Friday Focus: Study Says Education Trumps Experience for Procurement Professionals' Careers

April 5, 2013

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Source One logoThe Roles of Education & Experience in Procurement white paper from procurement services consultancy Source One Management Services underscores the importance of college and post-secondary education for procurement professionals who want to reach the highest corporate ranks.

Although the Source One report -- the second of a comprehensive report series based on a state-of-the-industry survey it conducted last year -- does stress that experience is valued at all corporate levels, from procurement coordinators all the way up to chief procurement officers (CPOs), it states, "A preference for higher education emerges as the corporate ranks increase as well."

According to Source One, 78 percent of directors and 69 percent of vice presidents and CPOs have bachelor's or master's degrees, versus 50 percent and 55 percent among coordinators and managers, respectively. Meanwhile, Source One's survey found that 100 percent of procurement professionals (also known as practitioners, in industry lingo) with less than three years of experience and working at organizations of all sizes hold "some sort of post-high school degree."

This suggests that students who are investing efforts to obtain college degrees -- especially in procurement or the broader profession of supply chain management (SCM) -- will be at a hiring advantage upon graduation and in better position for advancement later in their careers. The report also suggests that practitioners who have years of industry experience but less formal education would do well by going back to school to become proficient in the fundamentals of modern procurement strategy if they want to move up the corporate ladder.

According to the report, there is a shift emerging in the procurement industry, as it moves toward complex methodologies, business acumen, and broad-based experience and away from "old school methods rooted in tradition." Source One concludes that "it is clear" that a college degree "is the surefire way to corporate success."

Trends in Procurement Are Microcosm of Those in SCM

The Source One paper (which can be obtained by contacting the consultancy at mirror the career trends in the broader field of supply management, as illustrated through findings reported in the Supply IN Demand supplement of Inside Supply Management, a publication by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). Wrote David J. Closs, chair of Michigan State University's Supply Chain Management Dept.:

Recruiters at MSU indicate that they want SCM graduates who have the breadth of education and the perspective to identify and evaluate the trade-offs throughout the supply chain. As the awareness of the capabilities of SCM talent to identify and evaluate trade-offs increases, the demand for broad-based supply chain managers will continue to expand.
And as investment in higher education moves up, so do career salary curves, as Inside Supply Management's editor, John Yuva, wrote:
With a volatile marketplace and greater supply chain complexity, a college or advanced degree is necessary to compete in the profession. Supply management professionals with a bachelor's degree earn 35 percent more than those with only a high-school education ... Supply management professionals with a master's earned 24 percent more in salary than their counterparts with only a bachelor's degree.
Obviously, procurement students and practitioners alike who aspire to high-level and executive careers will need to possess other attributes, such as problem-solving and leadership skills, and be able to sense and take advantage of career opportunities. As Stacey Taylor, vice president of ingredients/enterprise procurement for ConAgra, wrote in Supply IN Demand, "As I transitioned to a new industry and into a new role, the skills I'd developed in the areas of leadership, strategic thinking and project management drastically offset my lack of experience in the food industry prior to joining ConAgra." However, those who also hold higher-education degrees will be at a much greater competitive advantage.

Meanwhile, IMT Career Journal's sister publication, Industry Market Trends, reports on the Source One study in greater depth.


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