Businesses, government agencies, schools and any organization that uses a lot of goods will usually employ a purchasing agent or buyer. These workers are experts at finding the various products and services an organization needs. Senior buyers can serve as the person chiefly responsible for buying all the things a business needs, whether it's raw agricultural goods, fabrics or consumer goods.
Senior buyers, also called purchasing agents or purchasing managers, are responsible for ensuring the material needs of their employers are met. For example, a buyer for a retail store chain is responsible for buying all the goods sold in the store. These workers have to find suppliers, make sure shipments are made on time, arrange for distribution to multiple retail outlets, and manage other purchasing agents under their supervision. Senior buyers generally have more managerial responsibilities than the average purchasing agent, and can often be required to source new product streams, find new vendors, develop procurement strategies, as well as mange and supervise others.
Education and Training
Senior buyers usually start their professions as junior purchasing agents or assistant buyers. Most employers prefer applicants with college degrees in business, marketing, economics or a degree related to the specific industry in which they operate. Senior buyers typically have many years of work experience as a buyer, with many holding a master's degree as well.
Senior buyers generally work in an indoor office environment. They can often work more than the standard 40-hour work week, especially when they work in a sector that experiences seasonal differences for product needs. These workers can also spend a lot of time traveling to conferences, meeting with suppliers, and scouting out new sourcing opportunities.
Senior buyers are often responsible for making large purchases that represent a substantial investment to their employers. These workers must be excellent at being able to identify good buying opportunities, recognizing market fluctuations and capitalizing on advantageous buying situations. They must be able to cultivate good relationships with suppliers in an effort to get the best prices possible for their employers. Managing other agents requires leadership and managerial skills as well.
Jobs and Salary
Buyers and purchasing agents jobs are expected to grow about as fast as average between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were about 527,400 positions open in 2008, with the majority of these workers (about 295,000) working as purchasing agents. The median salary for purchasing managers overall was about $89,000, with the top 10 percent earning more than $142,000 per year. Senior buyer positions generally have higher salaries, though this figure can vary widely depending on factors, such as experience, industry and employer.