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What is the role of a purchasing manager?

At a glance

  • A purchasing manager plays a vital role in maintaining a business that requires products, materials or services for daily operations.
  • A company’s supply chain and inventory can be complex, but having a competent purchasing manager can translate to a better organized pipeline and strong profit margins.
  • To become a purchasing manager, applicants typically have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field like business or a specialized field relevant to the company’s industry.
  • Learn transferable skills such as finance and leadership through an online business degree at University of Phoenix.

A purchasing manager obtains products, materials or services an organization needs for its operations. Additionally in this supply chain management career, professionals oversee the purchasing department and work alongside other specialists, such as logistics managers and inventory specialists.

This position focuses on much more than simply buying items for use in business operations though. Purchasing managers also negotiate contracts with suppliers or vendors, assess shipping costs and define special conditions for transport. They research lower prices from different suppliers, calculate time frames for orders and ensure the products or services meet quality standards and other requirements.

To do this well, purchasing managers must be familiar with their industries. For example, purchasing managers for a manufacturing company need to know the quality standards for the raw materials they purchase. Meanwhile, purchasing managers in food production need to stay abreast of soft commodity prices and the shelf life of various ingredients.

Managers who work in service-oriented businesses need to know which skills and experience are necessary for different tasks. For example, legal purchasing managers must understand the needs of specific cases to find outside firms or individual attorneys who can handle specialized jobs.

Finally, this career has a relationship-building element. Purchasing managers are responsible for visiting trade shows or contacting suppliers to build contacts for future purchases. For this reason, many purchasing agents have a background in sales.

Why is it important to have a purchasing manager?

Today’s globally connected businesses can have complex supply chain and logistics arrangements. Every company needs specific resources to operate successfully, and the price of those resources significantly affects the bottom line. A purchasing manager helps organize and streamline this aspect of the business, thereby impacting the company’s profit margins.

Not surprisingly then, a purchasing manager works continually to find ways to lower the costs of products, materials or services. This process involves building relationships and negotiating with vendors and suppliers.

Some manufacturing, distribution, retail or wholesale companies have extremely complex inventory requirements necessitating an entire team of procurement specialists. The purchasing manager oversees this group and is responsible for hiring, training and evaluating employees.

How do you become a purchasing manager?

Companies need purchasing managers who can make critical decisions with minimal oversight. Here are steps to qualify for this demanding career.

Education

To become a purchasing manager, applicants typically need a bachelor’s degree in business, finance or a related field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, there are instances when a high school diploma and relevant military experience may suffice.

Some industries require specialized knowledge. For example, food or farm-related businesses may hire purchasing managers with an agriculture-related degree. 

Because purchasing managers have a leadership role, employers may seek applicants with a master’s degree or specialized training. For example, a certificate in business operations can provide a college graduate with knowledge necessary for a purchasing department job.

Larger corporations and those with complex supply chains may promote experienced procurement specialists or hire managers with a master’s degree in business or finance.

Necessary skills

A purchasing manager needs specific skills. The job can involve making financial forecasts using statistical software and available pricing and operations data. Professionals also need to understand concepts like capital allocation, macroeconomic trends and other business-related factors that can affect pricing and supply.

Because their role hinges on relationships, purchasing managers need relationship-building, leadership and communication skills to engage and negotiate with suppliers and vendors and effectively manage employees in the department.

Finally, analytical and decision-making skills help purchasing managers assess both needs and market conditions before making decisions that benefit their company.

Experience

Some companies focus on the negotiation and relationship-building requirements of this career and seek purchasing manager applicants with experience in sales. Others may consider promoting production specialists with experience in the same industry. For leadership roles, applicants typically need experience of a certain number of years.

Certification

Certification is not a requirement for any purchasing manager job. However, several accreditations can help during the job application process.

  • Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) — The CPP credential can be earned through the American Purchasing Society (APS). Unlike most certifications, this one requires documentation of education, experience and professional activities like publishing trade articles or giving workshops or lectures.
  • Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) —The CSCP credential can be earned through the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM). Certification requires at least three years of professional experience.
  • Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) and Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO) — These two professional designations, administered by the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council (UPPCC), are for professionals who work for the government or public agencies. Certification requires a degree (or extra experience), professional experience and passing an approved training course.

Most employers don’t require certification, but they may prefer candidates who have completed certification in these areas.

How much does a purchasing manager make?

As of May 2023, purchasing managers earned between $83,510 and $215,170, with a median wage of $136,380, according to BLS. Earning potential can vary depending on the size of the company, its industry, its location and the level of expertise required for the job.

The highest-paying sectors include oil and gas extraction and energy distribution. Other service-oriented businesses, such as law firms and data processing centers, may also offer above-average salaries.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

What companies hire purchasing managers?

One advantage to becoming a purchasing manager is that you can find job opportunities in a wide range of industries.

Any large business that buys or sells goods needs a well-run purchasing department. Different manufacturing industries hire purchasing managers to source a steady supply of raw materials. Retail businesses also need skilled purchasing managers, and so do large corporations that rely on goods and services. In fact, most corporations have a procurement team. Even if they don’t have retail, wholesale or manufacturing operations, corporations need buyers to purchase equipment and find service contractors to handle specific tasks.

Online degrees at University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix (UOPX) cannot guarantee the job outcome of purchasing manager through one of its degrees. However, UOPX offers several online business degrees that teach transferable skills such as communication and leadership. Whether you’re looking to build the fundamentals or further your current skills, there are several degrees to consider:

Associate of Arts with a concentration in Business Fundamentals  From management to accounting, skills learned in this program are essential for anyone looking to advance their business education. 

Bachelor of Science in Accounting  Businesses around the world rely on skilled accountants to manage their finances and make profitable business decisions.

Bachelor of Science in Business  Knowledge of the ins and outs of running a business can spell the difference between success and failure in a competitive business world. 

Bachelor of Science in Finance and Technology  This program teaches skills in financial planning and analysis.

Bachelor of Science in Business with an Operations Management Certificate  This program teaches skills such as management, operations and supply chain management and continuous improvement process.

Bachelor of Science in Communication  It’s one thing to have a great idea, it’s another to properly communicate that idea to a large audience.

Master of Business Administration  Advance your business skills beyond the fundamentals and prepare yourself for higher leadership roles.

Master of Management  Take your understanding of business organization and management to an advanced level. This degree program is perfect for those with experience in the workforce who are looking to take on greater leadership roles. 

Doctor of Business Administration  Expand your understanding of organizations, work environments and industry. This program invites participants to delve into cutting-edge research in the field of business and develop skills for solving complex organizational problems. 

Headshot of Michael Feder

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its Writing Seminars program and winner of the Stephen A. Dixon Literary Prize, Michael Feder brings an eye for detail and a passion for research to every article he writes. His academic and professional background includes experience in marketing, content development, script writing and SEO. Today, he works as a multimedia specialist at University of Phoenix where he covers a variety of topics ranging from healthcare to IT.

 

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