Purchasing Agent: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a purchasing agent. Learn about job responsibilities, education and certification requirements, and median salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Procurement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Purchasing Agent?

Purchasing agents buy products, materials and services that are utilized by the firm or organization they represent. They consult with prospective suppliers, investigate them and examine the quality of the product or service they offer. They then perform an overall evaluation regarding the suitability and value of those products or services to their employer. They negotiate and work out contracts with suppliers and then monitor the ensuing actions to ensure that the terms of the contract are fulfilled.

The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree and experience as a buyer
Certification Certification is optional
Key Responsibilities Buy machines, tools, and raw materials; seek bids; study proposed prices; select reliable suppliers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% (for all buyers and purchasing agents)*
Median Salary (2015) $62,220 (for all purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Duties Would I Have as a Purchasing Agent?

As a purchasing agent, you might buy machines or tools for running a business, or raw materials for supplying a manufacturing company. Some purchasing agents specialize in buying agricultural products like trees, milk, tobacco and grains. In this specialty, you would negotiate terms with farmers for producing and buying agricultural products that are then resold or refined. You might also work as a merchandising manager, buying the specific items or goods that will be sold at a retail location.

Purchasing agents strive for the best quality at minimal cost. Your job responsibilities include seeking bids, studying proposed prices and placing orders. You carefully select reliable suppliers so there is no supply lag that could jeopardize your firm's production schedule and lead to financial losses.

What Education and Skills Do I Need?

Most firms want purchasing agents who are college-educated, but the required schooling depends upon the employer's type and size. You should obtain a bachelor's degree in a business program if you want to work for a major retailer or a big distributor. Choose a program in the applied sciences, such as business or business administration, economics or engineering.

Purchasing agents need strong computer skills. You must develop expertise about applicable laws, math, food production, finances, supply management, government regulations, transportation methods and costs, marketing and data analysis.

Expect on-the-job training as you discover more about your new firm's practices and gradually receive more duties. Continuing education will sharpen your job skills plus boost your chances at promotion.

Should I Get Certified?

Certification is recommended for purchasing agents. The American Purchasing Society and other professional associations award professional credentials like Certified Purchasing Professional, Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager. You must pass tests and meet education and work requirements for certification.

What Salary Might I Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), purchasing agents (except in wholesale, retail, and farm products) earned $62,220 as a median annual salary in 2015. Purchasing agents who buy agricultural products took home a median annual salary of $56,270 as of 2015, the BLS reported.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you have a bachelor's degree and at least 5 years of relevant experience, you may qualify for work as a purchasing manager. Top-level positions may call for a master's degree. As a purchasing manager, you assign duties and oversee the performance of buyers and agents. Purchasing or contract managers are often responsible for the formulation and incorporation of an organization's procurement policies, with an eye toward avoiding possible conflicts of interest and questionable relationships with suppliers.

Once a contract has been entered into between an organization and a supplier of products or goods, it's important that those products and goods be delivered in a timely manner and in good condition. The individuals who are responsible for the integrity of this supply chain are logisticians. They manage the life cycle of a product from acquisition to consumer consumption. They are concerned with product quality, cost and transport time, all of which is considered with an eye toward efficiency of operation and the satisfaction of all participants. Logisticians typically need a bachelor's degree in systems engineering, business or supply chain management.

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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