Purchasing Managers

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Purchasing Managers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Purchasing managers plan, direct, and coordinate the buying of materials, products, or services for wholesalers, retailers, or organizations. They oversee the work of procurement-related occupations including buyers and purchasing agents.

Duties of Purchasing Managers

Purchasing managers typically do the following:

  • Coordinate the activities of buyers and purchasing agents engaged in buying materials, equipment, or supplies for the organization
  • Supervise, hire, and train staff
  • Evaluate potential suppliers on the basis of price, quality, and speed of delivery
  • Interview vendors and visit suppliers’ plants and distribution centers to examine and learn about products, services, and prices
  • Attend meetings, trade shows, and conferences to learn about new industry trends and make contacts with suppliers
  • Analyze price proposals, financial reports, and other information to determine reasonable prices
  • Negotiate contracts on behalf of their organization
  • Work out agreements with suppliers, such as when products will be delivered
  • Meet with staff and vendors to discuss defective or unacceptable goods or services and determine corrective action
  • Ensure that vendors and suppliers comply with the terms and conditions of the contract and, if they don’t, determine the need for changes

Purchasing managers plan and coordinate the work of buyers and purchasing agents and hire and train new staff.

Purchasing managers, sometimes known as contract managers, are also responsible for developing their organization’s procurement policies and procedures. These policies help ensure that procurement professionals are meeting ethical standards to avoid potential conflicts of interest or inappropriate supplier and customer relations.

Besides establishing procurement standards, purchasing managers set guidelines on how often their department will get price quotes for items, how many bids to accept, and which vendors to consider.

In addition to carrying out their managerial and administrative responsibilities, purchasing managers buy goods and services for their organization or institution. Like buyers and purchasing agents, purchasing managers negotiate contracts and consider price, quality, availability, reliability, and technical support when identifying and choosing suppliers and merchandise. Their negotiations and contracts are typically more complex than those carried out by buyers and purchasing agents.

Purchasing managers must study their organization’s sales records and inventory levels of current stock, identify foreign and domestic suppliers, and keep up to date with changes affecting both the supply of, and demand for, products and materials.

Purchasing managers use many resources to find out all they can about potential suppliers. They attend meetings, trade shows, and conferences to learn about new industry trends and to make contacts with suppliers.

Before signing a contract and placing an order, purchasing managers must make certain that the supplier can deliver the desired goods or services on time, in the correct quantities, and without sacrificing quality. Purchasing managers monitor the terms of the contracts in order to ensure that the supplier is complying with its terms and conditions and resolve any supplier-related issues that arise.

Work Environment for Purchasing Managers[About this section] [To Top]

Purchasing managers hold about 73,000 jobs. The industries that employ the most purchasing managers are as follows:

Manufacturing 30%
Management of companies and enterprises 16
Wholesale trade 12
Professional, scientific, and technical services 8
Federal government 8

Most purchasing managers work in offices. Travel is sometimes necessary, and purchasers for global organizations may need to travel outside the United States.

Purchasing Manager Work Schedules

Most purchasing managers work full time. Overtime is common in this occupation.

How to Become a Purchasing Manager[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Purchasing Managers near you!

Purchasing managers need a bachelor’s degree and work experience as a buyer or purchasing agent.

Purchasing Manager Education

Purchasing managers usually have at least a bachelor’s degree and some work experience in procurement. A master’s degree may be required for advancement to some top-level purchasing manager jobs.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Purchasing managers typically must have at least 5 years of experience as a buyer or purchasing agent. At the top levels, purchasing manager duties may overlap with other management functions, such as production, planning, logistics, and marketing.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

There are several certifications available for purchasing managers and others employed in a procurement-related field. Although some employers require certification, many do not.

Most of the certifications involve oral or written exams and have education and work experience requirements.

The Institute for Supply Management offers the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) credential, which covers a wide scope of purchasing professional duties. To receive the CPSM credential, candidates must pass three exams and possess at least 3 years of relevant work experience for those with a bachelor’s degree or 5 years of relevant work experience for those without a bachelor’s degree.

The American Purchasing Society offers the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) and the Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM) credentials. Certification is valid for 5 years. Candidates must earn a certain number of professional development “points” to renew their certification. Candidates initially become eligible, and can renew their certification, through a combination of purchasing-related experience, education, and professional contributions (such as articles published or speeches delivered).

APICS, founded as the American Production and Inventory Control Society, offers the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. Applicants must have 3 years of related business experience or a bachelor’s degree in order to be eligible for the CSCP credential, which is valid for 5 years. Candidates must also earn a certain number of professional development points to renew their certification.

The Next Level Purchasing Association offers the Senior Professional in Supply Management (SPSM) certification. Although there are no education or work experience requirements, applicants must complete six online courses and pass an SPSM exam. Certification is valid for 4 years. Candidates must complete 32 continuing education hours in procurement-related topics to recertify for an additional 4-year period.

The Universal Public Procurement Certification Council (UPPCC) offers two certifications for workers in federal, state, and local government. The Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) credential requires applicants to have earned at least an associate’s degree, to have at least 3 years of public procurement experience, and to complete relevant training courses. The Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO) requires applicants to have earned a bachelor’s degree, to have at least 5 years of public procurement experience, and to complete additional training courses.

Those with the CPPB or the CPPO designation must renew their certification every 5 years by completing continuing education courses or attending procurement-related conferences or events.

The National Institute of Government Purchasing’s (NIGP’s) Institute for Public Procurement offers preparation courses for the UPPCC certification exams.

Advancement for Purchasing Managers

An experienced and qualified purchasing manager may advance to become the chief procurement officer for a business or organization.

Important Qualities for Purchasing Managers

Analytical skills. When evaluating suppliers, purchasing managers must analyze their options and choose a supplier with the best combination of price, quality, delivery, service, or other criteria.

Decisionmaking skills. Purchasing managers must have the ability to make informed and timely decisions, choosing products that they think will sell.

Math skills. Purchasing managers must possess basic math skills. They must be able to compare prices from different suppliers to ensure that their organization is getting the best deal.

Negotiating skills. Purchasing managers often must negotiate the terms of a contract with a supplier. Interpersonal skills and self-confidence, in addition to knowledge of the product, can help lead to successful negotiation.

Purchasing Manager Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for purchasing managers is $108,120. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $60,830, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $172,950.

The median annual wages for purchasing managers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Federal government $125,200
Professional, scientific, and technical services 125,020
Management of companies and enterprises 118,240
Manufacturing 99,250
Wholesale trade 95,760

Most purchasing managers work full time. Overtime is common in this occupation.

Job Outlook for Purchasing Managers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of purchasing managers is projected to show little or no change over the next ten years.

These workers will continue to be needed to oversee the purchase of goods and services for business operations or for resale to customers. In addition, purchasing managers often play an important role in controlling costs for an organization.

However, some organizations may increasingly rely on third parties to handle some of the tasks previously performed by purchasing managers, such as business strategy development and contract management.

In the public sector, employment demand may be negatively impacted by the increasing use of cooperative purchasing agreements. These agreements allow state, local, and municipal governments to share resources in order to buy supplies and make other general purchases. Because the same standard contracts can be used multiple times by multiple government agencies, the rise of purchasing cooperatives will likely limit the need to hire additional procurement officers and managers.

The projected decline in the manufacturing industry should also limit the demand for purchasing managers employed within that industry.

Purchasing Managers Job Prospects

As with many other managerial positions, competition for jobs is expected to be strong. Candidates for purchasing manager positions may improve their prospects by obtaining a master’s degree in business or supply management.

Employment projections data for Purchasing Managers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Purchasing managers 73,000 73,700 1 700


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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