Buyers work in many industries, doing everything from purchasing produce for grocery stores to locating obscure widgets for manufacturing plants. It's not simply a matter of finding items to purchase, you must also evaluate quality, analyze inventories and negotiate sales terms. Certification builds on your education and work experience to help you advance your career or move between industries.
Paving the Way
Starting a career as a buyer may take one of several routes, depending on the organization or industry you pursue. Entry-level buyers may need only a high school diploma, combined with on-the-job training that can last a year or more. Manufacturers frequently look for formal training at the postsecondary level in related disciplines, such as business, engineering or economics. Management roles in purchasing usually require a degree combined with role experience. Depending on your field, certification as a buyer may require a bachelor's degree as a minimum prerequisite.
Buyers entering a career without a degree have certification options through the American Purchasing Society and the American Production and Inventory Control Society. The APS offers the Certified Purchasing Professional designation to members or employees of member companies. Candidates without a degree require three years of experience. APICS offers the Certified in Production and Inventory Management program for those with no degree and two years of experience, and the Certified Supply Chain Professional program for those with five years of experience. The Institute for Supply Management offers the Certified Professional in Supply Management program for candidates with five years of experience without a degree.
In the Fast Lane
The APS, APICS and the ISM each have levels of certification requiring degrees to qualify. APS offers the Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant designation, while APICS offers the CSCP program mentioned above to degree holders with two years of experience, and the Certified Fellow in Production and Inventory Management program. The ISM reduces experience required to three years for its CPSM program when combined with a degree, with the same qualifications required for its Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity program. Each organization also requires as prerequisite its own junior-level certification, though these may be acquired simultaneously in some cases.
The Government Road
Certification in public-sector purchasing is handled by the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council, with preparation courses offered through the National Institute for Government Purchasing. The Certified Public Procurement Officer and Certified Professional Public Buyer designations require extensive public-sector work experience combined with procurement coursework and training, on top of a formal degree. For example, the CPPO program requires five years of public purchasing experience, three years of which in a management role, while both the CPPO and CPPB programs can require up to 158 hours of instructor-led procurement education.