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Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents - What They Do


How to Advance (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. At the top levels, duties may overlap with other management functions, such as production, planning, logistics, and marketing.

Regardless of industry, continuing education is essential for advancement. Many purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents participate in seminars offered by professional societies and take college courses in supply management. Professional certification is becoming increasingly important, especially for those just entering the occupation.

There are several recognized credentials for purchasing agents and purchasing managers. The Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) designation was conferred by the Institute for Supply Management. In 2008, this certification was replaced by the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) credential, covering the wider scope of duties now performed by purchasing professionals. The Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM) designations are conferred by the American Purchasing Society. The Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential is conferred by APICS, the Association for Operations Management. For workers in Federal, State, and local government, the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing offers the designations of Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) and Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO). These certifications are awarded only after work-related experience and education requirements are met and written or oral exams are successfully completed.

Employment
Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents held about 527,400 jobs in 2008. About 42 percent worked in the wholesale trade and manufacturing industries and another 10 percent worked in retail trade. The remainder worked mostly in service establishments, such as management of companies and enterprises or professional, scientific, and technical services. A small number were self-employed.

Job Outlook
Employment of purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents is expected to increase 7 percent through the year 2018. Job growth and opportunities, however, will differ among different occupations in this category.

Job Growth
Overall employment of purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents is expected to increase 7 percent during the 2008-18 decade, which is as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment of purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products—the largest employment group in the industry—will experience faster than average growth as more companies demand a greater number of purchased goods and services. Additionally, large companies are increasing the size of their purchasing departments to accommodate purchasing services contracts from smaller companies. Also, many purchasing agents are now charged with procuring services that traditionally had been done in-house, such as computer and IT (information technology) support in addition to traditionally contracted services such as advertising. Nonetheless, demand for workers may be somewhat limited by technological improvements such as software that has eliminated much of the paperwork involved in ordering and procuring supplies, and the growing number of purchases being made electronically through the Internet and electronic data interchange (EDI). Demand will also be limited by offshoring of routine purchasing actions to other countries.

Employment of purchasing managers is expected to have little or no change. The use of the Internet to conduct electronic commerce has made information easier to obtain, thus increasing the productivity of purchasing managers. The Internet also allows both large and small companies to bid on contracts. Exclusive supply contracts and long-term contracting have allowed companies to negotiate with fewer suppliers less frequently. Still, purchasing managers will be needed to oversee large consolidated purchasing networks, thus spurring some employment growth.

Employment of purchasing agents and buyers of farm products is also projected to have little or no change, as overall growth in agricultural industries and retailers in the grocery-related industries consolidate. Furthermore, automation, offshoring, and the outsourcing of more services are expected to further impede employment growth.

Finally, little or no change in employment of wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products, is expected. In the retail industry, mergers and acquisitions have caused buying departments to consolidate. In addition, larger retail stores are eliminating local buying departments and creating a centralized buying department at their headquarters.

Persons who have a bachelor's degree in engineering, business, economics, or one of the applied sciences should have the best chance of obtaining a buyer position. Industry experience and knowledge of a technical field will be an advantage for those interested in working for a manufacturing or industrial company. Government agencies and larger companies usually require a master's degree in business or public administration for top-level purchasing positions. Most managers need experience in their respective field.

Earnings
Median annual wages of purchasing managers were $89,160 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $67,370 and $115,830. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $142,550.

Median annual wages of purchasing agents and buyers of farm products were $49,670 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $37,930 and $67,440. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $96,220.

Median annual wages of wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products, were $48,710 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,460 and $66,090. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $90,100.

Median annual wages of purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products, were $53,940 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $41,670 and $70,910. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,650, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $88,790.

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents receive the same benefits package as other workers, including vacations, sick leave, life and health insurance, and pension plans. In addition to receiving standard benefits, retail buyers often earn cash bonuses based on their performance and may receive discounts on merchandise bought from their employer.

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