Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

Career, Salary and Education Information

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a buyer or purchasing agent with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Purchasing Manager Jobs

  • Purchasing Manager - Metalfab Material Handling Systems - Vernon, NJ

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  • Purchasing Manager - L.A. Burdick Chocolate - Walpole, NH

    This role is responsible for working closely with the leadership team in managing and optimizing direct and indirect spend. In addition to managing

  • Purchasing Manager - Medifast - Baltimore, MD

    improvement. While the Purchasing Manager of Indirect materials is a very strategic

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Top 3 Buyer Jobs

  • Buyer - Bepex International - Minneapolis, MN

    Expediting purchase orders. • Negotiate price and delivery timeline of equipment and parts. • Act as main point of contact for and manage

  • Buyer - SageGlass - Faribault, MN

    Managing supplier

  • Shift Leader/Buyer - Flashbacks Recycled Fashions - San Diego, CA

    Salary: $13.00 to $15.00 /hour Experience: Supervisor: 1 year License: Driver

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What Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents Do[About this section] [To Top]

Buyers and purchasing agents buy products and services for organizations to use or resell. They evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review the quality of products. Purchasing managers oversee the work of buyers and purchasing agents and typically handle more complex procurement tasks.

Duties of Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

Purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents typically do the following:

  • Evaluate suppliers on the basis of the price, quality, and speed of delivery of their products and services
  • 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
  • Evaluate and monitor contracts to be sure that vendors and suppliers comply with the terms and conditions of the contract and to determine the need for changes
  • Maintain and review records of items bought, costs, deliveries, product performance, and inventories

In addition to these tasks, purchasing managers also plan and coordinate the work of buyers and purchasing agents and hire and train new staff.

Purchasing 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.

Buyers and purchasing agents buy farm products, durable and nondurable goods, and services for organizations and institutions. They try to get the best deal for their organization: the highest quality goods and services at the lowest cost. They do this by studying sales records and inventory levels of current stock, identifying foreign and domestic suppliers, and keeping up to date with changes affecting both the supply of, and demand for, products and materials.

Purchasing agents and buyers consider price, quality, availability, reliability, and technical support when choosing suppliers and merchandise. To be effective, purchasing agents and buyers must have a working technical knowledge of the goods or services they are purchasing.

Evaluating suppliers is one of the most critical functions of a buyer or purchasing agent. They ensure the supplies are ordered in time so that any delays in the supply chain does not shut down production and cause the organization to lose customers.

Buyers and purchasing agents 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 make contacts with suppliers.

They often interview prospective suppliers and visit their plants and distribution centers to assess their capabilities. For example, they may discuss the design of products with design engineers, quality concerns with production supervisors, or shipping issues with managers in the receiving department.

Buyers and purchasing agents must make certain that the supplier can deliver the desired goods or services on time, in the correct quantities, and without sacrificing quality. Once they have gathered information on suppliers, they sign contracts with suppliers who meet the organization's needs and they place orders.

Buyers who purchase items to resell to customers may determine which products their organization will sell. They need to be able to predict what will appeal to their customers. If they are wrong, they could jeopardize the profits and reputation of their organization.

Buyers who work for large organizations often specialize in purchasing one or two categories of products or services. Buyers who work for smaller businesses or government agencies may be responsible for making a greater variety of purchases.

The following are examples of types of buyers and purchasing agents:

Purchasing agents and buyers of farm products buy agricultural products for further processing or resale. Examples of these products are grain, cotton, and tobacco.

Purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products buy items for the operation of an organization. Examples of these items are chemicals and industrial equipment needed for a manufacturing establishment, and office supplies.

Wholesale and retail buyers purchase goods for resale to consumers. Examples of these goods are clothing and electronics. Purchasing specialists who buy finished goods for resale are commonly known as buyers or merchandise managers.

Work Environment for Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents[About this section] [To Top]

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents hold about 520,400 jobs. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents is distributed as follows:

Purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products 309,400
Wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products 123,300
Purchasing managers 73,900
Buyers and purchasing agents, farm products 13,700

The largest employers of purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents are as follows:

Manufacturing 23%
Wholesale trade 15
Management of companies and enterprises 10
Retail trade 9
Federal government 8

Most purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents work in offices. Travel is sometimes necessary to visit suppliers or review products.

Purchasing Manager, Buyer, and Purchasing Agent Work Schedules

Most purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents work full time. Overtime is common in these occupations. About 1 in 3 purchasing managers work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Purchasing Manager, Buyer, or Purchasing Agent[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Purchasing Managers, Buyers and Purchasing Agents near you!

Buyers and purchasing agents typically have a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree and a few years of work experience in procurement is required for purchasing manager positions.

Education for Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

Purchasing managers usually have at least a bachelor's degree and some work experience in procurement.

Educational requirements for buyers and purchasing agents usually vary with the size of the organization. Although a high school diploma may be enough at some organizations, many businesses require applicants to have a bachelor's degree. For many positions, a degree in business, finance, or supply management is sufficient.

For those interested in a career as a buyer or purchasing agent of farm products, a degree in agriculture, agriculture production, or animal science is often beneficial.

Purchasing Manager, Buyer, and Purchasing Agent Training

Buyers and purchasing agents typically get on-the-job training for a few months. During this time, they learn how to perform their basic duties, including monitoring inventory levels and negotiating with suppliers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

There are several certifications available for buyers and purchasing agents. Although some employers may require certification, many do not.

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

The American Purchasing Society offers the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) certification. The CPP 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 published articles or delivered speeches).

APICS offers the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. Applicants must have 3 years of relevant business experience or a bachelor's degree in order to be eligible for the CSCP credential. The credential 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, possess at least 3 years of public procurement experience, and complete relevant training courses. The Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO) requires applicants to have earned a bachelor's degree, possess at least 5 years of public procurement experience, and 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 (NIGP) and the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) offer preparation courses for the UPPCC certification exams.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation for Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

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.

Advancement for Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

An experienced purchasing agent or buyer may become an assistant purchasing manager before advancing to purchasing manager, supply manager, or director of materials management.

Purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents with extensive work experience can also advance to become the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) for an organization.

Important Qualities for Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

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

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

Math skills. Purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents must possess 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 and buyers and purchasing agents 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 negotiations.

Purchasing Manager, Buyer, and Purchasing Agent Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents is $64,850. 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 $36,770, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $119,820.

Median annual wages for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents are as follows:

Purchasing managers $111,590
Purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products 63,300
Buyers and purchasing agents, farm products 58,430
Wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products 53,340

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

Federal government $85,930
Management of companies and enterprises 74,720
Manufacturing 65,460
Wholesale trade 57,980
Retail trade 49,710

Most purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents work full time. Overtime is common in these occupations. About 1 in 3 purchasing managers work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook for Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents[About this section] [To Top]

Overall employment of purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents is projected to decline 3 percent over the next ten years. Employment growth will vary by occupation.

Projected employment declines of buyers and purchasing agents are expected due to increased automation and outsourcing of some procurement tasks. As procurement technology continues to improve, less complex procurement functions, such as finding suppliers or processing purchase orders, will likely be automated. In addition, some organizations may rely on third parties to handle other tasks, such as market research or supplier risk assessments. Organizations may outsource these functions in order to focus on more complex or strategic procurement tasks and to reduce costs.

In the public sector, employment demand may be negatively affected by the increasing use of cooperative purchasing agreements. These agreements allow state and local 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 may limit the need to hire additional procurement officers.

Employment for purchasing managers is projected to increase because they will continue to be needed to help procure goods and services for business operations or for resale to customers.

Job Prospects for Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

There are likely to be more job opportunities for prospective purchasing agents than purchasing managers, despite their projected declines, because of the relatively large size of these occupations.

Employment projections data for Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents 520,400 504,000 -3 -16,400
  Purchasing managers 73,900 78,000 6 4,100
  Buyers and purchasing agents, farm products 13,700 12,900 -6 -800
  Wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products 123,300 121,000 -2 -2,400
  Purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products 309,400 292,100 -6 -17,300


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

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