How Do I Become a Purchasing Agent?

Explore the career requirements for purchasing agents. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, certification and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Procurement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Purchasing Agent?

Purchasing agents work for companies and government agencies, acquiring the goods and services these organizations use to conduct business. They are also known as buyers. Purchasing agents decide whether a supplier is reasonable based on price, quality and efficient delivery. They also interview vendors, develop and negotiate contracts, and look over financial reports. They maintain records of purchases and keep up on contracts to ensure they are followed.

The following table outlines the general requirements for a career in this field.

Education Required Bachelor's degree in business or related field for entry-level
Master's degree for higher-level jobs
Key Responsibilities Track market conditions and price trends
Purchase items for stores to resell
Solicit services and accept bids for employer
Certifications Voluntary; available through Institute for Supply Management, American Purchasing Society, Association for Operations Management (APICS), and National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP)
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% for all buyers and purchasing agents*
Median Salary (2015) $62,220 for all purchasing agents except those dealing in wholesale, retail and farm products*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of a Purchasing Agent?

Purchasing agents, also known as buyers, balance quality and cost in acquiring goods and/or services their company or organization needs to conduct business. To create this balance, purchasing agents track the market conditions and price trends of their commodities and services.

Wholesale and retail purchasing agents buy items that stores carry for resale, while purchasing managers typically supervise purchasing agents below them and conduct the more complicated business deals. Titles for government or manufacturing purchasing agents include purchasing director, manager, contract specialist and agent. These purchasing agents solicit services and accept bids. Work is also available in the private sector at wholesale or retail offices, on farms, and in manufacturing facilities.

What Education and Skills Do I Need?

A bachelor's degree in engineering, economics, business, mathematics or an applied science will grant you better opportunities when looking for a purchasing agent position, according to the BLS. Being familiar with the company's merchandise, a related technical field, and wholesale/retail practices is an additional advantage. If you would like to be a purchasing agent for a government agency or large company, you'll need a master's degree in business or public administration.

What Certifications Do I Need?

Industry certification can help with career advancement and give you an edge when applying for purchasing manager positions. The Institute for Supply Management, American Purchasing Society, Association for Operations Management (APICS) and National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) are the primary certifying agencies for purchasing managers.

If you're interested in working in government, you might consider the Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) and Certified Public Procurement Officer (CPPO) designations, offered by the NIGP. The APICS awards college credit for those who pass its certification exams ( Eligibility requirements for each certifying agency include 2-5 years of work-related experience, educational requirements and written and/or oral exams.

What Is the Salary and Job Outlook?

According to the BLS, between 2014 and 2024, the job opportunities for purchasing agents will increase 2%. In 2015, the median salary was $62,220 for purchasing agents not involved with wholesale, retail and farm products.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other career options related to purchasing agents include financial managers and logisticians. These alternative career options require a bachelor's degree. Financial managers take care of an organization's finances. They are responsible for reports, investments, and financial goals. Logisticians are responsible for how a product is moved from a supplier to a consumer. They take care of acquiring the product all the way to delivery.

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