Becoming a Professional Buyer: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a professional buyer? Get real job duties, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a professional buyer is right for you.
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Becoming a Professional Buyer: Pros and Cons

Professional buyers, also called purchasing agents, select goods for resale. Continue reading for more information about the pros and cons of a job as a professional buyer.

Pros of a Buying Career
Only a high school diploma is required*
Higher-than-average salary ($52,000-$55,000 median salary as of May 2014 for all buyers and purchasing agents)*
Opportunities in a many industries (Manufacturing, electronics, nondurable goods, retail trade)*
Professional certification is available*

Cons of a Buying Career
Employers may prefer formal training, such as a bachelor's degree**
Low job security (4% growth between 2012 and 2022 for all purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents)*
Travel and relocation may be required***
Overtime is common in this profession*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **November 2012 Job Postings, ***California Occupational Guide

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), buyers, also called purchasing agents, select goods for resale, such as clothing, electronics, hair care products, beauty products or paper (www.bls.gov). Some buyers specialize in certain products, such as farm products, children's toys, women's clothing, men's shoes or books. Other buyers are responsible for purchasing all of the products for a store. A specialty field is media buying, where buyers purchase time slots or placements for advertising.

Buyers' responsibilities include attending trade shows and talking to vendors to learn about new industry products, establishing prices, soliciting bids, determining which vendors to purchase products from and keeping an inventory of the items purchased. You'll need to select the products that are best for your store or the target market and purchase them at the best price possible so you can make them available to your customers for a low price. Your ability to select products will influence how well the store does because it will also determine who comes in and what they buy.

Career and Salary Info

Although most buyers were employed in retail trade, others worked in the manufacturing industry, wholesale for nondurable and durable goods, electronic wholesale and management. The BLS projected that the employment of wholesale and retail buyers, except for those purchasing farm products, would increase by 7% between 2012 and 2022, which is less than the average for all occupations during that decade. For buyers purchasing farm products, employment is only expected to increase by 6%. As of May 2014, the median annual salary for wholesale and retail buyers and purchasing agents, except for farm products, was about $52,270. Buyers and purchasing agents of farm products earned about $55,080, according to the BLS.

Training Requirements

According to the BLS, only a high school diploma and on-the-job training is required to become a professional buyer. However, the Occupation Information Network (O*Net) reported that, in 2011, about 85% of purchasing agents had a bachelor's degree (www.onetonline.org). On-the-job training typically takes one year and will prepare you for job duties such as negotiating purchase agreements with suppliers and tracking inventory. The California Occupational Guide adds that most firms and shops prefer to hire someone who is familiar with their products and keeps up on trends (www.calmis.ca.gov). Other skills that could help you include:

  • Marketing
  • Retailing
  • Communication
  • Decision-making
  • Negotiating
  • Creativity
  • Flexibility

Job Postings from Real Employers

In November 2012, employers searched for buyers with varying levels of education, from as little as a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree. Some sought candidates with professional buyer certification. Most wanted buyers who have experience and who could handle professional negotiations. The following are a sample of job postings for buyers from that time period:

  • A manufacturing holding company in Texas searched for a buyer with experience in the HVAC and appliance industry who could purchase tools, parts, packaging material and chemicals while also overseeing purchasing procedures, read blueprints and track invoices. The employer preferred someone with three years of buying experience, good communication skills, the ability to multitask, pay attention to detail, prioritize work and speak both English and Spanish.
  • A Colorado advertising company wanted to hire an online media buyer who can sell media for clients, including banners, pop-ups and e-mails while also being able to negotiate pricing. The ideal candidate would have professional certification and 2-5 years of experience.
  • A health and beauty company in Minneapolis advertised for a buyer with three years of experience purchasing health and beauty supplies, a bachelor's degree and experience conducting negotiations. You'll travel to trade shows and other events and should be familiar with Excel and DSD.
  • An aerospace company in San Diego was looking for a buyer who could purchase manufacturing equipment, including titanium and aluminum, for blueprints and manufacturing products. The ideal candidate would have a bachelor's degree, at least five years of purchasing experience and experience in aerospace manufacturing.

Standing Out in the Field

Short of earning a bachelor's degree, which can be expensive, you can prepare for a job as a professional buyer by taking stand-alone business classes in areas such as accounting, marketing, retail, planning, product development and sales. Computer classes could also familiarize you with some of the tools used in the trade and teach you some useful skills.

Becoming a certified purchasing professional by completing certification through the American Purchasing Society could also help you stand out (www.american-purchasing.com). The certification demonstrates your ability to work in the field and your commitment to it. To earn this certification, you must have at least three years of purchasing experience or a college degree and two years of purchasing experience.

Alternative Careers

Sales Representative

If you like working with people but would rather be selling products than purchasing them, becoming a sales representative could be for you. Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives identify possible customers and answer questions about products and services to help them select the products that meet their needs. The BLS stated that sales representatives may need a bachelor's degree for scientific and technical products - but otherwise, only a high school diploma is required. For sales reps, the BLS projected that employment would increase by 16% between 2010 and 2020 and reported that they earned a median annual salary of about $75,000 per year.

Demonstrators and Product Promoters

If you aren't interested in a job that requires a college degree, but you want a position that has more job security than a buyer, you might consider becoming a demonstrator or product promoter. If you're friendly and responsible, and you have sales skills, this job could be good for you because these professionals greet customers, get their attention and demonstrate how products work. Demonstrators and product promoters usually have only a high school diploma and on-the-job training. The BLS projected that employment of these professionals would increase by about 18% between 2010 and 2020 and reported that they earned around $24,000 as of May 2011.

Purchasing Managers

If you want a job that has more responsibility, you might consider becoming a purchasing manager, which involves overseeing buyers, handling complicated purchases and coordinating the purchases of both buyers and purchasing agents. Most purchasing managers have a bachelor's degree and about five years of experience as a buyer or purchasing agent. The BLS projected that the employment of purchasing agents would increase by 7% between 2010 and 2020. Purchasing managers earned a mean annual salary of about $97,000 as of May 2011.

Popular Schools

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    2. Louisiana State University Shreveport

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MBA: Marketing
  • BSBA in Purchasing
  • Associate: Business Admin.

Which subject are you interested in?

Louisiana State University Shreveport

  • Master of Business Administration with a General Business Specialization
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing Concentration
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing Specialization

What is your highest level of education completed?

American National University

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Business Administration Management - Associate
  • Business Administration - Diploma

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Saint Leo University

  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
  • AA: Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Business
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing
  • Bachelor of Science in Business
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Business

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Notre Dame de Namur University

  • Masters in Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

South College

  • Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Marketing
  • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

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