Hong Kong

=13 11

Cranfield School of Management

United Kingdom

=13 13

UCD (Smurfit)


15 10

Purdue (Krannert)

United States

16 16

Audencia Business School


17 12

SKEMA Business School


18 15

Wisconsin School of Business

United States

19 18

Minnesota (Carlson)

United States

20 17

Florida International University College of Business

United States

Which ranking is best: QS Global MBA Rankings or QS Business Master's Rankings?

There is no 'best' ranking system and I always advise a reader to understand the underlying metrics to determine if they are relevant to your personal objectives. QS provides the most comprehensive set of over 60 subject-specific or programme-specific rankings, using comprehensive and rigorous methodologies, with results updated every year, and our sector expert team have been doing this for over 20 years. 

QS rankings are globally recognised and respected by students, academics, and employers and you can dig deeper into the underlying school data on our institutional fact files, which also report on admission requirements, programme details, and scholarship opportunities. This data is also often supplemented by QS Star Ratings for each institution which provide insight on an additional 54 metrics for candidates who really like to dig deep.

Whether you are considering a master’s or an MBA, you should not rely only on rankings. Factors like location, relevant programme curriculum, faculty expertise, financial considerations, and career services also play a crucial role – especially in the field of supply chain and operations management. 

In fact you are more likely to consider MBA programmes at the same schools listed above, because of their faculty strength in the field, so let the school help you make the decision. It's advisable also to visit university websites, talk to current students, and engage with professionals in the field to make an informed decision about your education. You can meet many of these programmes at QS Discovery Fairs for Business Masters.

What are the eligibility criteria for a masters in supply chain management?

There are some common criteria that are often required for admission to master's in SCM:

  • Bachelor's degree: Typically, you will need to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. 
  • GPA (Grade Point Average): Many programmes have a minimum GPA requirement for admission.
  • Standardised test scores: Some programmes still require standardised test scores, such as the GRE or GMAT, however, this is now a minority.
  • Letters of recommendation: You may need to submit letters of recommendation from professors, employers, or other professionals who can speak to your qualifications and potential for success in the programme.
  • Statement of purpose: A statement of purpose or personal statement is often required. This is your opportunity to explain why you want to pursue a master's in supply chain management, your career goals, and how the programme aligns with your aspirations.
  • Resume/CV: You will need to provide a current resume or curriculum vitae that outlines your educational and professional background.
  • English language proficiency: If you are a non-native English speaker, you may need to provide proof of English language proficiency through tests like the TOEFL or IELTS.
  • Work experience: Some programmes may prefer or require applicants to have relevant work experience in supply chain management, logistics, or a related field. The amount of work experience required can vary.
  • Interview: In some cases, applicants may be required to attend an interview as part of the admissions process.

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