Have you ever wondered how businesses get the materials, goods and services they need to operate? The answer is, through the work of a buyer or purchasing agent. These business and finance professionals undertake the process of acquiring the supplies their companies need. Although it is possible to become a buyer without a college education, a bachelor’s degree is the typical level of education most employers of buyers and purchasing agents are seeking.
Buying as a Profession
If you love to shop, being a professional buyer might sound like a dream come true. While there definitely is a lot to love about the exciting work of a buyer, the job has its share of challenges, as well. The bargain-hunting, critical-thinking and decision-making skills you use when doing your own personal shopping come in handy when working as a buyer as well – but the demands are much higher when purchasing is your profession.
Buyers and purchasing agents are responsible for every aspect of the buying process. They don’t merely choose the items they personally like and hand over their company’s money to pay for them. Instead, they carefully evaluate different products and suppliers, meeting with vendors to thoroughly get to know products and services. They analyze proposed prices, negotiate costs and contracts, work with the supplier to determine when the items will arrive and keep track of records and product inventory, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Buyers and purchasing agents work in many different industries. Some buyers, like those who work for retail companies, select products for stores to sell. Others buy materials used in manufacturing or equipment and goods used in the work of agriculture or other industries.
The median wage for purchasing agents and buyers is $62,120. With years of experience, purchasing agents can move up into purchasing managers roles, for which the median annual salary is $115,760, the BLSL reported.
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Business Degrees for Buyers
Purchasing is an essential part of business operations for industries like manufacturing, wholesale trade and retail trade. An undergraduate degree in business is valuable for aspiring buyers because it equips them with a thorough understanding of the business operations into which purchasing fits. A business degree program often covers coursework in management, marketing, finance, accounting, economics, business strategy and business law. Buyers who understand the full scope of a business’s operations are better prepared for solving problems that inevitably arise during the course of business and for analyzing options and making decisions.
A general business degree is an option for prospective buyers, as are Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degrees with concentrations in management, finance or supply chain management.
Finance Degree Programs
To better understand the financial side of work in a purchasing capacity, students can opt to study finance, the field concerned with managing money and assets. Undergraduate degrees in finance usually require core studies in business, so students can still develop a broad foundation of business knowledge reminiscent of what they would expect from a BBA. However, this program is more specialized, with more major coursework in finance. The curriculum typical includes mandatory work in corporate finance, financial analysis and investments, with electives that allow students to learn more about the investments and aspects of finance that best fit their career objectives.
Finance is one of the fields of business that most heavily emphasizes math, which makes sense for this career, since the BLS ranks math skills and negotiating skills as some of the most important qualities for buyers to have.
Purchasing as Part of the Supply Chain
Buyers are part of procurement, the process by which businesses get the supplies they need. Procuring supplies is one important part of the supply chain. Other business professionals who are known as supply chain managers and logisticians coordinate the supply chain, handling the logistics of getting goods and materials where they need to be on time and at reasonable costs.
Some buyers prepare for their career by earning a degree in supply chain management. Coursework in this major includes general subjects of study, like organizational behavior, project management and operations management. It also covers specialized areas of study like transportation and logistics management, purchasing and inventory management, quality management and the concepts and practices of supply chain management.
Supply chain manager is a high-level role that involves overseeing not just supply procurement, but also activities such as warehousing, distribution and manufacturing production.