Buyers and purchasing agents buy products and services for organizations. Purchasing managers oversee the work of buyers and purchasing agents.
What they do
Buyers and purchasing agents buy products and services for organizations to use or resell. They evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review the quality of products. Purchasing managers oversee the work of buyers and purchasing agents and typically handle more complex procurement tasks.
Purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents typically do the following:
- Evaluate suppliers on the basis of the price, quality, and speed of delivery of their products and services
- Interview vendors and visit suppliers’ plants and distribution centers to examine and learn about products, services, and prices
- Attend meetings, trade shows, and conferences to learn about new industry trends and make contacts with suppliers
- Analyze price proposals, financial reports, and other information to determine reasonable prices
- Negotiate contracts on behalf of their organization
- Work out agreements with suppliers, such as when products will be delivered
- Meet with staff and vendors to discuss defective or unacceptable goods or services and determine corrective action
- Evaluate and monitor contracts to be sure that vendors and suppliers comply with the terms and conditions of the contract and to determine the need for changes
- Maintain and review records of items bought, costs, deliveries, product performance, and inventories
In addition to these tasks, purchasing managers also plan and coordinate the work of buyers and purchasing agents and hire and train new staff.
Purchasing managers are also responsible for developing their organization’s procurement policies and procedures. These policies help ensure that procurement professionals are meeting ethical standards to avoid potential conflicts of interest or inappropriate supplier and customer relations.
Buyers and purchasing agents buy farm products, durable and nondurable goods, and services for organizations and institutions. They try to get the best deal for their organization: the highest quality goods and services at the lowest cost. They do this by studying sales records and inventory levels of current stock, identifying foreign and domestic suppliers, and keeping up to date with changes affecting both the supply of, and demand for, products and materials.
Purchasing agents and buyers consider price, quality, availability, reliability, and technical support when choosing suppliers and merchandise. To be effective, purchasing agents and buyers must have a working technical knowledge of the goods or services they are purchasing.
Evaluating suppliers is one of the most critical functions of a buyer or purchasing agent. They ensure the supplies are ordered in time so that any delays in the supply chain does not shut down production and cause the organization to lose customers.
Buyers and purchasing agents use many resources to find out all they can about potential suppliers. They attend meetings, trade shows, and conferences to learn about new industry trends and make contacts with suppliers.
They often interview prospective suppliers and visit their plants and distribution centers to assess their capabilities. For example, they may discuss the design of products with design engineers, quality concerns with production supervisors, or shipping issues with managers in the receiving department.
Buyers and purchasing agents must make certain that the supplier can deliver the desired goods or services on time, in the correct quantities, and without sacrificing quality. Once they have gathered information on suppliers, they sign contracts with suppliers who meet the organization’s needs and they place orders.
Buyers who purchase items to resell to customers may determine which products their organization will sell. They need to be able to predict what will appeal to their customers. If they are wrong, they could jeopardize the profits and reputation of their organization.
Buyers who work for large organizations often specialize in purchasing one or two categories of products or services. Buyers who work for smaller businesses or government agencies may be responsible for making a greater variety of purchases.
The following are examples of types of buyers and purchasing agents:
Purchasing agents and buyers of farm products buy agricultural products for further processing or resale. Examples of these products are grain, cotton, and tobacco.
Purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products buy items for the operation of an organization. Examples of these items are chemicals and industrial equipment needed for a manufacturing establishment, and office supplies.
Wholesale and retail buyers purchase goods for resale to consumers. Examples of these goods are clothing and electronics. Purchasing specialists who buy finished goods for resale are commonly known as buyers or merchandise managers.
Most purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents work in offices. Travel is sometimes necessary to visit suppliers or review products.
How to become a Purchasing Manager, Buyer, and Purchasing Agent
Buyers and purchasing agents typically have a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree and a few years of work experience in procurement is required for purchasing manager positions.
Purchasing managers usually have at least a bachelor’s degree and some work experience in procurement.
Educational requirements for buyers and purchasing agents usually vary with the size of the organization. Although a high school diploma may be enough at some organizations, many businesses require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. For many positions, a degree in business, finance, or supply management is sufficient.
For those interested in a career as a buyer or purchasing agent of farm products, a degree in agriculture, agriculture production, or animal science is often beneficial.
Buyers and purchasing agents typically get on-the-job training for a few months. During this time, they learn how to perform their basic duties, including monitoring inventory levels and negotiating with suppliers.
There are several certifications available for buyers and purchasing agents. Although some employers may require certification, many do not.
The median annual wage for buyers and purchasing agents was $64,380 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $107,510.
The median annual wage for purchasing managers was $121,110 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $71,450, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $193,400.
Overall employment of purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents is projected to decline 7 percent from 2019 to 2029. Employment growth will vary by occupation.
Projected employment declines of buyers and purchasing agents are expected due to increased automation and outsourcing of some procurement tasks. As procurement technology continues to improve, less complex procurement functions, such as finding suppliers or processing purchase orders, will likely be automated. In addition, some organizations may rely on third parties to handle other tasks, such as market research or supplier risk assessments. Organizations may outsource these functions in order to focus on more complex or strategic procurement tasks and to reduce costs.
Similar Job Titles
Category Purchasing Manager, Commodity Manager, Materials Director, Materials Manager, Procurement Director, Procurement Manager, Procurement Officer, Purchasing Director, Purchasing Supervisor, Strategic Sourcing Director, Buyer, Category Manager, Grocery Buyer, Merchandise Manager, Procurement Specialist, Product Manager, Purchaser, Purchasing Coordinator, Retail Buyer, Trader, Contract Specialist, Contracting Manager, Contract Administrator
General and Operations Manager; Administrative Services Manager; Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Manager, Buyers and Purchasing Agent-Farm Products; First-Line Supervisors of Office and Administrative Support Workers; Transportation Manager, Logistics Manager, Supply Chain Manager; Purchasing Agent; Logistics Analyst
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Purchasing Society - The American Purchasing Society, Inc. is an organization of buyers, purchasing managers, executives, and others interested in the purchasing profession.
- Institute for Supply Management - The Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) is the first and largest not-for-profit professional supply management organization worldwide. Founded in 1915, ISM has over 50,000 members across 100 countries.
- National Association of State Procurement Officials - This organization’s mission is to promote government excellence by delivering superior procurement solutions for the benefit of the public.
- NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement - This organization seeks to develop, support and promote the public procurement profession through premier educational and research programs, professional support, technical services and advocacy initiatives that benefit members and constituents
- Universal Public Procurement Certification Council - This association’s mission is to recognize professionalism in public procurement through the identification of a common body of knowledge and the certification of individuals against established standards of competency.
- Association for Supply Chain Management - As the largest non-profit association for supply chain, ASCM is an unbiased partner, connecting companies around the world to the newest thought leadership on all aspects of supply chain.
Magazines and Publications
Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents have two major goals: to buy goods their company can sell at a profit, and to increase their customer base by offering products that consumers want. Purchasing agents buy items that support an organization’s operation, such as chemicals or industrial equipment for a manufacturer. Buyers purchase goods for resale to consumers, such as clothing or electronics. Purchasing managers oversee the work of buyers and agents, and handle more complex tasks. The most challenging part of the job is predicting which items will be popular, and which might end up left unsold in a warehouse or hanging on a store’s markdown racks which takes a combination of good planning, decisiveness, and the confidence to trust their intuition. Buyers and purchasers research industry trends, study past sales, and listen to customer feedback to identify buying patterns. They carefully select product suppliers that will meet the quality, cost, and delivery date promised. Most buyers, purchasing agents, and managers work in offices full time, with some travel to see suppliers. Overtime is common. The largest employers of these positions are in the manufacturing industry, wholesale and retail trade, and the federal government. Buyers and purchasing agents often need a bachelor’s degree and related experience, though a high school diploma suffices for some positions. Purchasing managers usually have at least a bachelor’s degree, and several years’ work experience as a buyer or purchasing agent.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org