How to Become a Purchasing Agent

Purchasing is an important part of many businesses and organizations that deals with obtaining a variety of products and services to accomplish objectives and increase profit of the organization. Purchasing agents are trained professionals that buy goods and services for their employer.

What does a purchasing agent do?

Purchasing agents buy a variety of products and services such as raw materials, office supplies, and manufacturing materials to maintain the operations of their employer. They consider the price, availability, quality, reliability, and customer service when selecting products or suppliers. They attempt to get the best deal possible for their employer and balance the cost and quality. Purchasing agents often assess sales records, inventory of current products, and stay current on the factors that affect supply and demand of products and services. They use the current pricing information to compare prices and shipping and handling costs. Some purchasing agents are responsible for all of the purchasing for their employer and others work as part of a team of many purchasing agents.

What kind of training does a purchasing agent need?

Purchasing agents typically need at least a bachelor degree in purchasing, marketing, or other related field. Some employers prefer candidates with a master degree. Prospective purchasing agents typically complete courses in business, purchasing processes, economics, business law, cost and pricing analysis, global trading, and principles of marketing. Most employers provide new purchasing agents with on the job training to enable them to learn about the purchasing needs of the company along with the policies and procedures. Training periods often last from 1 to 5 years. Purchasing agents must stay up to date on the current advancements in the field as well as the new trends in the economy. They often complete continuing education and additional training throughout their careers. Many employers offer company-training programs.

What are the prospects for a career as a purchasing agent?

Employment of purchasing agents is expected to have little or no growth from 2006 to 2016 (1). The increased globalization of the economy will limit job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be fair. Purchasing agents with at least a bachelor degree will have the best job opportunities.

How much do purchasing agents make?

As of December 2009, the middle 50% of purchasing agents earn annual salaries between $63,386 and $81,238. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $89,193 (2).

A career as a purchasing agent is a great choice for people with a strong interest in performing purchasing activities for many different businesses and organizations. Purchasing agents must have a solid understanding of purchasing practices and the ability to apply them to many different tasks. Determination, good judgment, self-confidence, motivation, and excellent marketing skills are necessary characteristics. Purchasing agents must be able to identify a variety of products and services. They must also have excellent communication and negotiation skills and the ability to interact with a wide variety of people.

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