Education and Training Requirements
Most purchasing and buying positions require at least a bachelor's degree. Therefore, while in high school, take a college preparatory curriculum. Helpful classes include English, business, mathematics, social science, and economics.
Although it is possible to obtain an entry-level purchasing job with only a high school diploma, many employers prefer or require college graduates for the job. College work should include courses in general economics, purchasing, accounting, statistics, and business management. A familiarity with computers also is desirable. Some colleges and universities offer majors in purchasing, but other business-related majors are appropriate as well.
Purchasing agents with a master's degree in business administration, engineering, technology, economics, or finance tend to have the best jobs and highest salaries. Companies that manufacture machinery or chemicals may require a degree in engineering or a related field. A civil service examination is required for employment in government purchasing positions.
In addition to formal education, newly hired purchasing agents also receive on-the-job training that can last a year or more.
Other Education or Training
Continuing education (CE) opportunities are provided by many professional associations. For example, the American Purchasing Society offers courses and seminars such as “Fundamentals of Business Buying and Purchasing Management,” “The Science and The Art of Negotiation,” “Body Language,” and “How to Plan Your Career and Prepare Your Resume.” The Institute for Supply Management and NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement also provide CE classes, webinars, and workshops. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
There are no specific licenses or certification requirements imposed by law for purchasing agents. There are, however, several professional organizations to which many purchasing agents belong, including the Institute for Supply Management, NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement, and the American Purchasing Society. These organizations offer certification to applicants who meet educational and other requirements and who pass the necessary examinations.
The Institute for Supply Management offers the certified professional in supply management and certified professional in supplier diversity designations. NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement and the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council offer the certified public purchasing officer and the certified professional public buyer designations. The American Purchasing Society offers the certified purchasing professional (CPP), the certified professional purchasing manager (CPPM), the certified green purchasing professional (CGPP), the certified professional in distribution and warehousing (CPDW), and the certified professional purchasing consultant (CPPC) designations. Although certification is not essential, it is a recognized mark of professional competence that enhances a purchasing agent's opportunities for promotion to top management positions.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Aspiring purchasing agents should take as many math and business classes as possible and participate in internships to gain experience in the field.
Purchasing agents should have calm temperaments and have confidence in their decision-making abilities. Because they work with other people, they need to be diplomatic, tactful, and cooperative. A thorough knowledge of business practices and an understanding of the needs and activities of the employer are essential, as is knowledge of the relevant markets. It also is helpful to be familiar with social and economic changes in order to predict the amounts or types of products to buy.