When companies and organizations of all kinds need supplies, whether for manufacturing or retail sales or simply to support the efforts of their employees – someone has to purchase those supplies. In industries that require a lot of supplies, buying those items can be a full-time job. A college education and on-the-job training are what you need to work in purchasing, while leadership skills and years of work experience can help you secure a management role.
Careers in Purchasing
Non-supervisory roles in purchasing have titles like buyer and purchasing agent. The median wage for this occupation is $62,120, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In senior-level roles, purchasing managers supervise teams of buyers and purchasing agents as well as the organization’s overall procurement strategies, and they handle the most complex purchases themselves. Purchasing managers make much higher wages than buyers, earning a median wage of $115,760.
In the process of procuring goods and supplies for their organizations, buyers, purchasing agents and purchasing managers network with vendors and suppliers, compare products and prices and negotiate contracts. Fields such as business, finance and supply chain management provide a foundation for most buyer roles, although purchasing agents in certain specialized industries may require an industry-specific degree, the BLS reported. On-the-job training builds on candidates’ business knowledge and equips them with the skills to keep track of supply inventory and to negotiate prices and contracts.
While purchasing is an important role in business, it is not a growing one. In fact, the BLS expects the total number of jobs for purchasing agents, buyers and managers to decline by three percent, or 17,200 jobs, over a decade.
An undergraduate degree in business administration is a good choice for aspiring purchasing agents because it provides a solid foundation in a breadth of business topics. Good buyers and purchasing agents should understand how the work of procurement fits into the overall mission and operations of the organization. Studying business administration can help them develop this understanding. In a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program, students take core coursework that draws from all areas of business, including economics, accounting, marketing and finance.
For aspiring purchasing managers, studies in business management specifically can be valuable in helping you develop your leadership skills and strategies.
When you work in purchasing and procurement, you need to have a basic understanding of financial markets and the value of a dollar. While you don’t need to decipher complex trends in investment performance or manage million-dollar portfolios, you need to be a savvy spender and have the math and analytical skills needed to evaluate product costs and compare suppliers and price quotes. Finance majors develop these skills along the way as they complete coursework in introductory principles of finance, financial management, financial analysis, corporate finance, international finance, financial modeling, risk management and investments. Purchasing and procurement is just one occupational path you could pursue with a finance degree, along with jobs such as financial analyst and personal financial advisor.
Within a finance degree program, you can take specialized coursework in subjects like investment types, real estate and financial markets.
Supply Chain Management Degrees
Procurement is an important part of the supply chain, or the system that brings the needed materials and goods into a company’s inventory for allocation, distribution, use and delivery or disposal. When logisticians and supply chain managers coordinate the supply chain, one of the first factors they must look at is acquiring the supplies the organization needs. Having skilled buyers and purchasing agents on staff makes a supply chain manager’s role easier.
Studies in supply chain management include classes in supply chain management principles, sourcing and procurement, inventory and warehouse management and transportation and logistics management.
In retail sales companies, manufacturing companies and government entities, agriculture would be out of place as a recommended degree program for aspiring purchasing agents. However, one specialized area of procurement in which buyers play a crucial role is farm and agriculture. Purchasing agents who specialize in this field buy farm products to resell or process for other uses, according to the BLS. These roles often require an education in agriculture or animal science that equips students with more detailed knowledge about the industry than they would have by earning a bachelor’s degree.
No matter which degree program you choose, you will likely go through months of on-the-job training in the field of purchasing. For purchasing managers, five or more years of experience is typical before moving up to this leadership role.