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What Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents Do About this section

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents
Purchasing agents and buyers consider price, quality, availability, reliability, and technical support when choosing suppliers and merchandise.

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

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 About this section

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents
Purchasing managers plan and coordinate the work of buyers and purchasing agents.

Buyers and purchasing agents held about 449,300 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of buyers and purchasing agents were as follows:

Manufacturing 23%
Wholesale trade 14
Government 13
Management of companies and enterprises 10
Retail trade 8

Purchasing managers held about 76,900 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of purchasing managers were as follows:

Manufacturing 26%
Management of companies and enterprises 16
Government 12
Wholesale trade 11

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

Work Schedules

Most purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents work full time. Overtime is common in these occupations. 

How to Become a Purchasing Manager, Buyer, or Purchasing Agent About this section

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents
Buyers and purchasing agents typically receive on-the-job training which lasts for more than 1 year.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

Pay About this section

Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

Median annual wages, May 2019

Purchasing managers

$121,110

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents

$69,600

Business operations specialists

$68,730

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for buyers and purchasing agents was $64,380 in May 2019. 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 $38,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $107,510.

The median annual wage for purchasing managers was $121,110 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $71,450, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $193,400.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for buyers and purchasing agents in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government $78,030
Management of companies and enterprises 71,870
Manufacturing 64,340
Wholesale trade 59,010
Retail trade 50,990

In May 2019, the median annual wages for purchasing managers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises $134,080
Government 126,050
Manufacturing 115,820
Wholesale trade 113,520

Most purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents work full time. Overtime is common in these occupations.

Job Outlook About this section

Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Business operations specialists

6%

Total, all occupations

4%

Purchasing managers

3%

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents

-7%

Buyers and purchasing agents

-9%

 

Overall employment of purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents is projected to decline 7 percent from 2019 to 2029. 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

About 5,600 openings for purchasing managers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Despite declining employment, about 36,000 openings for buyers and purchasing agents are projected annually over the decade in this relatively large occupation.

Most of those openings for purchasing managers and all of the openings for buyers and purchasing agents are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment projections data for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents

526,200 488,600 -7 -37,600

Purchasing managers

11-3061 76,900 78,900 3 2,000 Get data

Buyers and purchasing agents

13-1020 449,300 409,700 -9 -39,700 Get data

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