Careers

Learn About Being a Purchasing Agent

What does a purchasing agent do?

Purchasing agents procure supplies, equipment and services for a company to perform business operations. The duties and responsibilities of a purchasing agent may include:

  • Reviewing requisition requests, prepare purchase orders and solicit bids for goods and services

  • Negotiating and administering contracts with suppliers and vendors

  • Analyzing financial reports, price proposals and other financial data to determine reasonable prices for goods and services

  • Balancing cost and quality to procure the best quality of goods or services for the lowest price in adequate amounts

  • Monitoring and adhering to applicable laws, regulations and policies regarding the purchase of goods and services

Average salary

The average salary for purchasing agents varies based on industry and geographic location, and they may earn additional compensation in the form of commissions.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $51,413 per year
  • Some salaries range from $14,000 to $123,000 per year.

Purchasing agent requirements

Obtaining a position as a purchasing agent may require education, training and skills to demonstrate your ability to successfully procure quality goods and services while managing company costs, including:

Education

Although graduation from a four-year college or university with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance, Business or a related discipline is common, it may not be required to obtain a purchasing agent position. Experience in procurement and demonstrated ability to procure quality products and services at negotiated prices may serve in place of formal education. Research purchasing agent positions in specific industries and companies to determine the education requirements for that industry.

Training

Purchasing agents may need specific training to have a thorough knowledge of applicable purchasing laws, regulations and policies. Training should also include the ability to read, comprehend and administer complex contracts as well as an understanding of contract law. Additionally, they should have financial training to analyze pricing and identify reasonable prices for comparable goods and services. Purchasing agents also need training to effectively identify and coordinate with vendors to negotiate prices.

The American Purchasing Society (APS) offers courses and seminars to help purchasing agents achieve these goals. Courses and seminars offered by APS include subjects such as negotiation, price analysis and essential law for buyers and sellers. Purchasing agents may also receive on-the-job training to learn the company’s vendors, supply chain management systems and policies.

Certifications

The American Purchasing Society (APS) offers several globally-recognized certifications for purchasing professionals. All certifications are available to APS members and nonmembers, but APS members receive discounted rates on certification courses and exams. APS certifications include:

Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP)

This certification is designed for professionals in purchasing or materials management as well as company executives. It distinguishes professionals as committed to advancing their careers in purchasing and supply chain management. This certification is available to purchasing professionals with at least two years of purchasing-related experience.

You can obtain this certification by submitting an application with the APS, completing the three-week, online Preparation for the Certified Purchasing Professional Exam course and passing the exam at the end of the course. Additionally, the APS uses a points system to evaluate academic achievement, experience and contribution to the purchasing profession. A minimum of 100 points is required to obtain the Certified Purchasing Professional designation.

Certified Green Purchasing Professional (CGPP)

This certification distinguishes a purchasing professional’s commitment to environmentally responsible purchasing practices. It is available to purchasing professionals who have already earned the Certified Purchasing Professional designation. Obtain this certification by submitting an application with the APS, completing the online Preparation for the CGPP Exam course and passing the exam at the end of the course.

Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM)

This certification distinguishes purchasing managers in ethically and responsibly managing purchasing practices. It is available to purchasing professionals who have already earned the Certified Purchasing Professional designation. Obtain this certification by submitting an application with the APS, completing the online Preparation for the Certified Professional Purchasing Manager Exam course and passing the exam at the end of the course.

Skills

Purchasing agents need proficiency in several skills to succeed in their careers. Required skills for a successful purchasing agent may include:

Negotiation

These skills include the ability to collaborate with others to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. Purchasing agents use negotiation skills to work with vendors in procuring quality products and services in the correct amount for the lowest possible price.

Analytical skills

These skills involve the ability to extract and interpret meaningful information from raw data. Purchasing agents use these skills to determine reasonable pricing for goods and services by evaluating financial reports, pricing structures, market conditions and other financial data.

Financial skills

These skills include the ability to analyze and understand financial data. It is important for purchasing agents to accurately review financial reports and data when estimating reasonable prices for goods and services.

Complex problem-solving

These skills involve the ability to identify complex problems and review available information to develop creative solutions. Purchasing agents use these skills to procure quality goods and services at the lowest possible price. An example of this skill may include the ability to identify comparable products at a lower price because they are marketed to a different demographic than a more expensive alternative.

Purchasing agent work environment

Purchasing agents typically work in an office environment. The work may involve extensive reading of either paper documents or electronic documents on a computer monitor and sitting for extended hours. Travel is not typically required for purchasing agents but may be necessary to meet with vendors and monitor supply chains. Most purchasing agents work full time and can find positions in nearly any industry.

How to become a purchasing agent

Here are the most common steps to follow to pursue a career as a purchasing agent:

1. Pursue an education

Research education requirements for your preferred industry or companies to determine if it is necessary to pursue higher education. Earning a degree in finance, business or a related discipline may improve your opportunities as a purchasing agent, but may not be required. 

2. Gain relevant work experience

Seek jobs where you can gain purchasing-related experience. Purchasing-related experience includes any experience interacting with suppliers or managing employees who interact with suppliers.

3. Earn professional certifications

Work toward the education and experience eligibility requirements to earn professional certifications. These certifications serve as verification of your education and experience and distinguish you as a committed purchasing professional. 

4. Prepare your resume

You can include your highest level of education, relevant certifications and your relevant work history on a resume. Your work experience section should include the company or organization’s name, the dates you worked there and a summary of your responsibilities, contributions and achievements. An effective resume can help you obtain the purchasing agent job you want.

5. Apply for purchasing agent jobs

After earning education, certifications and experience, review the current job market for your intended industry and geographical location. Select positions you qualify for based on required years of experience as well as level and type of education. This step can ensure you optimize your job search and increase the likelihood that employers contact you for an interview. Use the resume you crafted as well as a cover letter that summarizes your suitability for that specific role and company.

Purchasing agent job description example

Jake’s Pre-Owned Autos seeks an entry-level purchasing agent to join our growing team. We’re opening a new location across town and sending our purchasing department to that campus, so we’re hiring a purchasing agent to start at our flagship location. If you love cars and understand how they work, you might be perfect for this position. We need someone who has experience working on cars or who is willing to learn. We offer in-house training during the first two weeks of employment, but we’d like someone capable of achieving tasks right away. Some experience in purchasing is required.

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