Purchasing Agents

Purchasing agents buy items and services for use by their own firm or organization such as finished products, parts and raw materials for manufacturing. They make sure the company has the goods and services it requires to operate efficiently.

When making purchases, balancing quality with cost is a major consideration. They perform extensive research in order to locate the best deals for their company. Purchasing agents consider various factors such as price, quality, technical support, availability and reliability when choosing goods and suppliers. Choosing the best suppliers is one of the most important elements of a purchasing specialist's job.

Purchasing agents that are employed by small companies sometimes purchase all the goods for the company. Large companies employ numerous purchasing agents and each agent specializes in specific types of parts or raw materials.

The timing of purchases is an important part of the job. If a manufacturing company runs out of raw materials or parts the production delays can be very costly. Purchasing specialists coordinate their company's production schedule with the suppliers schedules.


  • Select and order goods and services
  • Prepare purchase orders
  • Stay current with prices and market trends
  • Negotiate prices and discount terms
  • Monitor shipments to make sure goods arrive on time and resolve problems regarding undelivered goods
  • Evaluate suppliers
  • Work with expediters who take care of a lot of the paperwork, arrange for shipping and perform other tasks
  • Attend trade shows
  • Authorize payment of invoices
  • Analyze pricing proposals

Job Characteristics

Purchasing professionals sometimes attend meetings, trade shows and conferences to meet with suppliers and stay current with the latest industry trends. They also visit suppliers' plants and distribution facilities to evaluate their capabilities.

Purchasing agents should be proficient with spreadsheets and word processing. Purchasing specialists need the ability to evaluate the technical data included in suppliers' proposals. They should be skilled at performing financial analysis. They also need good planning, mathematical and communication skills.

Employment Outlook

Employment of purchasing agents has been projected to grow by 14 percent from 2008 to 2018 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2008 the median annual earnings for purchasing agents was $53,940. The highest paid 10 percent earned more than $88,790.

Experienced purchasing agents may move up to assistant purchasing manager, purchasing manager, supply manager and director of materials management positions. Typically, a graduate degree in business is helpful in acquiring a higher level position.

Education, Certification, and Licensing

Most companies prefer applicants that have earned a bachelor's degree. Some employers seek those with a master's degree in business administration. New purchasing agents usually are provided with extensive on-the-job training.

Many manufacturing companies emphasize formal training and seek applicants that have a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in business, engineering, economics or one of the applied sciences. A master's degree is required for many high level purchasing manager positions.

Beyond education requirements, purchasing agents need to learn about the specifics of the company's business. Purchasing agents also need to be knowledgeable about various software packages and the Internet. Purchasing specialists typically have training periods which last from one to five years.

Many purchasing specialists and purchasing managers attend seminars provided by professional societies and take college courses in supply management. There are several recognized credentials available to purchasing agents and purchasing managers. The American Purchasing Society and the Institute for Supply Management offer certification.


Major Employers

The major employers are private industry, the government, hospitals and schools.

Schools for Purchasing Agents are listed in the Browse Schools Section.

Purchasing Agents Skills

Below are the skills needed to be purchasing agents according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Reading Comprehension44.12
Active Listening44
Critical Thinking3.884.12
Judgment and Decision Making3.754.12

Purchasing Agents Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be purchasing agents according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Oral Comprehension44.12
Oral Expression44.12
Written Comprehension44.12
Deductive Reasoning3.884.25
Speech Recognition3.883.62

Purchasing Agents Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be purchasing agents according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
English Language4.14.4
Administration and Management3.84.75
Law and Government3.754.25
Economics and Accounting3.753.8
Customer and Personal Service3.654.4

Purchasing Agents Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being purchasing agents according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Getting Information4.384.81
Interacting With Computers4.33.95
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates4.35.1
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships4.15.45
Communicating with Persons Outside Organization4.14.65

Purchasing Agents Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being purchasing agents according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work StyleImportance
Attention to Detail4.5
Self Control4.25

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Purchasing Agents

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Purchasing Agents jobs , as of 2017

Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim12,790$71,690
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land9,150$74,730
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington7,940$69,060
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell5,150$65,460
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach4,960$58,590
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward4,570$81,570
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara4,400$82,130
San Diego-Carlsbad3,880$76,270

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Purchasing Agents

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to purchasing agents

Source : 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 22.1 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

Most Popular Industries for
Purchasing Agents

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

IndustryTotal EmploymentPercentAnnual Median Salary
Professional And Technical Services24,3008%$59,450
Automotive And Vehicle Manufacturing19,8106%$59,010
Electronics And Computer19,1006%$57,350
Business Management16,7305%$58,420
Durable Goods Wholesale12,7104%$49,350
Metal Products11,3203%$48,960
Construction Trades7,6702%$47,630
Office Services And Staffing7,6302%$49,640
Miscellaneous Manufacturing4,9301%$51,150
Electrical Appliance4,4901%$50,930
Plastics And Rubber3,9901%$47,590
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Purchasing Agents.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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