Learn About Skills Needed To Become a Purchasing Assistant

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Purchasing assistants help keep businesses flowing by making sure they have the necessary supplies and services to conduct daily business. Understanding the role and responsibilities of a purchasing assistant can help you decide if this is a career for you.

In this article, we discuss what a purchasing assistant is, common duties and salary and what it takes to become one.

What is a purchasing assistant?

A purchasing assistant, or assistant buyer, supports business operations by ordering products or materials that agree with their employer’s brand. They maintain good relationships with the company’s vendors and perform market research to get the best deals and timely delivery of products and materials.

What does a purchasing assistant do?

A purchasing assistant is responsible for negotiating with vendors and placing orders for business needs, often under the supervision of a buyer or purchasing manager. They often monitor product inventory, track shipments and anticipate needs based on quarterly and annual numbers.

Purchasing assistants also:

  • Review purchase agreements with vendors

  • Monitor deliveries and purchase orders and contact vendors when there are discrepancies

  • Conduct vendor research to enhance profitability within the organization

  • May also conduct administrative activities to help the department run efficiently

Average salary

National average salaries for purchasing assistants vary based on education, experience, company size, location and industry. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $20.09 per hour

Purchasing assistant requirements

Obtaining a position as a purchasing assistant can involve certain requirements, depending on the industry and seniority level of the job you want, including:

Education

Entry-level purchasing assistants are required to have at least a high school diploma or GED (General Education Diploma), although most companies prefer an associate or bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s in business or finance is appropriate for most industries, but a more specialized degree could be appropriate depending on the industry. For example, a fashion degree could be applicable if you are applying for purchasing assistant positions at a clothing retailer. Likewise, an agriculture science degree would be appropriate if you were a purchasing assistant buying farm products.

Training

New purchasing assistants receive on-the-job training to learn the company's purchasing process. Ongoing training can take up to a year, depending on your experience level and scope of responsibilities. Training may involve shadowing a colleague or supervisor before beginning the day-to-day responsibilities of the role.

Certifications

Through a combination of experience and professional certifications, purchasing assistants have a lot of room for growth in their careers. While many employers don't require certifications, earning one shows your commitment and drive. Three main certifications are beneficial for purchasing assistants:

Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) credential

Offered by the Institute for Supply Management, this certification covers a wide range of responsibilities for purchasing. To qualify for this certification, you must have a bachelor’s degree and three years of experience or, without a degree, five years of experience.

Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) certification

Created by the American Purchasing Society, this certification demonstrates to employers that you are committed to advancing your career in purchasing and that you are adequately trained and reliable.

Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) certification

Offered by the APICS, the association for supply chain management, this certification helps you demonstrate your expertise and organizational skills for helping streamline more operations. To be eligible, you must have three years of relevant experience or a bachelor’s degree.

Skills

Math skills

Purchasing assistants must have basic math skills to compare prices from different vendors and monitor purchase orders and deliveries for discrepancies.

Negotiating skills

Though an entry-level purchasing assistant may do most of their negotiating under a supervisor’s guidance, negotiating the terms of a contract with a vendor is an integral part of the job. To negotiate well, the purchasing assistant must have a strong sense of self-confidence and interpersonal skills.

Analytical skills

The purchasing assistant evaluates different vendors and products to choose the best combination of quality, price and service. To do this, this role requires analytical and critical thinking skills.

Written communication

This skill involves interpreting written instructions as well as communicating clearly and directly through writing. A purchasing assistant could use these skills when following detailed purchasing procedures, reviewing and monitoring purchasing agreements and writing proposals for vendors.

Verbal communication

This is a soft skill that allows the professional to communicate clearly and effectively through speech. Purchasing assistants require strong verbal communication skills in the office among team members and over the phone when speaking with vendors or sales representatives. They also need to effectively read nonverbal communication and adjust how they deliver the message so the other party receives it correctly. This is important to work effectively in a team. It’s also beneficial during the negotiation process.

Time management

This skill involves scheduling day-to-day activities according to levels of importance. This is extremely important for a purchasing assistant with many responsibilities. The professional must identify the tasks that are most time-sensitive or of the greatest importance and adjust schedules accordingly.

Organization

This skill involves creating simple methods to maintain order. Between spending time nurturing vendor relationships, reviewing purchasing agreements, researching trends and new opportunities and overseeing the purchase of inventory, a purchasing assistant has a large number of responsibilities that must be carried out regularly. Strong organizational instincts are integral to this role.

Technical skills

Purchasing assistants employ these skills daily to carry on the responsibilities of this role. Some technical skills include using word processing programs and spreadsheets, scheduling calendar appointments, conducting online research and using financial management software.

Purchasing assistant work environment

The work environment for a purchasing assistant can vary based on the industry. Positions may be part time or full time, and assistants typically perform this work in an office environment. Characteristics of this environment include:

  • Sitting at a desk for extended periods

  • Using computers, printers, scanners, phones and other office equipment

  • Facilitating communication between vendors and the rest of the purchasing department

How to become a purchasing assistant

Here are the most common steps to finding employment in the purchasing department within a company:

1. Pursue education

Many entry-level positions do not require more than a high school diploma or GED. However, an associate or bachelor’s degree in business or finance or a more specialized degree relevant to the industry you’re interested in will help to distinguish you from other candidates. 

2. Research positions

Review the purchasing assistant job openings in your area and take an inventory of the education they require and prefer. If you are still in high school, contact the companies to see if they offer an internship program or if they would allow you to shadow one of their purchasing assistants to learn more about the role. Review the other skills that are required for the role outside of on-the-job experience. Find classes you can take or certifications you can acquire that will give you the soft or hard skills that are integral to the role. 

3. Gain relevant work experience

Search for temporary or part-time positions in similar roles or within a purchasing department. You can even look for volunteer opportunities where you can get hands-on experience practicing the hard or soft skills you have acquired.

4. Prepare your resume

Create a resume that highlights your work experience, education and the relevant skills that make you an ideal candidate for the role. Your work experience should include titles, dates and responsibilities you held. Try to make your descriptions quantifiable, adding numbers to highlight the impact you had on the company.

5. Apply for purchasing assistant positions

Review the positions that are available in your region, identifying the ones that you are most qualified for based on your work history, education and experience levels. Once you have identified the most viable options, apply for the positions with your newly updated resume and a cover letter that is tailored for each position.

Purchasing assistant job description example

Far & Near Co. is seeking a purchasing assistant to join our fast-paced and rapidly growing purchasing department. We are looking for a highly motivated, detail-oriented candidate who is interested in growing with our organization. Responsibilities for this role include maintaining our supply inventory levels, conducting regular price comparisons and negotiating deals with potential new vendors. Additional responsibilities for this role include monitoring for discrepancies in purchase orders and deliveries. Other responsibilities may be assigned as needed. This candidate must be able to follow detailed instructions regarding purchasing policies and procedures and have strong communication skills, both written and verbal. The ideal candidate has a bachelor’s degree and three years of relevant experience.

Related careers

  • Buyer

  • Procurement manager

  • Purchasing manager

  • Administrative manager

  • Retail store manager


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