How Do I Become an Inventory Control Specialist?

T. L. Childree

An inventory control specialist keeps track of a company’s raw materials and finished goods to ensure uninterrupted production and distribution. A combination of formal education and on-the-job training are usually needed to become an inventory control specialist. You may also want to seek voluntary professional certification before beginning this career. These professionals typically monitor, order, and store inventory in a warehouse, office, or retail store.

Inventory specialists must be familiar with inventory management technologies.
Inventory specialists must be familiar with inventory management technologies.

There is no specific educational path required to become an inventory control specialist. Some of these professionals begin their career with only a high school diploma, while others obtain a degree from a two- or four-year college prior to employment. An associate’s degree in logistics and supply management usually provides enough skills to begin employment with a small firm. A bachelor’s or master’s degree may be necessary to work in a larger, more complex industry. College coursework for this occupation should include instruction in inventory management and control, supply chain management, and purchasing, as well as warehouse management and computerized logistics.

An inventory control specialist is responsible for keeping track of inventory levels.
An inventory control specialist is responsible for keeping track of inventory levels.

Most employers will want you to complete a certain amount of on-the-job training before entering this career, typically as an entry-level stock or warehouse clerk. You will be taught how to read stock numbers, count inventory, and enter information into a computerized record-keeping system. As your experience increases, you will learn how to manage outgoing inventory and purchase raw materials. This training period may last for one or more years depending upon the complexity of your employer’s inventory.

An inventory control specialist may need to know how to print reports from the point of sale system.
An inventory control specialist may need to know how to print reports from the point of sale system.

It might be a good idea to seek some type of voluntary professional certification before you become an inventory control specialist. Professional certification assures potential employers that you have the knowledge and skills needed for the job. The Association for Operations Management (APICS) offers the internationally-recognized Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) designation to qualified candidates who successfully complete a comprehensive examination. Prospective CPIM candidates must meet certain educational and work experience requirements in order to sit for the exam. Test-preparation materials for this certification are available at the APICS website.

Once you have earned a position, you will perform a wide variety of duties in your daily work. You will probably be responsible for tracking the location and progress of all incoming materials and outgoing products. Most of this is accomplished using specialized computer software, but a periodic physical count is usually needed as well. In addition, you may also be responsible for ordering supplies and other raw materials when the available inventory begins to shrink. These specialists often work for an industrial or wholesale supplier, but some are employed by large retail stores.

To become an inventory control specialist, a formal education plus on-the-job training may be needed.
To become an inventory control specialist, a formal education plus on-the-job training may be needed.

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