Do you love fast cars, huge trucks and powerful trains? Or, perhaps you’re detailed-oriented with a passion for planning? You may just have a penchant for management or customer service or analysis or international business or manufacturing or driving or… well, you get the drift.
You probably also believe that one of the keys to happiness is earning a good living doing something you love. And if that’s the case, then it’s time look into a career in logistics. So check out our guide where you’ll find information from more than 80 trusted resources on everything kids want and need to know about the exciting field of logistics.
Table of Contents
So Just What is Logistics?
Image via Sealand Logistics Solutions
Logistics is all about getting things from point A to point B – safely, securely and on time. This field is about being innovative and brainstorming solutions – finding answers to questions like, “what’s the fastest, least expensive way to bring together all the parts needed to manufacture a PlayStation or Xbox?” or, “how can we combine parts and pieces from hundreds of different manufactures from dozens of countries to build one Olympic stadium?”
Logistics professionals are known as logisticians. To fulfill their goal of safe, efficient and on-time deliveries, logisticians use every kind of transport known to man. (And if it’s not yet known to man, logisticians will dream it up for engineers to invent!) That means trucks, planes, trains, and boats – and a few rockets, submarines and buggies thrown in for good measure.
Logistics and Your Life
So now you know what logistics is all about: getting things from point A to point B. But that makes logistics sound boring, when in reality, it’s is anything but. And in fact, logistics is so important, it affects your everyday life. No, seriously: almost every aspect of modern-day life relies on the world’s talented logisticians.
An infographic providing 3 tips for companies to reduce carbon in their supply chains.
Image via The Guardian
Here’s another way to think of logistics: for every link in the supply chain – that’s anything you use or consume, and that you don’t make or grow for yourself – logistics plays a key role. Let’s take just one example: your cell phone. Your cell phone started out as just a few raw materials; logisticians helped get those raw materials to the plants that melted the metal and made the plastic, which logistician then arranged to transport to other factories that turned that metal and plastic into hundreds of component parts. Logisticians then organized transport of those parts to the factory that put your cell phone together, and finally, logisticians arranged to have your phone sent to a local cell phone store, where you or your parents purchased it. Whew. That’s a lot of logistifying! (Yeah, we totally made that word up.)
And logistics didn’t just put a smartphone in your hand. Here are just a few of the other things that logistics makes possible:
- Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner: From fresh fruits to your favorite cereal or brand of pasta, logistics moves these items from their country of origin to your grocery store shelves.
- Electronics: Your favorite video game console, your noise-cancelling headphones, your laptop – all electronics are made up of small parts produced in factories around the globe. Logistics gets each microchip, memory card, and console part from its site of production to the factory where it all gets put together. And then, logistic moves the final product to your local electronics store.
- Healthcare: Without logistics, there’d be no way to get medicine, vaccines and other life-saving goods where they need to go, on time and in proper condition. In very real ways, logistics makes the world a better place.
- Sports: For every World Cup, Superbowl or Olympic Games, there are millions of logistical details to handle. Without logistics, there would be no soccer balls at the World Cup, no rings for Superbowl champions, and no hurdles at the Olympic track.
- Mail (the old-fashioned kind): Every time you order a video game, smartphone accessory, or book, logistics bridges the gap from finding your purchase in the warehouse, to getting it packaged and shipped, and finally delivering it to your front doorstep.
- Entertainment: From building concert stages to filming TV shows and music videos, the entertainment industry relies on the logistics of transportation, supply and delivery.
- Sustainability: Believe it or not, logistics plays a huge role in protecting the environment. Logisticians are charged with developing better, more efficient and more sustainable ways of doing business, so that we can enjoy the world economy with the lowest possible environmental impact.
Let’s put it this way: without logisticians (and modern technology, of course), we’d be living in the Dark Ages – literally. Instead of spending your days at school, you’d be working the farm or in the fields to put food on the table. There’d be no iPhone, no skate park, no weekend concert and no TV: you’d be restricted to only the entertainment you could make for yourself, like derby cars you carved by hand and plays featuring hand-sewn puppets crafted from linen you wove yourself. Clearly, logistics plays a prominent part in every aspect of modern life.
The Long, the Tall, and the Big of It: Monster Transport in Logistics
Hands down, one of the coolest aspects of logistics is the transport: the planes, trains, boats and rockets (yes, rockets!) of getting things from point A to point B.
Just imagine working with one of these monster machines:
Road Trains (a.k.a. the longest trucks in the world)
Road trains are multiple loaded trailers – essentially, truck trailers connected together like train cars. You’ve probably seen small road trains on the highway – one cab connected to two or more trailers – but these haulers get much longer than that. The world’s longest-ever road train rode on February 18, 2006 in Australia: the impressive monster pulled 113 trailers, for a total truck length of almost a mile!
Union Pacific’s Monster Train
Image via Popular Mechanics
Logistics isn’t about setting records for records’ sake: it’s about making life better and transportation faster. In 2010, Union Pacific ran a record-setting freight train – a 3.5 mile-long behemoth capable of carrying 15,500 tons (31,000,000 pounds) – to test configurations to test power configurations that would make “monster” train transport possible and more efficient than current methods.
Big Boats: The Titanic
The Titanic is not just a Hollywood love story. At the time of its launch in 1911, the famed (though ill-fated) ocean liner was the largest object ever moved by man. And it wasn’t an easy feat: getting The Titanic out of dry dock required 22 tons (that’s 44,000 pounds!) of soap and tallow to create a 1-inch thick slick, slippery coating on the hull to easy the massive ship’s entrance into the River Lagan.
Saturn V Rocket Transport Truck
Yes, even NASA needs logisticians! In the mid-1960s and early 1970s, NASA used Saturn V (pronounced “Saturn Five”) rockets for their man-on-the-moon program. The immense rockets – even today, they remain the heaviest, tallest and most powerful rockets ever launched – weighed in at 3,100 tons and were taller than the Empire State Building. NASA needed something to move that huge payload, and that’s where logisticians stepped in with equally massive transportation: a 131-foot long crawler-transporter that weighed 2,750 tons and designed to be capable of transporting three Saturn V’s at one time.
Jumbo Jet: the Antonov An-225
Image via Wikipedia Commons
Big things need big transport, and there’s none in the air that’s bigger than Russia’s Antonov An-225. This jumbo jet is so big, it could swallow a 737 – and still have room to spare. The extraordinary machine, which measures longer than a football field from wingtip to wingtip, is like an airborne tractor trailer: it can ship an airliner, a space shuttle, and even massive concert states for Snoop Dogg, Beyonce & Jay-Z.
10 Reasons to Pursue a Career in Logistics
- You’ll Have Lots of Opportunity: One of the best things you can do for yourself is choose a career with limitless potential. Logistics is one of those careers. In fact, careers in logistics are projected to grow 26% between 2010 and 2020 – faster than average growth for any profession. What that means for you is lots of opportunity to do what you want, and to have success doing it.
- Your Job Will be Stable: Stability might sound like a gymnastics skill, but it’s really important to your future career. Logistics isn’t going anywhere – the U.S. alone spent $1.331 trillion on logistics in 2012! – which means you’ll have a job until you’re ready to retire.
- You Can Succeed at Any Education Level: The great thing about logistics is that there’s opportunity (there’s that word again!) for high school graduates, college graduates, and grad school grads. Ex-military also do well in logistics: four years of service is often enough experience to snag a mid-level position in a civilian organization. Bottom line: if you’re good with people and possess soft skills – confidence, perseverance, and a friendly attitude – companies will want to hire you.
- You’ll Make Bank: You should never make career decisions based only on your earnings potential, but if you can find a job you love that also pays well, you’ll have it made. So here’s the good news: logistics pays well – really well. In fact, the median annual salary for logisticians was $72,780 in May 2012. That’s double the average wage ($34,750) across all occupations.
- You’ll Get to Travel: How many people are lucky enough to travel the world – and get paid doing it?! Logisticians, for one. The growing world economy means companies will expand more and more, and that means logistics experts will be tapped to visit far-flung, often exotic places to do business.
- You’ll Meet Awesome People: When you travel, you meet new people. Awesome people – people who have backpacked through Asia and windsurfed in the Caribbean and run with the bulls in Pamplona. In other words, world travelers like you.
- You’ll Learn New Languages: If you like foreign languages, you’ll be even more valuable as a logistician. In logistics, you often have to talk with people who don’t speak English: drivers, customs agents, and others around the world. Stretch those language skills
- You Can Live Anywhere: Do you have dreams of moving to the Big City? Or maybe even living abroad? No problem. The world’s logistics companies have offices throughout their headquarter countries and around the globe, so find the right position and you can live almost anywhere. (Deserted island not included.)
- You’ll Be an Innovator: If you love to innovate and think big, logistics will allow you to test your theories and prove your instincts correct. If you can think of new ways to improve transportation, use technology, or promote sustainability, there’s a logistics company willing to pay you for your ideas.
- Every Day Will Be a New Adventure: Logistics is a dynamic, ever-changing world. You can work with teeny tiny startups (where you’ll have major responsibilities) or huge, multinational corporations. And everyday, you’ll do something different: today, you’ll figure out how to get a monster machine from Mexico to Canada; tomorrow, you’ll be shipping supplies to the site of the upcoming Olympics.
The Best Job in the World: Careers in Logistics
If logistics sounds like it might be a cool career path, you’re probably wondering what kind of job title you could have. After all, you don’t often see “Logisticians Wanted” in the local classifieds.
An infographic depicting the general annual product life cycle, through the perspective of logistics and the supply chain.
Image via MD Logistics
The short answer is, there are many, many careers involved in the field of logistics. It takes a small army to organize, plan, mobilize, transport and deliver the world’s goods! Here’s a sampling of the ways you could get involved in the exciting world of logistics:
- Accountant: Logistics accountants manage a company’s financial information to maximize efficiency and, ultimately, profitability.
- Branch Manager: This is a very diverse job with a lot of responsibility. You’ll help customers with moving (home or office), set sales goals, provide customer service, and more. Innovation is highly prized, as new solutions and ideas are always needed.
- Commercial Driver: For anyone who’s ever wanted to take the wheel of a big rig, all you need is a commercial driver’s license, a good soundtrack (you’ll be driving for long shifts), and the desire to see the country by road.
- Courier: If you want to jump into logistics right now, considering getting a part-time or summer job as a bike courier. (For added cool factor, label yourself a Dispatch Driver.)
- Distribution Manager: If you’re tech-savvy, you’ll love figuring out how to use fancy telecommunications to move materials and goods from point A to point B.
- Freight Forwarder: For anyone who’s ever wanted to work with big machines, a career as a freight forwarder lets you organize the most efficient and best-priced product transport via plane, train, boat or truck.
- Importer/Exporter: If you’re itching to dip into international business, hop aboard the import/export train. You’ll manage the details of bringing foreign goods into the country, or taking national goods abroad.
- Packing Operative: Help pack products efficiently and safely, so goods arrive in perfect condition to stores and consumers around the globe.
- Port Operator: As a port operator, you’re always guaranteed a home by the ocean! You could help load and unload ship cargo, repair and improve cargo ships, or help move passengers through a port.
- Purchasing Manager: As the company’s buyer, it’s your job to purchase goods and services for the best possible price.
- Road Transport Manager: If you’re good with details, sign up to coordinate complicated schedules and plan delivery routes for your company’s truck fleet.
- Supply Chain Manager: This exciting position makes you responsible for managing all steps throughout the supply chain, like getting raw materials to factories and delivering finished products to store shelves.
- Traction and Rolling Stock Engineer: Work with trains and locomotives to coordinate thousands of deliveries around the country.
- Warehouse Manager: Here’s another position for the detail-oriented: organize efficient warehouse operations, to ensure smooth deliveries, appropriate storage, and sufficient stock levels.
If you’ve never heard of these jobs, don’t worry; they’re more familiar than you think! Let’s put them into perspective with some of the world’s most popular and recognizable logistics companies:
- UPS (Kuehne + Nagel), FedEx and DHL: These three logistics companies are some of the world’s most popular for organizing international and national shipments. And though you may not know it, all three are also working to expand into container and less-than container load shipments.
- The Postal Company: The USPS, the Royal Mail, and any other national postal service is a logistics company, organizing the shipment and transportation of goods from one place to another.
- DB Schenker: Headquartered in England and Germany, DB Schenker manages rail, air and land freight around the world.
- Nippon Express: This international transportation company has headquarters in Japan, but does business in more than 80 countries around the globe.
Of course, not all logistics companies are big names, and not all deal directly with shipping. For example, Woodward Governor Company designs and manufactures energy control solutions for aircraft engines; Echo Global Logistics focuses on technology-enabled transportation; and Camcode makes make warehouse labels and signage to keep track of inventory in warehouses. What interests you?
Career-Minded: Tips for Getting a Job in Logistics
If you’re interested in logistics, there are things you can do today, tomorrow and in the future to prepare for a career:
Image via Dorothy Dalton
- Sharpen Your Soft Skills: As mentioned above, soft skills – your attitude, your work ethic, you motivation – can make you an attractive job candidate, no matter your education or work experience.
- Practice a Second (Third, Fourth, Fifth) Language: Second-language skills are very important in logistics, where you’ll be communication with international suppliers and clients. Give yourself a leg up by learning a second language.
- Narrow Your Goals: You now know that there are a lot of options in the logistics industry. Start researching. If your school does job shadowing, visit a local logistics company and try to sample several positions. Figure out what you might like or, at the very least, rule out the logistics jobs you don’t see for yourself.
- Look for Internships/Apprenticeships: Many logistics companies offer summer internships or apprenticeships. When you meet the minimum age requirements, apply. (And make your application shine!)
- Get Tech-Savvy: It goes almost without saying, but international business now relies heavily on computer systems and other technologies. If you love computers, get comfortable with common programs like Excel, Lotus, Word, PowerPoint and MS Project. You can also familiarize yourself with the growing selection of web-based programs – likely the logistics solution of the future (if not the now) – like EVOS SmartTools™ or Appian DirectRoute.
- Read up on Industry News: The best way to learn about logistics is to read about the industry. Start with industry newsletters and publications, like those from the American Society of Transportation and Logistics, 3PL Wire, the Journal of Commerce: Logistics Newsletter, Logistics Management, Logistics Quarterly and the Warehousing Education and Research Council.
- Look into Degree Programs: Depending on your career goals, you may want to get a college degree in a related field, like human resources, operations management, supply chain management, and more.
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