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Buying Careers

Career Description

A Buyer buys the goods and services the company or institution needs to either resell to customers or for the establishment’s own use.

Common Work Tasks

  • Consider price, quality, availability,  reliability, and technical support when choosing suppliers and merchandise
  • Study sales records and inventory levels of current stock, identify foreign and domestic suppliers, and keep abreast of changes affecting both the supply of, and demand for, needed products and materials
  • Focus on routine purchasing tasks, often specializing in a commodity or group of related commodities, such as steel,  lumber, cotton, grains, fabricated metal products, or petroleum products
  • Track market conditions, price trends, and futures markets
  • Actively seek new technologies and suppliers
  • Create and oversee systems that allow individuals within their organizations to buy their own supplies, lowering the cost of each transaction
  • Obtain items ranging from raw materials,  fabricated parts, machinery, and office supplies to construction services and airline tickets
  • Place solicitations for services and accept bids and offers through the Internet
  • Purchase goods directly from manufacturers or from other wholesale firms for resale to retail firms, commercial establishments,  institutions, and other organizations
  • Determine which products their establishment will sell

Other Job Titles

Buyers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Purchasing Agent
  • Purchasing Manager
  • Purchasing Specialist
  • Merchandise Manager
  • Purchasing Director
  • Materials Manager

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Educational requirements tend to vary with the size of the organization. Large stores and distributors prefer applicants who have completed a bachelor’s degree program with a business emphasis. Many manufacturing firms put an even greater emphasis on formal training, preferring applicants with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in engineering, business, economics, or one of the applied sciences. A master’s degree is essential for advancement to many top-level purchasing manager jobs.

Certification and Licensure
      There are several recognized credentials for buyers. The Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) designation is conferred by the Institute for Supply Management. In 2008, this certification will be replaced by the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) credential, covering the wider scope of duties now performed by purchasing professionals. The Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM) designations are conferred by the American Purchasing Society. The Certified Supply Chain Professional credential is conferred by APICS, the Association for Operations Management. For workers in Federal, State, and local government, the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing offers the designations of Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) and Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO).  Most of these certifications are awarded only after work-related experience and education requirements are met and written or oral exams are successfully completed.

          Buyers must know how to use word processing and spreadsheet software and the Internet.  Other important qualities include the ability to analyze technical data in suppliers’ proposals; good communication, negotiation, and mathematical skills;  knowledge of supply-chain management; and the ability to perform financial analyses.

People who wish to become wholesale or retail buyers should be good at planning and decision -making and have an interest in merchandising. Anticipating consumer preferences and ensuring that goods are in stock when they are needed requires resourcefulness, good judgment, and self-confidence. Buyers must be able to make decisions quickly and to take risks. Marketing skills and the ability to identify products that will sell also are very important. Employers often look for leadership ability,  too, because buyers spend a large portion of their time supervising assistant buyers and dealing with manufacturers’ representatives and store executives.


The median annual salary of a Buyer is $85,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $138,000 annually, and the bottom 10 percent earn less than $48,000 annually. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of buyers are:

  • Management of Companies and Enterprises - $103,590
  • Federal Executive Branch - $108,240
  • Local Government - $73,020
  • Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing - $95,150
  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing - $97,630

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  0%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 1,200
  • Employment 2006 : 529,000
  • Employment 2016:  531,000
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