What you need to know
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.
Most buyers and purchasing agents work in offices. Travel is sometimes necessary to visit suppliers or review products.
Some of the things buyers, purchasing agents and purchasing managers might do:
- 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
- Analytical skills. When evaluating suppliers, buyers, purchasing agents and purchasing managers must analyze their options and choose a supplier with the best combination of price, quality, delivery, or service.
- Decision-making skills. Buyers, purchasing agents and purchasing managers must have the ability to make informed and timely decisions, choosing products that they think will sell.
- Math skills. Buyers, purchasing agents and purchasing managers must possess math skills. They must be able to compare prices from different suppliers to ensure that their organization is getting the best deal.
- Negotiating skills. Buyers, purchasing agents and purchasing managers often must negotiate the terms of a contract with a supplier. Interpersonal skills and self-confidence, in addition to knowledge of the product, can help lead to successful negotiations.
The average pay for buyers, purchasing agents and purchasing managers in the United States ranges from $38,650 to $124,810 as of May 2018.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Overall employment of buyers, purchasing agents and purchasing managers is projected to decline 3 percent from 2016 to 2026.
The outsourcing and automation of less complex procurement functions are among contributing factors causing employment declines for these occupations. However, employment for purchasing managers is projected to increase because they will continue to be needed to help procure goods and services for business operations or for resale to customers.
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.