He hailed from the region of Longxi 隴西 (modern Gansu) was was good at riding and shooting with the bow. He entered imperial servide as guard gatesman of the palace guard (yulin qimen lang 羽林期門郎) and accompanied Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE) to Guanquan 甘泉.
Shangguan Jie was ordered to oversee the northern border of the empire to keep at bay the horded of the steppe federation of the Xiongnu. When Emperor Wu lay on the deathbed in 87 BCE he was made General to the Left (zuo jiangjun 左將軍) with the task to reign for the future young Emperor Zhao 漢昭帝 (r. 87-74 BCE), together with his son-in-law Huo Guang 霍光.
In 85, Shangguan Jie was given the title of Marquis of Anyang 安陽侯, and his granddaughter was made empress (known as Empress Dowager Shangguan 上官太后). In the next years a fight for power broke out between Shangguan Jie and Huo Guang that was won by the latter.
In 80 BCE Shangguan Jie was charged of high treason and was executed, together with his son Shangguan An 上官安.