What Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents Do
Buyers and purchasing agents buy products and services for organizations. Purchasing managers oversee the work of buyers and purchasing agents.
Most purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week.
How to Become a Purchasing Manager, Buyer, or Purchasing Agent
Buyers and purchasing agents typically have a bachelor’s degree. Purchasing managers must also have a few years of work experience.
The median annual wage for buyers and purchasing agents was $64,380 in May 2019.
The median annual wage for purchasing managers was $121,110 in May 2019.
Overall employment of purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents is projected to decline 7 percent from 2019 to 2029. However, many openings are expected each year because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.
Buyers and purchasing agents buy products and services for organizations to use or resell. They evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review the quality of products. Purchasing managers oversee the work of buyers and purchasing agents and typically handle more complex procurement tasks.
Purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents typically do the following:
- Evaluate suppliers on the basis of the price, quality, and speed of delivery of their products and services
- Interview vendors and visit suppliers’ plants and distribution centers to examine and learn about products, services, and prices
- Attend meetings, trade shows, and conferences to learn about new industry trends and make contacts with suppliers
- Analyze price proposals, financial reports, and other information to determine reasonable prices
- Negotiate contracts on behalf of their organization
- Work out agreements with suppliers, such as when products will be delivered
- Meet with staff and vendors to discuss defective or unacceptable goods or services and determine corrective action
- Evaluate and monitor contracts to be sure that vendors and suppliers comply with the terms and conditions of the contract and to determine the need for changes
- Maintain and review records of items bought, costs, deliveries, product performance, and inventories
In addition to these tasks, purchasing managers also plan and coordinate the work of buyers and purchasing agents and hire and train new staff.
Purchasing managers are also responsible for developing their organization’s procurement policies and procedures. These policies help ensure that procurement professionals are meeting ethical standards to avoid potential conflicts of interest or inappropriate supplier and customer relations.
Buyers and purchasing agents buy farm products, durable and nondurable goods, and services for organizations and institutions. They try to get the best deal for their organization: the highest quality goods and services at the lowest cost. They do this by studying sales records and inventory levels of current stock, identifying foreign and domestic suppliers, and keeping up to date with changes affecting both the supply of, and demand for, products and materials.
Purchasing agents and buyers consider price, quality, availability, reliability, and technical support when choosing suppliers and merchandise. To be effective, purchasing agents and buyers must have a working technical knowledge of the goods or services they are purchasing.
Evaluating suppliers is one of the most critical functions of a buyer or purchasing agent. They ensure the supplies are ordered in time so that any delays in the supply chain does not shut down production and cause the organization to lose customers.
Buyers and purchasing agents use many resources to find out all they can about potential suppliers. They attend meetings, trade shows, and conferences to learn about new industry trends and make contacts with suppliers.
They often interview prospective suppliers and visit their plants and distribution centers to assess their capabilities. For example, they may discuss the design of products with design engineers, quality concerns with production supervisors, or shipping issues with managers in the receiving department.
Buyers and purchasing agents must make certain that the supplier can deliver the desired goods or services on time, in the correct quantities, and without sacrificing quality. Once they have gathered information on suppliers, they sign contracts with suppliers who meet the organization’s needs and they place orders.
Buyers who purchase items to resell to customers may determine which products their organization will sell. They need to be able to predict what will appeal to their customers. If they are wrong, they could jeopardize the profits and reputation of their organization.
Buyers who work for large organizations often specialize in purchasing one or two categories of products or services. Buyers who work for smaller businesses or government agencies may be responsible for making a greater variety of purchases.
The following are examples of types of buyers and purchasing agents:
Purchasing agents and buyers of farm products buy agricultural products for further processing or resale. Examples of these products are grain, cotton, and tobacco.
Purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products buy items for the operation of an organization. Examples of these items are chemicals and industrial equipment needed for a manufacturing establishment, and office supplies.
Wholesale and retail buyers purchase goods for resale to consumers. Examples of these goods are clothing and electronics. Purchasing specialists who buy finished goods for resale are commonly known as buyers or merchandise managers.
Buyers and purchasing agents held about 449,300 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of buyers and purchasing agents were as follows:
|Management of companies and enterprises||10|
Purchasing managers held about 76,900 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of purchasing managers were as follows:
|Management of companies and enterprises||16|
Most purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents work in offices. Travel is sometimes necessary to visit suppliers or review products.
Most purchasing managers and buyers and purchasing agents work full time. Overtime is common in these occupations.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents.
For more information about buyers and purchasing agents, including information on education, training, employment, and certification, visit
For a career video on buyers and purchasing agents of farm products, visit
For a career video on wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/purchasing-managers-buyers-and-purchasing-agents.htm (visited ).