Careers

Learn About Being a Buyer

What does a buyer do?

A buyer is a finance and business professional who investigates, evaluates and purchases products for companies to sell or use in their own operations. Also known as purchasing agents, buyers must work within a budget and often have to negotiate competitive pricing for the items they want to purchase. Here are some additional responsibilities of a buyer:

  • Selecting and ordering products and authorizing payments based on contractual agreements with suppliers or manufacturers

  • Assisting supply chain managers with maintaining proper inventory levels for regularly used supplies 

  • Working with inventory management to ensure all deliveries are fulfilled and reporting any missing or back-ordered items

  • Communicating with the field management team to ensure all field purchase orders are correct

  • Developing an accurate and efficient monitoring system for open purchase orders and delivering weekly reports to management with documentation of closed purchase orders

Average salary

Salaries for buyers are often determined by their level of education and experience. Their job responsibilities, geographic location, skills and relevant certifications may also impact earnings.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $62,799 per year
  • Salaries range from $15,000 to $142,000 per year.

Buyer requirements

The required education and training to become a buyer will vary from position to position, but there are some basic requirements that are standard across the industry. These include:

Education

Educational requirements for buyers may vary based on the position and industry. Most organizations require at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as business, finance, accounting or supply management. Some positions may only require a high school diploma and years of relevant experience. Those who want to become buyers for the farming industry can also benefit from a degree in agriculture, animal science or agriculture production.

Training

Most buyers will receive on-the-job training for a few months to one year after they are hired. During this time, experienced field professionals train those new to the profession on how to perform basic job duties, including supplier negotiations, inventory monitoring and purchase order management.

Certifications

Most available certifications for buyers involve oral or written exams, while also requiring a certain level of education and work experience. Some employers may not require buyers to have these certifications, but they are an effective way for individuals to show they are competitive candidates that keep up with industry requirements and trends.

Here are some common certifications for buyers:

Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP)

The American Purchasing Society (APS) offers the CPP certification, which requires individuals to pass an examination and review of their academic achievements, field experience and contributions to the profession. The certification is valid for five years for APS members and two years for non-members.

Certified Supply Chain Professional

The Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) offers this credential, which is valid for five years. Applicants seeking this certification need to have three years of relevant business experience, as well as a bachelor’s degree. To renew their certification, candidates need to earn a certain amount of professional development points.

Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB)

The Universal Public Procurement Certification Council (UPPCC) offers this credential, which requires candidates to have at least an associate degree along with three years of public procurement experience and relevant training courses. This certification is useful for buyers that work in non-management positions for local, state or federal government agencies. Recertification is every five years and can be done through the completion of continuing education credits or attendance at procurement conferences.

Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO)

Also offered by the UPPCC, this credential requires candidates to have a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of public procurement experience, along with relevant training courses. This certification is useful for buyers that work in supervisory or management-level positions for local, state or federal government agencies. Recertification is every five years and can be completed by continuing education credits or attending procurement conferences.

The National Institute of Government Purchasing (NIGP) and the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) both offer preparation courses for the UPPCC exams.

Skills

Some of the skills buyers need to perform their job duties may be developed outside of the field, while others can be learned during on-the-job training. Here are the most relevant skills buyers should develop:

Analytical skills

Evaluating different suppliers and product options is an integral part of the buyer’s role. They must analyze products for quality while finding a supplier that offers a competitive price and adequate delivery and service.

Decision-making skills

Buyers must make informed and timely decisions about purchasing based on inventory needs and industry forecasts. They should anticipate financial outcomes and select the most effective options to reach buying goals and remain within budget.

Communication skills

Buyers need to be able to communicate with individuals inside and outside the organization, including suppliers, inventory personnel and management. This task may require these professionals to adapt their style depending on who they’re interacting with. Interpersonal skills such as patience and empathy can also help with negotiations.

Math skills

Buyers must compare different suppliers’ prices to ensure that their organization is getting the best rate for purchased products. This task often requires the use of simple formulas and calculations, making math an essential skill for effectiveness.

Negotiating skills

Buyers often need to negotiate contract terms with the supplier. Persuasion, research and strategy enable these professionals to conduct successful negotiations.

Buyer work environment

Buyers can work in several different industries, including:

  • Manufacturing 
  • Wholesale trade
  • Government
  • Retail

As for the day-to-day environment, most buyers work in an office on a regular basis. However, travel is often necessary for buyers to visit suppliers and evaluate products. Most buyers work in a full-time position, and overtime hours can be common in this occupation.

How to become a buyer

Many buyers go through the following steps to pursue this career path:

1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree

Earn a degree in a related field such as business, finance or supply chain management. This education helps you to learn business principles, gain a background in finance and accounting and study effective techniques and application of theoretical concepts through case studies.

2. Pursue entry-level experience

While in your undergraduate program, take advantage of internship or other hands-on learning opportunities to observe professionals in the field and even practice skills such as analysis, negotiation and business communication. You can also pursue entry-level positions in the supply chain to begin your career advancement to buyer.

3. Gain on-the-job training

After earning a bachelor’s degree, consider applying to industry opportunities that offer on-the-job training. This training can last for a few months to a year and provide you with an understanding of the basic skills and practical techniques the position requires.

4. Earn industry certifications

If a potential employer requires a certain certification, start preparing for the application by studying for the exam. Even if the position doesn’t require any certifications, they can help individuals become stronger candidates.

5. Apply to buyer positions

Create a clear and comprehensive resume that describes your education, experience, skills and relevant certifications. Then apply to positions of interest. You should mirror the language employers use in their job descriptions to better align your qualifications with their expectations.

Buyer job description example

Our grocery company is searching for an experienced buyer who can manage the replenishment of specific product categories to ensure there is adequate supply in the store while also meeting or exceeding inventory goals. The buyer will be responsible for managing product forecasts for assigned vendors, maintaining timely and accurate purchase orders by following up with vendors to confirm POs, managing extra or slow inventory through proper inventory management processes and supporting sales growth.

The successful candidate must possess strong organizational skills and superior analytical and communication skills while being able to work in a fast-paced environment that requires independent judgment and decision-making. Candidates are required to have a minimum of three years of purchasing experience, preferably in the foodservice industry, and a four-year college degree in business, operations, supply chain management or the equivalent foodservice industry experience.

Related careers

Several careers have similarities to buying. These include: