May 5 2010 11:11 AM

You see them all the time after someone’s name: C.P.M., CPSM, CTL, PLS, CPIM, CSCP… If you know what they mean, you’re ahead of many in the supply chain profession, and if you’ve earned one or more of these certifications, you could go to the head of the line when potential employers are interviewing. Why? Because obtaining and maintaining professional credentials shows those companies that your learning hasn’t stopped and that you are continuing to grow professionally, staying current and maintaining the educational and ethical standards of the certifying organization(s).

The leading supply chain certifications are the CPSM (Certified Professional in Supply Management), which has replaced the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) C.P.M.; the CTL (Certified in Transportation & Logistics, offered by the American Society of Transportation & Logistics (AST&L); and the CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional), offered by The Association for Operations Management (APICS). While not completely interchangeable, the material studied for each of these programs covers most of the supply chain spectrum yet retains some specialization, which reflects their respective historic roots in purchasing, transportation and production and inventory control. Deciding which certification is right for you depends on what you’ve learned so far and where you want your career to go. The respective websites for your initial research are, and Each national organization also has staff members to answer your questions directly, as well as local chapters or affiliates whose officers and members can be of assistance. The latter can be reached through their websites or in person at local membership meetings.

Why am I so passionate about certification? That’s easy—twice in my career, I was hired because I was certified, and the other final candidate was not. In both instances, I learned after getting the job that the other finalist and I had similar backgrounds, educations, abilities and experiences. But the other guys had not kept current. They didn’t belong to professional organizations like ISM, AST&L or APICS; they hadn’t learned from their peers nor shared their own knowledge and experience with fellow practitioners; and most important, they hadn’t continued their educations.

In both of these situations, the hiring managers knew what certification was and they understood the body of knowledge it represented. In one instance, the hiring manager not only knew what professional certification was, he had listed it as a “preferred” qualification in the job description, something we’ll likely be seeing more of in years to come. That credential, and my active membership in ISM, AST&L and CSCMP, gave me an advantage that carried through both companies’ selection routines, and ultimately to the good offers that I accepted. And in a more recent job search, being certified plus still being active in my professional organizations once again gave me the edge over a number of candidates and resulted in an offer that I accepted.

So if you’re thinking of changing jobs, are already in a search or you just want to be sure you’re as up- to-date as you should be for your current position, taking some of that alphabet soup as chicken soup to improve your career’s health might just be the medicine you need.

George Yarusavage, CTL, C.P.M., is a principal in Fortress Consulting, specializing in Transportation and Sourcing issues. He is also the Second Vice Chair of ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group and can be reached at, or (203) 984-4957. Membership in the Group is open to all ISM members who are responsible for or have an interest in the logistics and transportation fields