Career outcomes with a BS in Industrial Distribution

Are you fascinated by the mechanics of large-scale businesses? Do you enjoy making complicated processes simple and streamlined? And are you a creative problem-solver? Then you may be interested in a career in the exciting field of industrial distribution.

This engaging industry deals with supplying manufacturers and other organizations with the items and tools they need to successfully operate. Industrial distribution professionals are involved in a piece of the supply chain process, ensuring goods and equipment are transferred to the places they need to go. Industrial distributors work with organizations in both the public and private sector, including manufacturers in the aerospace, chemicals, automotive and retail sectors.

The Collat School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham offers a 100 percent online bachelor’s degree program in Industrial Distribution. This unique program offers an engineering as well as a medical equipment and supplies track- and teaches the business-oriented knowledge to provide a blended academic approach to thrive in the industry.

Careers in industrial distribution can be incredibly rewarding, and play a vital role in business operations in the U.S. There were more than 5 million job openings by the beginning of 2016 in the distribution/wholesale industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the field is expected to further expand over the next several years. It’s also a hugely valuable industry – Erie Bearings estimates its worth $825 billion, meaning there’s great opportunity for professionals interested in the field to thrive.

Industrial distribution is a field that has a range of different job titles and employment for interested individuals, with roles in a variety of skill areas. Here are some career paths that an Industrial Distribution degree can lead to:

Sales Manager

Sales managers play an important role in industrial distribution. They build business relationships with key players in the supply chain, driving purchasing and production. Sales managers help identify and promote the value of a specific product or service to a larger organization, such as a manufacturing company or plant. They also prepare detailed budgets, measure and forecast profitability and demonstrate the long-term financial value of certain goods as well as the ability for companies to effectively buy and sell them.

Effective sales managers possess both business acumen and marketing know-how. They’re superior communicators that understand the industrial distribution process inside and out and are able to form strong, long-term strategic business partnerships. Sales managers can also lead sales teams, helping to develop and support talent and train sales employees in best practices. These topics and more are covered as part of an online degree program in industrial distribution.

Sales managers can earn lucrative salaries – in 2016, the median pay for this position was $117,960 per year, according to the BLS. Some 19,000 sales manager jobs are expected to open up by 2024.

Purchasing Agent

Industrial distribution depends on the quality of the products that are procured – and that is where purchasing agents come in. These professionals source the products that are bought and sold by manufacturers, machinery plants, automotive parts suppliers and other industrial companies. Purchasing agents also advise on contract renewals and product quality, with a trained eye for identifying and negotiating deals on the goods and equipment that will be most valuable and lucrative to an organization.

In addition to automotive, utilities and machinery production, another sector in which purchasing managers play an important role is health care. The medical equipment and supplies used by hospitals, private practices, global development agencies and other health centers depend on skilled purchasing agents and buyers. Individuals interested in working in industrial distribution specifically in the health care sphere can concentrate their BS degree in Industrial Distribution at the Collat School of Business in medical equipment and supplies.

The skills required by purchasing agents include strong interpersonal communication, sound knowledge of business practices and standard procedures and the ability to appraise the value of a product. They also must be able to switch between projects quickly and be able to soundly evaluate an organization’s current suppliers and make recommendations for next steps.


The median annual pay for buyers and purchasing agents in 2016 was $60,700, according to the BLS, and pay can increase commensurate with experience and education. There are also further roles available for purchasing agents, such as purchasing managers. These individuals can receive an annual salary of more than $100,000 per year, according to PayScale.


Logisticians analyze the logistics of industrial distribution throughout the entirety of the supply chain. For logisticians, industrial distribution has inherent puzzles that need to be solved, and they both take a macro perspective and dive into the details to determine a solution.

Logisticians look at every stage of the supply chain to see where there are areas for improvement and greater efficiency, from the provision of raw materials to the dissemination of the finished product. Through this analysis, they can identify weak spots in industrial distribution processes and improve the system as a whole. This analysis is built on the logistician’s extensive knowledge and expertise in the field, as well as through combing through data and conducting in-person interviews with individuals at various levels of the supply chain.

This role demands an analytical, detail-oriented mindset and highly organized work ethic. It also requires a deep familiarity with operations at all levels of the supply chain, as well as strong communication skills for sharing findings and recommendations with others.

The median annual salary for logisticians in 2016 was $74,170, according to the BLS. Logistics is a rapidly growing field – the professional association MHI anticipates that 1.4 million logistics jobs will open up between 2014 and 2018.

Distribution Manager

Distribution managers are responsible for storing and distributing products. They implement and oversee the processes that ensure goods are moved efficiently to buying organizations. This entails managing warehouses and establishing standard protocols to store products safely and in ways that protect quality, as well as managing warehouse teams. The role also involves understanding and overseeing transportation methods and ensuring that buyers receive products in a timely way that follows best practices for the type of good.

Distribution managers need strong communication skills and the ability to grow and develop relationships with decision-makers at various levels of the supply chain. They must have extensive knowledge of industrial distribution, procurement, warehousing and transport practices as well as federal and regional regulations, and must be able to manage other people. They also need to be organized workers that are able to keep tabs on a number of swiftly moving elements.

These professionals had a mean annual wage of $97,630 in 2016, according to the BLS. The level of the role and the type of industry worked can result in higher pay, as well, with distribution managers working with government and business organizations having higher average earnings of up to $114,350.

Supply the growing need

Whether you work in sales, marketing, logistics or warehousing, industrial distribution offers exciting and dynamic careers. If you are interested in taking the next step in your career and developing the expertise and skills needed to take on professional roles in industrial distribution, enroll in the BS degree in Industrial Distribution offered by the Collat School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. This 100 percent online program is one of the few joint engineering and business programs in the world, offering students flexibility while immersing them in a unique curriculum that blends technical knowledge with business know-how. The degree offers two concentrations – engineering and medical equipment and supplies – so students can pursue their exact ambitions.

Contact an enrollment advisor today to learn more.


Recommended Readings:

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University of Alabama Birmingham, Industrial Distribution Bachelors Degree

PT Work Force, What Is Power Transmission/Motion Control? 


Chron, Salaries for Industrial Distribution & Logistics


Valve Magazine, The State of Industrial Distribution in 2017

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Erie Tec

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Industrial Engineers

Forbes, The Most In-Demand (And Aging) Engineering Jobs

Career Cornerstone Center, Industrial Engineering

Oregon State University, What Do Industrial Engineers Do?

The Brooks Group, Industrial Distribution Sales Training

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sales Managers

U.S. News, Best Sales and Marketing Jobs 

Payscale, Average Purchasing Manager 

Prospects, Logistics and distribution manager

Alchemy, Distribution Manager Job

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019