How Can I Become a Buyer?

Research what it takes to become a buyer. Learn about education requirements, certification, and job duties to determine if this is the career for you. Schools offering Fashion Design & Merchandising degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Buyer?

Buyers purchase products for businesses to sell, aiming to stay up-to-date with consumer trends. They are the individuals who evaluate all aspects of a product or a service offered by a supplier in which organizations or businesses are preparing to invest for the purpose of resale or use. They negotiate and monitor contracts with suppliers to ensure fairness and suppliers' compliance with the contract terms. They also evaluate the service or product in order to ensure quality and see to it that any defects are corrected. Buyers may attend trade shows and conferences to establish contacts with new suppliers. In addition, it is their responsibility to maintain records of all transactions.

The table below outlines the general requirements to become a buyer.

Degree Required High school diploma; bachelor's degree preferred
Education Field of Study Business, merchandising, economics, or applied sciences
Training Required Extensive on-the-job training is provided by most employers
Key Skills Analytical skills, negotiation skills, math skills
Certification Required Certifications offered through the Institute for Supply Management and various other organizations
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% (for all buyers and purchasing agents)*
Median Annual Salary (2017) $51,694**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

What Type of Degree Do I Need to Become a Buyer?

Typically, you need a bachelor's degree to become a buyer. A major in business may be applicable, but bachelor's degree programs in retail merchandising and management are also an option for aspiring buyers. You can also earn a bachelor's degree in retail merchandising and management with a specialization in buying and product management. If you wish to work as a buyer in the fashion industry, you might pursue a bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising, which is an option at several schools and can even be earned online. To advance beyond a buyer position, perhaps to a career as a top-level purchasing manager, you typically need a master's degree.

Aspiring buyers also need good decision-making, planning, and marketing skills, as well as an interest in merchandising. Strong leadership abilities may also serve you well in this field, because your job duties may involve supervising assistant buyers and dealing with lots of people, including vendors, store representatives, and manufacturers. Knowledge of the products that a prospective employer sells is also important.

What Will I Learn?

Most degree programs applicable to a buyer position have a business emphasis. In a retail merchandising and management program, you might take courses in accounting, business planning, and management solutions. Such programs are also likely to include marketing courses, such as consumer behavior, trend analysis, branding, and selling strategies. If you pursue a merchandising degree specific to fashion, you may also take courses in textiles, fashion marketing, and visual merchandising.

What About Certification?

Even with a degree, you may need to work your way up the corporate ladder to become a buyer. You might start out as an assistant buyer, junior buyer, or other trainee, performing tasks like invoice checking, sales, or inventory tracking before you're given any responsibilities related to buying. Most employers require you to complete an in-house training program, during which you learn about the company's products and systems.

If you want to advance in this field, continuing education and certification will likely be necessary. You might take relevant continuing education courses at a local college or online. Professional societies also offer seminars to help you continue your education. You might also consider voluntary certification from a professional organization such as the American Purchasing Society (APS), which offers the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) designation. If you want to work as a buyer within the government, you might pursue a Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) credential through the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council (UPPCC).

What Might My Job Entail?

As a buyer, it's up to you to determine what the company you work for sells, with the goal of maximizing profit. Unlike shopping for yourself, buying for a company requires you to analyze data and predict consumer trends. If you fail to pick the products that consumers want, or if you purchase too little or too much of a particular product, you could lose the company money or harm its reputation. Depending on the size of the establishment you work for, you might be responsible for a single merchandise line or the company's entire inventory.

Your job will likely include a lot of time working in an office setting, but you'll likely travel to meet with suppliers and manufacturers as well. You might also travel to fashion shows or other vendor fairs to view new product options. Additionally, many buyers are responsible for supervising assistant or junior buyers. It's common for buyers to work more than 40 hours per week, especially during peak shopping periods like back-to-school or holiday seasons.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other similar positions that only require a bachelor's degree and allow you to monitor consumer trends and influence purchasing decisions include advertising, promotions and marketing managers. These individuals work to create an interest in a product or service. Advertising and promotions managers may create media advertisements or incentive programs to increase sales while marketing managers help estimate the demand for a specific product and help set the target market and price point.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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