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What Does a Purchasing Agent Do?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Buying for a Living: Details of Purchasing Agent Careers

Who doesn’t love a little retail therapy? Being a purchasing agent isn’t quite like a shopping trip to the mall, but you do get to put your purchasing know-how to work on behalf of the company you’re working for. Purchasing agents often work in full-time positions with the potential for overtime, so working moms may find the workload to be a bit more than they want.

Job Description

A purchasing agent makes buying decisions about products and services for the company. The job involves looking at different suppliers and vendors for the products and services needed. You might work with providers of products or office supplies or items your company resells. Choosing the best options involves comparing factors such as price, quality, delivery and reliability. The goal is to secure high-quality items while keeping costs to a minimum.

Being a purchasing agent involves plenty of paperwork. You work with supplier agreements, contracts, proposals, financial reports and other documents. You’re also responsible for maintaining records for purchases, pricing and inventory levels. When something isn’t quite up to your company’s standards, you may be responsible for working with vendors on resolving the issue.

Education Requirements

Requirements for purchasing agent positions vary by company. Some companies may hire applicants with only a high school diploma, but many purchasing agents enter the field with a bachelor’s degree. Degrees in fields like business, finance and supply management align well with the duties of the job.

Some purchasing agents work in specialty industries like farm products. If you’re interested in a specific industry, it helps to have some background in the field to make informed buying decisions. If you’re looking for a career change, you might work toward a purchasing agent position in the same industry. For example, if you already work in the agriculture field, you might work toward a farm product-buying position.

Median annual salaries for purchasing agents come in at $63,300 in most fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the farm products field, the median salary is $58,430 per year. Wholesale and retail buyers outside of the farm products industry make a median annual salary of $53,340. Median salary means that half of purchasing agents earns higher than that amount, and the other half earns lower than that amount.

Once you have some experience in the purchasing field, you may work up to the position of purchasing manager. The median salary for purchasing managers is $111,590.

About the Industry

Most work for purchasing agents takes place in an office environment. You might spend time meeting with other departments within your company to get the information you need to make purchasing decisions. Some positions may also require you to travel to different supplier locations to learn more about the products.

Years of Experience

A purchasing agent position is often an entry-level position. You can land a job right out of college and expect to get hands-on training during your first year on the job. To become a purchasing manager, you need a few years on the job.

Job Growth Trend

The job outlook for purchasing agents shows a decline by 3 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS. That expected decrease stems from automation in the procurement process since it saves time and money. Many companies have also begun to outsource the buying process.

Cooperative purchasing agreements also come into play. State and local governments often use standard contracts across different agencies to simplify the procurement process. By pooling resources with these cooperative purchasing agreements, the government agencies save money, but that also means they need fewer people working on buying processes.

Despite the decline, you still have opportunities for a position as a purchasing agent simply because of the sheer number of jobs in the field. It’s easier to enter the field as a purchasing agent, since the number of purchasing manager positions is lower. By earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field and getting hands-on experience through internships and other positions, you put yourself in a favorable position to find a purchasing agent position.