Purchasing Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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What jobs can you get with a purchasing master's or doctoral degree? Get the truth about requirements, online options, courses and training programs in this field.
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Studying Purchasing: Degrees and Training at a Glance

Purchasing experts determine the best commodities and services for their organization, identify suppliers, negotiate prices and oversee contract performance. This function supports profitability and effectiveness for private, public and not-for-profit organizations. You might get an entry-level position in a smaller organization with a bachelor's degree or even a high school diploma, but a master's degree could help you move up in a complex large company. Ph.D. degrees are not available in purchasing, per se, but the purchasing function could be covered in master's or Ph.D.-level business, supply chain or logistics management curriculum.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected 14% job growth overall from 2010-2020, while opportunities restricted to purchasing were projected to grow 7%. The broader field of logistics including supply chain management may grow 26% for the same 2010-2020 time period. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business notes growing interest in advanced business education programs in China and elsewhere. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects demand for postsecondary teachers of all types to grow 17% from 2010-2020.

Organizations like the American Purchasing Society (APS), the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing and the Association for Operations Management offer specialist certifications for purchasing-related subfields.

Master's Ph.D.
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want a purchasing management position in a larger organization Those interested in research, postsecondary teaching or consulting
Common Career Paths (with approximate salary) - Purchasing agent ($74,000 - with 8 years of experience)*
- Purchasing manager ($89,000 - with 8 years of experience)*
- Division purchasing executive ($157,000 - with 10 years of experience)*
- VP of logistics management ($182,000 - with 15 years of experience)*
- Quantitative methods and operations research professor ($138,000)**
- Strategic management professor ($139,000)**
- Production and operations management professor ($140,000)**
Time to Completion 1-2 years, full-time 4-6 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Typically 35-45 credits
- Internship
- Thesis or project
- Approximately 70-80 credits
- Internship or experiential consulting project
- Teaching responsibilities
- Production of academic papers
- Dissertation
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Bachelor's or master's degree
Online Availability Online and degrees are available; workshops and certification programs may be available Fully online programs rare to non-existent; courses may be available

Source: *Salary.com (2012 median figures), **The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (2010 mean figures).

Master's Degrees Covering Purchasing

In a master's degree program, you may learn to acquire and manage organizational resources more effectively. Master's degrees specifically titled purchasing may be hard to find, but the topic may be covered in Master of Business Administration (MBA) and other programs including: procurement and acquisitions management, acquisition and contract management, logistics management, supply chain management or management with purchasing-related tracks.

These program will address strategic decision-making skills needed in management positions. You'll cover core subjects like financial decision-making and statistics before addressing your professional courses in procurement, contract negotiations, contract formation and cost principles. Some programs may emphasize the specialty areas of government purchasing or military procurement. Programs are often available in full or part-time formats.

Pros and Cons of a Master's Degree Covering Purchasing


  • Laser-focused degree may demonstrate career commitment to this field to employers
  • Curriculum may permit more intensive and in-depth coursework related to purchasing
  • Opportunities to specialize in subfields like federal or military procurement


  • Programs may sacrifice breadth in business for in-depth knowledge of this field
  • Roles limited to purchasing may have slower growing job options than broader fields like logistics
  • Master's degrees could make you overqualified for some positions with organizations that are smaller, less sophisticated or that emphasize on-the-job training

Courses and Requirements

Master's coursework may involve roughly 30-40 hours covering core subjects, an internship and a capstone course or thesis. Curricula may vary somewhat depending on the degree you're pursuing. For example, an MBA candidate would be required to take a broad base of theoretical and functions courses in business while a logistics and supply chain management major might earn more credit hours in topics directly related to management of purchasing. Topics commonly studied in these programs include:

  • Procurement and acquisitions management
  • Cost principles, effectiveness and control
  • Contract changes, terminations and disputes
  • Contract and subcontract formation
  • Government contract law
  • Material acquisition management
  • Cost and economic analysis

Online Courses

Both full-time and part-time degree options are offered online. Virtual courses have the same requirements as on-campus courses, but with more scheduling flexibility. Online courses, hybrid and fully online programs are available, often in formats and on schedules accessible to working professionals. Hybrid programs may require brief on-campus residencies.

Organizations like the Federal Acquisition Institute or professional associations may provide advanced online training in specialty areas or certification curricula. Additionally, you could gain up-to-date expertise in specific areas through courses and seminars offered by organizations like the APS.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Internships and progress toward certifications could give you a head start. If you earn a degree through a school approved by one or more relevant professional organizations, your curriculum may be aligned to the organization's certification standards. Earning certifications typically involves a mix of education, testing and experience.

According to the ISM 2011 Salary Survey, professionals with ISM's Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) credential had higher earning potential. You could become a student member of these organizations or apply for awards and scholarships. APS offers Certified Purchasing Professional, Certified Professional Purchasing Manager, Certified Green Purchasing Professional and Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant credentials. Government or military employees are able to earn certifications specific to their specialty.

Ph.D. Degrees Covering Purchasing

Relevant doctoral programs typically produce scholars in business, logistics, operations, sourcing and supply chain management. Students might enter with a bachelor's or master's degree. While training for university placement, you'll likely develop skill sets including empirical and analytical methods. Programs may require an understanding of economics or behavioral analysis.

Candidates beginning with a bachelor's degree will typically complete 70-90 academic credits, any assigned papers or projects and a dissertation. You'll work with a faculty mentor to develop a research topic. Prospective university teachers may serve as instructors or teaching assistants while earning their degree.

Pros and Cons of a Doctoral Degree Covering Purchasing


  • BLS 2010-2020 projections of above-average growth in opportunities the logistics field could require faculty specializing in logistics and supply chain studies to train the next generation of logistics professionals
  • High income potential from careers in teaching and consulting
  • Opportunity to influence future business leaders and business culture


  • Time and opportunity cost of extended degree program
  • Doctoral-level concentrations in the field are available but not common
  • Some schools are moving away from hiring tenure-track in favor of hiring adjunct teaching staff*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Courses may vary depending on requirements of your proposed department and degree covering purchasing. Programs within schools of business may combine core business discipline courses with the opportunity to specialize in supply chain management or logistics. If your program offers experiential learning opportunities and labs addressing real world issues, you may learn computer programs specific to supply chain modeling. Doctoral programs require comprehensive and oral examinations, completion of original research and defense of the resulting dissertation.

You might take advanced courses like these in a doctoral program:

  • Simulation methods
  • Inventory management
  • Logistics public policy
  • Causal modeling
  • Statistical research methods

Online Courses

Fully online programs may be unavailable, though hybrid programs with short-term on-campus residencies might be offered. Doctoral programs may include advanced seminars that are not available online, but some schools may offer lower-level courses online or accept transfer credits that have been earned online. Programs may provide independent study options to work with professors that can be pursued remotely, but you might not want to count on having online options. Practitioner-type classes of interest may be offered by professional organizations, but these probably won't count for university credit.

Standing Out with This Degree

Future academics and researchers may benefit from affiliations with supply chain or logistics-related institutes and centers. Students are encouraged to participate in faculty and independent research that leads to publication or conference presentation opportunities. You'll likely have opportunities to develop your teaching talents. Students able to attract funding or academic awards will probably be viewed favorably by prospective employers. The quality of your dissertation and choice of topic may be pivotal in establishing you as a professional.

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Liberty University

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