Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

Summary

purchasing managers buyers and purchasing agents image
Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review product quality.
Quick Facts: Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents
2012 Median Pay $60,550 per year
$29.11 per hour
Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation See How to Become One
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2012 504,600
Job Outlook, 2012-22 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 19,700

What Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents Do

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents buy products for organizations to use or resell. They evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review product quality.

Work Environment

Most purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents work full time. Many work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Purchasing Manager, Buyer, or Purchasing Agent

Although educational requirements for buyers and purchasing agents may vary by the size of the organization and the type of product, all need extensive on-the-job training. Purchasing managers need a bachelor's degree and work experience as a buyer or purchasing agent.

Pay

The median annual wage for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents was $60,550 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents is projected to grow 4 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. These workers will be needed to buy goods and services for business operations or for resale to customers. Employment growth will vary based on the type of purchasing agent or manager and the specific industry.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents Do

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

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents buy products for organizations to use or resell. They evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review product quality.

Duties

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

  • Evaluate suppliers based on price, quality, and delivery speed
  • 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 supplies 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

Purchasing managers, 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 to be bought.

Evaluating suppliers is one of the most critical functions of a purchasing manager, buyer, or purchasing agent. Many organizations now run on a lean manufacturing schedule and use just-in-time inventories, so any delays in the supply chain can shut down production and potentially cause the organization to lose customers.

Purchasing managers, 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.

Purchasing managers, 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 largely 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.

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. Buyers who work for large organizations usually specialize in one or two lines of merchandise (for example, men's clothing or women's shoes or children's toys). Buyers who work for small stores may be responsible for buying everything the store sells.

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

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

Purchasing managers plan and coordinate the work of buyers and purchasing agents, and they usually handle purchases that are more complicated. Those employed by government agencies or manufacturing firms usually are called purchasing directors, managers, or agents; sometimes they are known as contract specialists. Some purchasing managers, called contract, sourcing, or supply managers, specialize in negotiating and supervising contracts for supplies.

Work Environment

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

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents held about 504,600 jobs in 2012.

The industries that employed the most purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents in 2012 were as follows:

Manufacturing25%
Wholesale trade15
Government12
Management of companies and enterprises10
Retail trade8

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

Work Schedules

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

How to Become a Purchasing Manager, Buyer, or Purchasing Agent

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

Although educational requirements for buyers and purchasing agents may vary by the size of the organization and the type of product, extensive on-the-job training is typically provided. Purchasing managers need a bachelor's degree and work experience as a buyer or purchasing agent.

Education

Educational requirements usually vary with the size of the organization. A high school diploma is enough at many organizations for entry into the purchasing agent occupation, although large stores and distributors may prefer applicants who have completed a bachelor's degree program and have taken some business or accounting classes. Many manufacturing firms put an even greater emphasis on formal training, preferring applicants who have a bachelor's or master's degree in engineering, business, economics, or one of the applied sciences.

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

Training

Buyers and purchasing agents typically get on-the-job training for more than 1 year. 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 recognized credentials for purchasing agents and purchasing managers. These certifications involve oral or written exams and have education and work experience requirements.

The Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) credential, offered by the Institute for Supply Management, covers a wide scope of duties that purchasing professionals do. The exam requires applicants to either have a bachelor’s degree and 3 years of supply management experience, or for those without a bachelor’s degree, 5 years of supply management experience and the successful completion of three CPSM exams.

The American Purchasing Society offers two certifications: the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM). Candidates become eligible for these certifications 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.

The Universal Public Procurement Certification Council offers two certifications for workers in federal, state, and local government: Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) and Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO). NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement offers preparation courses for these 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.

Important Qualities

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

Decision-making skills. Purchasing managers and agents must have the ability to make informed and timely decisions by choosing products that they think will sell.  

Math skills. Purchasing managers and agents 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 and 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 negotiation.

Pay

Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

Median annual wages, May 2012

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents

$60,550

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents was $60,550 in May 2012. 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 $34,990, and the top 10 percent earned more than $110,050.

The median annual wages for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents in May 2012 were as follows:

  • $100,170 for purchasing managers
  • $58,760 for purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products
  • $55,720 for buyers and purchasing agents, farm products
  • $51,470 for wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products

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

Job Outlook

Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents

4%

 

Employment of purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents is projected to grow 4 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations.

These workers will be needed to buy goods and services for business operations or for resale to customers. Growth will vary based on the type of purchasing agent or manager and the specific industry.

Employment of wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products, is projected to grow 7 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven largely by the performance of the wholesale and retail industries.

Employment of purchasing agents, farm products, is projected to grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Slower growth in the agricultural industry has led to slow growth in this occupation, and the trend is expected to continue.

Employment of purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products, is projected to grow 3 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Continued employment decreases in manufacturing, as well as decreases in federal government, which includes defense purchasing, are expected. However, strong growth is expected for this occupation in health care and computer systems design and related services firms.

Employment of purchasing managers is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022. The trends affecting growth for agents and buyers will also affect purchasing managers, although there will likely still be a need for purchasing managers to plan and direct buying activities for organizations and to supervise purchasing agents and buyers.                                   

Job Prospects

Although a high school diploma is sufficient for some purchasing agent positions, jobseekers with a bachelor’s degree are likely to have the best prospects. Candidates for positions as purchasing managers will improve their prospects by obtaining a master’s degree in business or supply management. 

Employment projections data for Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents

504,600 524,300 4 19,700

Purchasing managers

11-3061 71,900 73,400 2 1,500 [XLS]

Buyers and purchasing agents, farm products

13-1021 14,200 15,000 6 800 [XLS]

Wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products

13-1022 124,600 133,500 7 8,900 [XLS]

Purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products

13-1023 294,000 302,400 3 8,400 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers plan programs to generate interest in a product or service. They work with art directors, sales agents, and financial staff members.

Bachelor’s degree $115,750
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks

Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks produce financial records for organizations. They record financial transactions, update statements, and check financial records for accuracy.

High school diploma or equivalent $35,170
Financial clerks

Financial Clerks

Financial clerks do administrative work for many types of organizations. They keep records, help customers, and carry out financial transactions.

High school diploma or equivalent $34,960
Food service managers

Food Service Managers

Food service managers are responsible for the daily operation of restaurants and other establishments that prepare and serve food and beverages. They direct staff to ensure that customers are satisfied with their dining experience and the business is profitable.

High school diploma or equivalent $47,960
Lodging managers

Lodging Managers

Lodging managers ensure that guests on vacation or business travel have a pleasant experience at a hotel, motel, or other types of establishment with accommodations. They also ensure that the establishment is run efficiently and profitably.

High school diploma or equivalent $46,810
Logisticians

Logisticians

Logisticians analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain—the system that moves a product from supplier to consumer. They manage the entire life cycle of a product, which includes how a product is acquired, distributed, allocated, and delivered.

Bachelor’s degree $72,780
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain product features, answer any questions that their customers may have, and negotiate prices.

See How to Become One $57,870
Financial managers

Financial Managers

Financial managers are responsible for the financial health of an organization. They produce financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop strategies and plans for the long-term financial goals of their organization.

Bachelor’s degree $109,740

Contacts for More Information

For more information about purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents, including education, training, employment, and certification, visit

American Purchasing Society

APICS

Institute for Supply Management

NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement

Universal Public Procurement Certification Council

O*NET

Purchasing Managers

Purchasing Agents, Except Wholesale, Retail, and Farm Products

Wholesale and Retail Buyers, Except Farm Products

Buyers and Purchasing Agents, Farm Products

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/purchasing-managers-buyers-and-purchasing-agents.htm (visited April 16, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014