Education and Training Requirements

High School

A high school diploma generally is required for entering the field of buying. Useful high school courses include mathematics, business, English, and economics.

Postsecondary Training

While a college degree may not be a requirement for becoming a buyer, large and medium-sized stores and distributors prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree with an emphasis on business. Moreover, a majority of buyers have taken some college courses, many majoring in business, engineering, or economics. Some colleges and universities also offer majors in purchasing or materials management. Regardless of the major, useful courses in preparation for a career in buying include accounting, economics, commercial law, finance, marketing, and various business classes, such as business communications, business organization and management, and computer applications in business.

Retailing experience is helpful to gain a sense of customer tastes and to witness the supply and demand process. Additional training is available through trade associations, such as the Institute for Supply Management, which sponsors conferences, seminars, and workshops and offers online resources, including education courses, podcasts, and videocasts.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Certification, although not required, is becoming increasingly important. Various levels of certification are available through the American Purchasing Society, the Institute for Supply Management, and the National Institute of Government Purchasing. To earn most certifications you must have work experience, meet education requirements, and pass written and oral exams.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Buyers and purchasing agents acquire experience in such duties as monitoring inventory levels and negotiating with suppliers through on-the-job training generally lasting for a year once they are hired. Five years of experience as a buyer or purchasing agent is required to become a purchasing manager. Successful buyers or purchasing agents must have listening, speaking, negotiating, and persuasion skills in order to be effective. They use critical thinking, problem-solving, mathematical, and decision-making skills to identify problems and consider alternate solutions before deciding which solution is best. They should possess an analytical mind and the interpersonal skills and self-confidence to engage in negotiations that will result in the best deal for their organizations.