When businesses need supplies to produce goods or merchandise to sell, they rely on purchasing professionals to attain those supplies at an affordable price. Purchasing managers, also known as contract specialists, are senior professionals in the field.
Purchasing professionals research and evaluate vendors and the quality and prices of the goods they supply. Purchasing managers consider delivery speed and quality of merchandise as well as the cost of procuring those goods to decide what to buy and who to buy from.
Negotiating is a major part of a purchasing professional’s job. They must get their companies the best products for the best price, and they must be able to get supplies and merchandise in a timely manner. To do this, they negotiate both costs and delivery schedules with vendors. Purchasing managers agree to contracts based on these negotiations, and they maintain records of contracts and purchases for future reference. If there’s a problem with a product or shipment, such as a defective product, a purchasing professional must work with the supplier to resolve that problem, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Purchasing managers supervise lower-level purchasing employees. When a purchase is complicated, purchasing managers put their contract and negotiation expertise to work handling the transaction.
Purchasing manager is not an entry-level role, but a high-level position that commands a high, often six-figure, salary. You first need to gain experience in a position like buyer or purchasing agent before you can handle the responsibilities of managing others or negotiating complex purchases on your own.
To break into this competitive field, especially in positions with large companies, you will likely need a college degree. What educational path is right for you depends upon your intended industry. Bachelor’s degrees in business, economics and accounting are versatile enough to allow candidates to attain purchasing positions in a variety of industries. If you envision yourself purchasing on behalf of manufacturing companies specifically, then a degree in engineering or applied sciences might be a good choice. While a bachelor’s degree is often sufficient for finding an entry-level role as a purchasing agent or buyer, even at a large retailer or distributer, a master’s degree may be necessary to move up into a purchasing manager position.
In addition to earning a college degree, you will need on-the-job training to succeed in the field of purchasing. Often, new buyers and purchasing agents spend a year or more learning from supervisors. They get hands-on experience checking inventory levels and negotiating purchasing contracts and develop their skills so that they can work effectively and independently.
Purchasing managers earn a median salary of $100,170, according to the BLS. This is one career where it certainly pays to be the boss. Other positions in purchasing earn far less money. Purchasing agents earn about $58,760 per year, and buyers earn $55,720.
The career opportunities for purchasing professionals aren’t likely to increase much over a decade, which means that it’s imperative for aspiring purchasing managers to prepare to the best of their ability, so that they have an advantage over the competition. Earning a bachelor’s degree early on will give you the best chances of attaining a job as a buyer or purchasing agent. In addition to cultivating experience, you will likely need to earn a graduate degree in a field like business or supply management to advance to a purchasing manager position.
In industries like manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail and the government, purchasing managers negotiate supply contracts and lead teams of purchasing employees.