How to Become a Purchasing Manager in 5 Steps

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

What Does a Purchasing Manager Do?

Purchasing managers work as representatives for various companies and organizations. They negotiate with vendors for the best prices on products. Before negotiating, they must review information on suppliers to decide based on several factors and interview them. Purchasing managers work with the suppliers on a contract and other agreements necessary. They must also keep records of all purchases, costs and inventory.

Look over the chart below for an overview of this career field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Business, economics, engineering
Training Required Comprehensive on-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Find vendors, negotiate prices, retain purchase records, hire employees
Job Growth (2014-2024) 1%*
Median Salary (2015) $108,120*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Purchasing Manager?

A purchasing manager is an agent who seeks out goods and services their employer needs and tries to buy those of the best available quality for the lowest possible price. They typically work for larger companies and organizations. Those who work for manufacturers purchase raw or minimally processed materials. Those who work for wholesalers or retailers purchase finished goods. Their duties include studying the market to identify price trends and future availability of materials and goods; locating vendors; negotiating prices; preparing requisitions and purchase orders; and maintaining purchase records. They may also hire, train and manage subordinates and have a role in the development of product or equipment specifications.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in business administration or a related subject, such as operations management, is sufficient for an entry-level position that will lead to a job as a purchasing manager. Business administration programs are widely available, particularly at private for-profit schools.

Business administration programs teach you organizational and economic theory, along with the most common components and functions of a business entity - accounting, finance, marketing, human resource management and production. Programs correlate all of these elements. They also introduce fundamental concepts in supply chain management, financial analysis and data analysis. Some offer concentrations or specializations through which you could arrange to study purchasing.

Step 2: Obtain Employment

Management of companies and enterprises, manufacturing companies, and government agencies are the leading employers of purchasing managers. Initially you're likely to work as an assistant buyer or purchasing clerk. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 16% of purchasing managers were employed in management of companies and enterprises, while about 30% were employed in manufacturing ( Approximately 73,000 people were employed as purchasing managers in 2014. Employment is projected to increase 1% from 2014-2024.

Step 3: Learn the Business through Training

No matter your level of formal education, your employer will have you go through training in-house to learn the particulars of their business. Most training programs last 1-5 years and cover such topics as invoicing, merchandising, sales force supervision and inventory management. Manufacturing firms also include content about suppliers, commodity markets and commodity prices.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Once you have a 4-year degree and at least three years of supply management experience, you'll be eligible for the Institute for Supply Management's CPSM (Certified Professional in Supply Management) designation. A CPSM certification provides evidence of your purchasing knowledge and skills in problem solving and negotiating. You have to pass three exams: Foundation of Supply Management, Effective Supply Management and Leadership in Supply Management. The first two consist of 165 multiple-choice questions, and the third requires 180 questions. You don't have to be a member of the Institute for Supply Management to be eligible for the exam.

Certifications are also available from other organizations. The American Purchasing Society offers three certification options: the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP), the Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant (CPPC) and the Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM). If you work for a government agency, the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council offers the Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) and the Certified Public Procurement Officer (CPPO).

Step 5: Earn a Master's Degree

Earning a master's degree will improve your chances of advancing to a managerial position and is essential for those at the top level. A number of schools offer programs in acquisitions management that immerse you in the process of assessing needs, determining life-cycle value, making purchasing decisions and negotiating contracts. Courses may also examine logistics and channel management, procurement law, government contracting and operations management. A master's degree program may be completed in two years.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

One alternative career option is financial management. Financial managers take care of all finances for an organization, and they typically have a bachelor's degree. Another option is working as a logistician, which also requires a bachelor's degree. A logistician takes care of an organization's supply system, which may include receiving, distributing and delivering products. If you're more interested in the service side of the business, you might look into becoming an administrative services manager. This job can involve setting budgets for departments, supervising maintenance staff and managing record-keeping systems.

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