Career Detail


Purchasing Agents & Managers
“Buy Things for a Living”
Buy the goods and services your company or organization needs to either resell to customers or for the establishment's own use.
The Job
Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents shop for a living. They try to get the best deal for their company, meaning the highest quality goods and services at the lowest possible cost to their companies. They consider price, quality, availability, reliability, and technical support when choosing suppliers and merchandise. Purchasing agents commonly focus on routine purchasing tasks, often specializing in a specific area. Purchasing managers often have a much larger range of duties than purchasing agents. They may actively seek new technologies and suppliers. They may create and oversee systems that allow individuals within their organizations to buy their own supplies, lowering the cost of each transaction. They frequently work more than the standard 40-hour week, because of special sales, conferences, or production deadlines.
Work Environment
Most purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents work in comfortable offices. Many times may work under pressure.
College Majors
business administration, specific industry
Minimum Qualifications
Educational requirements tend to vary with the size of the organization. Qualified people may begin as trainees, purchasing clerks, or assistant buyers. They often need continuing education, certification, or a bachelor's degree to advance. A master's degree is essential for larger organizations.
Personality traits helpful for this career
ability to analyze technical data in suppliers' proposals; good communication, negotiation, and mathematical skills; knowledge of supply-chain management; and the ability to perform financial analyses
Quick Facts
  • About 43 percent are employed in wholesale trade or manufacturing establishments.
  • Many others work for local, state, and Federal government entities.
  • Often, purchasing specialists in government place solicitations for services and accept bids and offers through the Internet.
Compensation and Outlook
Median annual wages of purchasing managers were $89,160 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $67,370 and $115,830. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $142,550.Median annual wages of purchasing agents and buyers of farm products were $49,670 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $37,930 and $67,440. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $96,220.
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