Pros and Cons of Becoming a Procurement Specialist
Procurement specialists include both procurement clerks and purchasing agents. Read the pros and cons below to see if you might be interested in becoming a procurement specialist.
|Pros of Being a Procurement Specialist|
|May only need a high school diploma or associate's degree**|
|Most skills are learned on the job*|
|Procurement specialists are found in many industries, including government and manufacturing**|
|Opportunities to work independently**|
|Cons of Being a Procurement Specialist|
|Slow job growth (2% for clerks and 3% for agents from 2012-2022)*|
|Clerk jobs are low-paying (median annual salary is near $40,000)*|
|Possible stressful work environment (Conflict resolution and negotiation with suppliers may be required)**|
|Additional training or a bachelor's degree may be needed for career advancement*|
Source(s): *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net
Essential Career Information
Job Description and Duties
Procurement specialists who work as procurement clerks process requests for materials and supplies, manage inventory, create and file purchase orders, track shipments, find discrepancies and resolve issues with orders. The size and complexity of orders is dependent on the company, and procurement specialists might order anything from office supplies to computers and manufacturing equipment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that many tasks revolve around dealing with order inquiries and ensuring deliveries are on time and accurate.
As a purchasing agent, you would find and then negotiate the best prices on the quality equipment, materials and other essential items a company may need and then coordinate payment and delivery details. To find suppliers, you might attend trade shows and conventions or visit supplier's companies to acquire information on their product. You'll negotiate contracts with suppliers and make sure that they comply with the terms and conditions you've agreed on.
Salary and Employment Growth
Because most companies purchase supplies and raw materials, it may appear that procurement specialists could be in high demand. However, with the advancement of Internet technology and the ability to place online orders and communicate with suppliers through email, companies will not need as many procurement clerks. The BLS has predicted only a 2% increase in the employment of procurement clerks during the 2012-2022 decade. Salaries for this career ranged from around $25,000-$56,000 in May 2014, with the average hourly wage measured at just over $19.
Employment growth for purchasing agents is also not expected to be strong, and the BLS projected a 3% increase in the employment of purchasing agents from 2012-2022, with the exception of agents dealing with farm products, retail and wholesale activities. However, compensation is significantly higher than for procurement clerks, with purchasing agents receiving an average annual salary of around $65,000, as measured by the BLS in May 2014.
Required Education and Skills
The BLS reports that the minimum requirement for purchasing specialists is a high school diploma and on-the-job training. However, the level of education necessary for purchasing agents also depends on the size and type of industry. Small businesses may only require a high school diploma, while a larger, organization or government agency may prefer candidates who have earned an associate's or bachelor's degree. Relevant fields of study include business, accounting and supply chain management. You must have the ability to effectively communicate with suppliers and internal clients and act professionally when dealing with their concerns and questions, even when order mistakes occur or information was inputted inaccurately. Successful procurement specialists will also possess the following skills:
- Organizational skills
- Ability to negotiate effectively
- Computer proficiency
- Math skills
What Employers Are Looking for
Companies who hire procurement specialists want professionals with negotiation experience and communication expertise. Organizations looking for clerks required flexibility and the ability to use spreadsheet programs. Ordering and tracking shipments involves a paperwork trail, so strong organizational and computer skills are essential. Although a bachelor's degree is sometimes preferred, many employers will hire procurement specialists with a high school diploma or an associate's degree and some work experience. The following are summaries of real job listings posted in April of 2012:
- A telecommunications company in New Jersey wanted to hire a procurement specialist who could stay on top of material acquisitions, inspect deliveries, organize paperwork and communicate order details to customers. Candidates needed to be able to work independently and possess an associate's degree and two years of related experience.
- A software company in Utah was seeking a procurement specialist with experience in negotiating contracts, purchasing and SAP software. A bachelor's degree was preferred, but the hiring manager would consider candidates with an associate's degree. Job duties included preparing purchasing orders, resolving discrepancies, meeting with management to assess needs, maintaining relationships with suppliers and assisting in pricing negotiations.
- A telecom services provider in North Carolina was looking for a procurement specialist with an associate's degree and several years of procurement experience. Candidates were required to have advanced skills in negotiation and handling large orders in addition to excellent verbal and written communication skills. Knowledge of Microsoft Office and Internet usage was necessary to perform job duties.
- A healthcare company in Indiana wanted a procurement clerk who could prepare purchase orders, verify invoices and expedite deliveries. The position required a high school diploma and one year of experience.
How Can I Stand Out in the Field?
Because bachelor's degrees are preferred by some employers, pursuing a bachelor's degree in economics, supply chain management or business administration could open up additional opportunities for you to work in government purchasing jobs or in larger companies. Gaining skills and experience in purchasing and contract negotiation can be beneficial when applying for promotions or finding work in other departments. You can find courses on contracts in undergraduate programs, and some schools offer certificate programs in contract management. Keeping ahead of new inventory and accounting software advancements could be helpful, since some employers look for applicants who are comfortable using programs like SAP.
Procurement professionals in the public sector can pursue the Certified Professional Public Buyer or the Certified Public Procurement Officer designation from the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council. A combination of education and work experience are necessary to qualify for the various tracks to certification. The American Purchasing Society offers the Certified Purchasing Professional credential for individuals wanting to express their dedication to the field of procurement and seek career advancement. An exam must be passed in addition to fulfilling education and work experience requirements.
Alternative Career Options
Not sure if procurement is the right field for you? If you want an office job, but wouldn't mind traveling to a construction site or spending time on a factory floor, you might want to consider a position as a cost estimator. Cost estimators make calculations about the time, labor and costs required to make a product or perform a service. This field is expected to see a higher-than-average employment growth of 36% from 2010-2020, the BLS reports. Cost estimators made an average annual salary of around $63,000 in May 2011, according to BLS data.
Maybe you are looking for a job with more career growth in addition to higher pay. Becoming a logistician may be an option you should consider. Logisticians utilize technology to acquire necessary materials and coordinate shipment, delivery and storage activities. They also analyze the process and suggest ways to save both time and money. While some logisticians may find employment with only an associate's degree, businesses seek professionals who hold a bachelor's degree in finance, supply chain management or business. Optional certification from organizations such as the International Society of Logistics and the American Society of Transportation and Logistics might give you an advantage when looking for a job or seeking career advancement.
Because companies are becoming more complex in how they do business, the BLS predicted that the demand for skilled logisticians should grow by 26% during the 2010-2020 decade, faster than average. In May 2011, the BLS measured the median salary for these professionals at nearly $72,000.