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Working as a Purchasing Agent

What Does a Purchasing Agent 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.

Duties

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 supplies 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

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. Many organizations run on a lean manufacturing schedule and use just-in-time inventories, so any delays in the supply chain can 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.

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.

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.

How To Become a Purchasing Agent

Although a high school diploma may be sufficient for some positions, many employers require buyers and purchasing agents to have a bachelor’s degree. Most entry-level positions require some form of on-the-job training.

Education

Educational requirements 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.

Training

Buyers and purchasing agents typically get on-the-job training for more than 1 year. During this time, they learn how to perform their basic duties, including monitoring inventory levels and negotiating with suppliers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

There are several certifications available for buyers and purchasing agents. Although some employers require certification, many do not.

Most of these certifications involve oral or written exams and have education and work experience requirements.

The Institute for Supply Management offers the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) credential, which covers a wide scope of purchasing professional duties. To receive the CPSM credential, candidates must pass three exams and those with a bachelor’s degree must possess at least 3 years of relevant work experience while those without a bachelor’s degree must have at least 5 years of relevant work experience.

The American Purchasing Society offers the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) certification. The CPP certification is valid for 5 years. Candidates must earn a certain number of professional development “points” to renew their certification. Candidates initially become eligible and can renew their certification through a combination of purchasing-related experience, education, and professional contributions (such as published articles or delivered speeches).

APICS offers the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. Applicants must have 3 years of relevant business experience or a bachelor’s degree in order to be eligible for the CSCP credential. The credential is valid for 5 years. Candidates must also earn a certain number of professional development points to renew their certification.

The Next Level Purchasing Association offers the Senior Professional in Supply Management (SPSM) Certification. Although there are no education or work experience requirements, applicants must complete six online courses and pass an SPSM exam. Certification is valid for 4 years. Candidates must complete 32 continuing education hours in procurement-related topics to recertify for an additional four-year period.

The Universal Public Procurement Certification Council (UPPCC) offers two certifications for workers in federal, state, and local government. The Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) credential requires applicants to have earned at least an associate’s degree, possess at least 3 years of public procurement experience, and complete relevant training courses. The Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO) requires applicants to have earned a bachelor’s degree, possess at least 5 years of public procurement experience, and complete additional training courses.

Those with the CPPB or the CPPO designation must renew their certification every 5 years by completing continuing education courses or attending procurement-related conferences or events.

The National Institute of Government Purchasing (NIGP), Institute for Public Procurement offers preparation courses for the UPPCC certification exams.

Advancement

An experienced purchasing agent or buyer may become an assistant purchasing manager before advancing to purchasing manager, supply manager, or director of materials management. Buyers and purchasing agents with extensive work experience can also advance to become the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) for an organization.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. When evaluating suppliers, buyers and purchasing agents must analyze their options and choose a supplier with the best combination of price, quality, delivery, or service. 

Decisionmaking skills. Buyers and purchasing agents must have the ability to make informed and timely decisions, choosing products that they think will sell.

Math skills. Buyers and purchasing agents must possess basic 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 and purchasing agents 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.

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Average Salary$49,203

Purchasing Agent Jobs

Purchasing Agent Career Paths

Top Careers Before Purchasing Agent

Buyer
18.7%

Top Careers After Purchasing Agent

Buyer
17.6%

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Purchasing Agent

Purchasing Agents in America make an average salary of $49,203 per year or $24 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $75,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $32,000 per year.
Average Salary
$49,203

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Salary Range37k - 76k$53k$53,259
Salary Range37k - 72k$52k$51,742
Salary Range37k - 69k$51k$51,106
Salary Range35k - 73k$51k$51,103
Salary Range36k - 71k$51k$50,598
Salary Range35k - 68k$50k$49,616
$29k
$76k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Purchasing Agent
Purchasing Agent
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$34,91610/30/2020
$34,916
Purchasing Agent, GS 09 (FBI Only)
Purchasing Agent, GS 09 (FBI Only)
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$58,09210/30/2020
$58,092
Purchasing Agent
Purchasing Agent
Robert Half
Robert Half
10/28/2020
10/28/2020
$52,17510/28/2020
$52,175
Purchasing Agent (OA), GS/8
Purchasing Agent (OA), GS/8
Department of Justice
Department of Justice
10/24/2020
10/24/2020
$55,34710/24/2020
$55,347
Purchasing Agent (OA), GS/8
Purchasing Agent (OA), GS/8
Department of Justice
Department of Justice
10/24/2020
10/24/2020
$55,34710/24/2020
$55,347
See More Recent Salaries

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Purchasing Agent Demographics

Gender

female

48.9%

male

47.4%

unknown

3.7%

Ethnicity

White

71.5%

Hispanic or Latino

10.8%

Black or African American

9.0%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

58.2%

Chinese

5.7%

French

5.5%
See More Demographics

Purchasing Agent Education

Majors

Degrees

Bachelors

42.7%

Associate

18.7%

High School Diploma

17.2%

Top Colleges for Purchasing Agents

1. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

Tuition and fees
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

2. Bentley University

Waltham, MA

Tuition and fees
$49,880
Enrollment
4,177

3. SUNY Farmingdale

Farmingdale, NY

Tuition and fees
$8,306
Enrollment
9,394

4. New York University

New York, NY

Tuition and fees
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339

5. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN

Tuition and fees
$14,760
Enrollment
31,451

6. SUNY College at Plattsburgh

Plattsburgh, NY

Tuition and fees
$8,369
Enrollment
5,229

7. Stanford University

Stanford, CA

Tuition and fees
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

8. Baylor University

Waco, TX

Tuition and fees
$45,542
Enrollment
14,159

9. SUNY College of Technology at Alfred

Alfred, NY

Tuition and fees
$8,570
Enrollment
3,721

10. Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY

Tuition and fees
$51,853
Enrollment
14,759
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Purchasing Agent

Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Purchasing Agent

  • Purchase Orders, 16.2%
  • Vendor Invoices, 8.8%
  • Office Supplies, 8.6%
  • Procedures, 8.3%
  • Inventory Management, 7.3%
  • Other Skills, 50.8%
  • See All Purchasing Agent Skills

Best States For a Purchasing Agent

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a purchasing agent. The best states for people in this position are Nevada, Alaska, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Purchasing agents make the most in Nevada with an average salary of $56,222. Whereas in Alaska and Rhode Island, they would average $55,881 and $54,152, respectively. While purchasing agents would only make an average of $53,336 in Connecticut, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Rhode Island

Total Purchasing Agent Jobs:
25
Highest 10% Earn:
$102,000
Location Quotient:
1.05
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Connecticut

Total Purchasing Agent Jobs:
139
Highest 10% Earn:
$99,000
Location Quotient:
1.63
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Nevada

Total Purchasing Agent Jobs:
45
Highest 10% Earn:
$108,000
Location Quotient:
0.94
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Purchasing Agent Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a purchasing agent. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

At Zippia, we went through countless purchasing agent resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Write a Purchasing Agent Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless purchasing agent resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

How Do Purchasing Agent Rate Their Jobs?

What do you like the most about working as Purchasing Agent?

I learned all that I knew by doing. I had no college just hands on by day to day interaction with vendors and co workers. Show More

What do you NOT like?

In most cases I'm finding you need a college degree to do what I did without it. I know there is a company out there that would train me. I could be an asset if given a chance. Show More

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Top Purchasing Agent Employers

1. Boeing
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$75,123
Purchasing Agents Hired: 
110+
2. U.S. Navy
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$53,690
Purchasing Agents Hired: 
93+
3. Robert Half International
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$42,552
Purchasing Agents Hired: 
70+
4. General Electric
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$85,521
Purchasing Agents Hired: 
50+
5. US Army
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$53,674
Purchasing Agents Hired: 
49+
6. HP
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$88,383
Purchasing Agents Hired: 
42+

Purchasing Agent Videos

Recently Added Purchasing Agent Jobs

Updated October 2, 2020