Purchasing Managers Overview

Close to half, 42 percent, of purchasing managers work in wholesale trade or manufacturing establishments. Employment for this career is expected to grow as fast as average, about 7 percent. The best opportunities will most likely be for applicants who have earned a college degree in business, applied sciences, engineering or economics. In order to advance in a career as a purchasing manager, one should pursue continuing education or a certificate.

Nature of the Work for Purchasing Managers

Purchasing Managers

Purchasing managers are responsible for buying a variety of durable and nondurable goods, farm products and services for institutions and organizations. Their goal is to purchase services with the lowest possible cost and the highest quality goods in order to obtain the best deal for the company. This is accomplished by identifying domestic and foreign suppliers, studying sales inventory levels and sales records of stock, and remaining aware of various changes that effect the supply and demand for the products.

Purchasing managers consider quality, availability, reliability, price and technical support. Being knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the products or services to be bought helps purchasing managers stay effective. They oversee wholesale and retail buyers, purchasing agents and buyers of farm products as well as merchandise managers.

Lean manufacturing and just-in-time inventories are commonplace in today’s business market, so purchasing managers must evaluate suppliers to ensure that production is not delayed, as this could potentially cost the firm its clients. To learn about their prospective clients, purchasing managers perform research through Internet catalogs, industry and company publications, trade journals and directories. To also make contacts with clients, they often travel to meetings, conferences and trade shows. Finally, they will often interview suppliers and visit their factories and distribution centers to determine whether they are capable of delivering quality goods in a timely manner. The next step a purchasing manager takes after deciding on a supplier is to draft a contract for the new client and then order the goods or services. This is usually done through the Internet.

Many purchasing managers work in spacious offices. Often they work more than the standard 40-hour week. This is especially true for purchasing managers who work in retail during the holiday and back-to-school seasons. There is a considerable amount of travel when investigating potential suppliers, sometimes even leader to international travel if they work for a worldwide company.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Purchasing Managers

Recommended Education Level

The minimum educational requirement varies depending on the size of the firm. Employers of larger distributors or firms prefer to hire applicants who have earned a bachelors degree in business (BA). Often, a manufacturing firm will require employees to have a bachelors or masters degree in business, economics, engineering or one of the applied sciences. A masters degree is necessary for advancement in this career.

A lengthy training period of one to two years is require to learn to fully understand the operations of the company and the product or service that it is selling. During the training period at a manufacturing firm, recently hired employees will shadow an experienced purchaser to learn about prices, commodities, markets and suppliers. It is also common to be placed in the production planning department to learn about the inventory system or the material requirements system the firm uses to keep the work flow running smoothly.

To learn the operations of a company in wholesale and retail establishments, many trainees start out selling merchandise, keeping track of stock and checking invoices on material received. As time progresses, they are given the responsibility of purchasing products.

It is important that those in this career are sufficient in the Internet and a variety of software packages. They must have the ability to analyze technical data in suppliers’ proposals, negotiation, great communication and mathematical skills. Before becoming a purchasing manager, they are usually promoted from a purchasing agent or buyer position to the title of assistant manager. Experienced purchasing managers might have some management functions including planning, production, logistics and marketing.

Continuing education is key to advancement as a purchasing manager. It is common to attend seminars provided by professional societies and to attend college programs in supply management. Professional certifications are increasingly becoming essential for advancement.

All certifications for purchasing managers are awarded based on work-related experience and specific education requirements in addition to passing a written or oral examination. In 2008, the Institute for Supply Management changed their designation from Certified Purchasing Manager (CPM) to the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) credential, due the greater amount of responsibilities that the title might require. They may also pursue a Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM) designation from the American Purchasing Society, or the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) conferred by the Association for Operations Management (APICS). A Federal, State, or local government employee should pursue a Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) and the Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO) offered by the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing.

Top 10 Most Popular Business Schools

1. University of Phoenix (Multiple Campus Locations)
2. American InterContinental University (Multiple Campus Locations)
3. Gemological Institute of America, Carlsbad (Carlsbad, California)
4. Western International University, Phoenix (Phoenix, Arizona)
5. Webster University (Saint Louis, Missouri)
6. Community College of the Air Force (Montgomery, Alabama)
7. Strayer University (Multiple Campus Locations)
8. University of Maryland - University College (Hyattsville, Maryland)
9. DeVry University (Multiple Campus Locations)
10. Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion (Marion, Indiana)

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Top 10 Most Popular Online Business Schools

1. University of Phoenix - Online School
2. American InterContinental University - Online School
3. Colorado Technical University - Online School
4. Saint Leo University Online
5. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University - Online School
6. Jones International University - Online
7. Northcentral University - Online School
8. San Joaquin Valley College
9. Purdue University Global
10. Ashworth College - Online School

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Employment and Job Outlook for Purchasing Managers

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to little or no change (decrease or increase by 2%).

Purchasing managers hold about 527,400 jobs. Close to 42 percent work in manufacturing firms, 10 percent work in retail, while the rest work in service establishments.

Employment growth for purchasing managers is expected to grow 7 percent in the next decade, which is as fast as average for all occupations. As more firms demand a greater number of purchased goods and services, the employment of purchasing managers that do not work In the wholesale, retail and farm products is expected to grow faster than average. Purchasing departments in large companies have been increasing in size in order to accommodate purchasing service contracts from smaller companies. Despite these factors, the low demand for work correlates to automation of the business, as most purchases can be made electronically through the Internet and electronic data interchange (EDI). A little to no change in employment is expected for purchasing managers. Because the Internet may also be used for the majority of research, purchasing managers now have more time to focus on other aspects of the company. The Internet also allows different companies to bid on contracts. The use of long-term contracts and exclusive supply contracts has purchasing managers dealing with a smaller amount of suppliers. However, some employment growth will be spurred from the need for purchasing managers to supervise large consolidated purchasing networks.

To obtain a buyer’s position, which is required to advance to a purchasing manager, it is recommended to have a bachelors degree in business, economics engineering or any of the other applied sciences. For those interested in working in manufacturing or an industrial company, knowledge of the technical field and industry experience are encouraged. A masters degree in public administration or business is required for most purchasing positions in government agencies or larger companies.

Earnings and Salary for Purchasing Managers

The median annual wages of purchasing managers is $91,440. The highest 10 percent earned more than $142,550, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,490. The middle 50 percent earned between $67,370 and $115,830. Purchasing managers receive standard employee benefit packages, including sick leave, life and health insurance, vacations and pension plans. Often, they earn cash bonuses for exceptional performance and may receive discounts on merchandise bought by their employer.

Annual Salary for Purchasing Managers

On average, Purchasing Managers earn $91,440 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $52,910/yr $69,100/yr $118,740/yr $145,960/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook