Every company needs to spend money on the items it sells, making purchasing departments crucial in practically every industry. Purchasing staff members also buy equipment used to help run their business, such as tires for trucking companies. But regardless of the job description, members of the purchasing staff aim to save--and make--their company money while providing it with the supplies needed to run smoothly.
Purchasing managers interview, hire and train a staff of buyers and specialists. Managers must keep their employees motivated and working as a team, while making certain they follow the company’s policies when it comes to spending its money for purchases. Managers often do a lot of the purchasing themselves, overseeing a financial budget and often negotiating with vendors on costs.
Purchasing specialists often are referred to by numerous titles, such as agents or buyers. They work under the supervision of the purchasing manager and are mostly responsible for not only ordering products and services, but for making sure it is delivered as promised. Many track invoices and make recommendations on which products their company should sell. Purchasing specialists often spend much of their time collecting information about possible vendors.
When hiring members of their purchasing staffs, most companies favor candidates who have a bachelor’s degree. Occasionally, managers will need a master’s degree--and almost always need to spend time as buyers or specialists first. Areas of study for those who aspire to work in purchasing departments often include business, engineering, administration, mathematics and finance.
Purchasing staff members must be sharp negotiators with excellent communication skills. They need to be organized, professional and analytical, keeping an eye on trends in their industry, staying up to date on the competition. Most need to have a deep understanding of computers and math, both of which are used to record a variety of transactions.
Overall, purchasing departments should grow for at least the next decade, perhaps beyond. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that employment of purchasing staff members will increase by 7 percent through 2018, which is about as fast as average for all vocations. More than 295,000 workers were employed as members of purchasing departments in May 2008, the BLS reported.
Salaries for purchasing agents differ greatly by industry and title, but the majority are able to make a decent living. Some are even among the country’s highest earners. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for purchasing managers was $89,160 in May 2008, while other staffers earned anywhere from $28,000 to more than $49,500 per year.