Are you self-motivated? Do you enjoy solving puzzles and problems? Are you looking for a management career? If so, you may want to consider a career as a distribution manager. This career and salary profile will tell you more about what distribution managers do, their employment opportunities and potential salary, plus the education and training required to enter this profession.

What is a Supply Chain Distribution Manager?

Distribution managers are vital to efficient supply chain management. They supervise the process of delivering a product from the place it is manufactured to the place where it is sold. In between, they might be in charge of warehouse storage, delivery to retailers or overseas shipping. Distribution management is also concerned with keeping product levels at optimal quantities in order to satisfy customer demands without overstocking, which would increase operating costs.

Why Product Distribution Matters

Products can only reach consumers’ hands through proper supply chain distribution management. Distribution managers use their organizational skills to plan and coordinate the activities that facilitate this entire process. They provide value to their companies by managing budgets to add to the bottom line, supervising employees who help the company meet its objectives and forecasting peak delivery periods so that enough products are available to deliver to customers.

Distribution managers are also relied upon to make sound decisions that protect assets and minimize losses. They will typically accomplish this goal by managing inventory and implementing and enforcing supply chain security measures. They may also be charged with ensuring the integrity of inventory accuracy auditing programs.

A successful distribution manager requires leadership skills that will be demonstrated as they hire, train and supervise staff members, as well as when they identify issues and take steps to solve them.

Where Can I Find Jobs as a Distribution Manager?

Companies that depend on distribution managers are located in nearly every city in the United States and around the world. With the right education, you might have the opportunity to work for electronics firms, retailers of household goods, equipment, chemicals or clothing, software companies, shipping and transportation companies and pharmaceutical firms. Advanced education, such as a master’s degree in supply chain management can lead to senior management positions with domestic and even international firms.

Supply Chain Distribution Manager Education Preparation

What level of education do prospective distribution managers need to land a job and start their careers? Every employer will have distinct hiring practices and requirements, but distribution management jobs generally call for a college degree.

Associate’s Degree: With a two-year associate’s degree in hand, you could qualify for distribution manager-in-training or entry-level logistics positions. Advancing to a distribution manager position will likely require additional experience and a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree: Many employers will prefer candidates with a four-year bachelor’s degree in mathematics, finance, economics or a related field. Advancing to senior-level positions will usually require additional experience, a specialized graduate degree or both.

Master’s Degree: For senior management positions, employers often show preference to candidates with a master’s degree in supply chain management. This degree typically takes an additional one to two years beyond the bachelor’s level to complete. 

Many companies that hire distribution managers have a global presence; candidates with foreign language skills could have an advantage when seeking positions with these firms.                                                                                        

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement

Employers will also be looking for candidates with the right training and personal attributes to be successful distribution managers.

Distribution managers must possess strong computer, communication and leadership skills. In distribution management, conditions can change often throughout a typical day, so employers are also looking for people who are adept at responding quickly to changing, sometimes urgent situations. Many hiring managers seek candidates with a demonstrated knowledge of distribution systems – physical, digital or both.

In addition, employers of distribution managers are often looking for the following strengths and abilities:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • The ability to make sound, fact-based decisions
  • Self-motivation and a sense of urgency
  • Cross-group collaborative skills
  • Leadership, coaching or mentoring skills
  • Attention to detail

Distribution managers may climb the ladder to executive positions through experience or by obtaining additional education, such as a master’s degree. Some employers offer tuition assistance to employees pursuing advanced degrees.

Potential Salary for Distribution Manager Positions

In a national survey conducted in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Labor, the median annual salary for distribution managers was $81,830. Because salary potential may vary depending on location, education and experience, prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research to determine actual earning potential.

Are You a Good Fit For a Career as a Supply Chain Distribution Manager?

Quick thinkers with leadership abilities and a take-charge attitude can thrive as distribution managers. If you think you’d be a good fit for this dynamic career, you can start laying the groundwork, choosing your educational path, and preparing for this rewarding and challenging career.

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