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How to Become a Purchasing Agent

Careers in supply chain management are in high demand. Business technology jobs are currently some of the most scouted job options. If purchasing and negotiation interest you, then becoming a purchasing agent might be a good career choice.

What Is a Purchasing Agent?

In layman's terms, a purchasing agent is in charge of purchasing products for an organization. Do not confuse them with wholesale or retail buyers, who purchase goods for resale. The purchasing agent buys products, usually raw products or product parts, to maintain daily company operations.

As a purchasing agent, you are responsible for identifying suppliers with the best balance of quality and economy. You purchase the items, process them, and verify the product quality once they’re delivered. You can learn supply chain management and procurement to become an excellent purchasing agent.

A good agent has great record-keeping skills and industry networks. Without a purchasing agent, businesses are likely to fail. This job position is in high demand for most industries.

What Does a Purchasing Agent Do?

Purchasing agents play a critical role in managing the company's inventory. To maximize revenue generation, companies need quality goods from the best suppliers. A purchasing agent researches the market and finds the best products to meet their needs.

After identifying the supplier, the agent negotiates for the best price. Negotiating prices is essential since it lowers the organization's cost of purchasing raw materials for production. This way, the company can avoid incurring a loss.

A purchasing agent must have good business negotiation skills, know about price trends, and have technical knowledge. You need to be organized, business savvy, and information-oriented. With that, you also need to have the tenacity for serious and intensive research.

Network and Identify the Best Supplier

As mentioned above, one of the primary roles of an agent is to find the best supplier for their company. To find good suppliers, purchasing agents network, and build contacts within the industry.

You are expected to thoroughly check the quality of the product and get the best deal. If the deal is successful, you can solidify contracts with the vendors and suppliers.

Maintain Supply and Purchasing Records

As a purchasing agent, you have to keep transaction records. It is your role to ensure that the organizational supply, product deliveries, and purchasing records are well-kept. This is critical to the company’s financial and operational tasks. In case something goes wrong, you have to know when and where you’re getting your products.

Prepare Paperwork for the Orders

Your duties as a purchasing agent also include transaction paperwork. You are expected to write contract terms, prepare purchase orders, and write financial reports. You also have to review the requisitions of the product before buying.

Purchasing agents need to formulate the procedures and policies for placing the best proposals in the market. You should have good writing and communication skills to do this successfully.

Essential Purchasing Agent Skills

No matter what types of skills you have, you need to make sure you have the right ones for the job. Purchasing agent skills range from many soft skills to IT skills. Below are some of the most important skills you will need as a purchasing agent.

Excellent Communication Skills

This is an essential soft skill for purchasing agents. You must have persuasive oral and written communication skills. This will help you network and negotiate to get the best deals. Without good communication skills, a purchasing agent won’t be able to perform their duties.

Industry and Product Understanding

Purchasing agents constantly interact with the product market. To provide your organization with the best service, you must have a strong understanding of your related industry. You need to stay updated about market conditions, supplier performance, and new products. With these skills, you will be able to find the best product at the best price.

Good Organizational Skills

A purchasing agent is involved with every aspect of every transaction. You have to keep a record of every single monetary exchange. This record should be clear, organized, and accurate. You can use AI systems to keep track of all the documents related to the purchase.

Purchasing Agent Salaries and Job Outlook

The median salary of a purchasing agent is around $64,380, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The job availability is projected to decrease by three percent by 2026. However, don’t let this disappoint you. The job is evolving every day, especially with IT implementation.

The salaries of purchasing agents aren’t consistent because they work in so many industries. Pay varies from company to company.

Some companies highly value their purchasing agents, while others don’t pay as well. That’s why you should research the company and your desired position before you agree to anything.

You can learn different systems, like CRM tools, and gain certifications. This will help you stand out and increase your industry value.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Purchasing Agent?

Most companies have specific education requirements to become a purchasing agent. You usually need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, and a master’s degree is also an asset. Becoming a purchasing agent takes around five years if you include formal education.

How to Become a Purchasing Agent: A Step-by-Step Guide

When you want to learn a new skill or step into a new profession, you should always have a plan. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can become a purchasing agent.

Step 1: Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to starting your career is to get a bachelor’s degree in the business field. You can get a degree in supply chain management, business administration, or finance. Most companies require this level of education. Depending on what program you choose, you will gain valuable information about negotiation, product pricing, and business contracts.

Step 2: Professional Certifications

The second step is to earn professional certifications. You’ll gain valuable experience, and have another item to put on your resume. Purchasing is a skill-based job, and being certified will help you showcase those skills to employers. Make sure to practice your mock exams before taking the certification exams.

Step 3: Get Relevant Work Experience

With the help of the certifications and a bachelor’s degree, you are now eligible for a purchasing agent job. The last step is to find some entry-level positions in companies that interest you. Get relevant work experience and grow your career trajectory to a purchasing manager position.

Required Education to Become a Purchasing Agent

As mentioned above, most companies these days require a bachelor’s degree. You can get a bachelor’s in finance or a bachelor’s in business administration to get started. Alternatively, you can even enroll in online business degree programs.

Best Programs and Courses to Become a Purchasing Agent

There are tons of online and in-person courses you can take to become a purchasing agent. Below are some of our top picks.

Saylor Foundation: Introduction to Business

  • Provider: Saylor Foundation
  • Cost: Free
  • Prerequisite: N/A
  • Time: Approximately 68 hours

Saylor Foundation is offering this free course to understand the foundations of business and management. As a purchasing agent, you must have a background in basic business concepts.

The course will teach accounting, finance, and banking concepts. You will also learn marketing, management, and entrepreneurship. If you achieve 70 percent or higher in the final exam, you will earn a free certification.

Saylor Foundation: Introduction to Financial Accounting

  • Provider: Saylor Foundation
  • Cost: Free
  • Prerequisite: N/A
  • Time: Approximately 57 hours

A purchasing agent requires an array of skills, among them is a deep understanding of financial accounting. This course will teach you the basics of financial accounting and its processes. You will learn to record transactions, financial reporting, statement analysis, and identify receivables and payables.

Coursera: Supply Chain Management Specialization

  • Provider: Coursera
  • Cost: Free
  • Prerequisite: N/A
  • Time: Approximately 6 months, 3 hours/week

The primary duties of a purchasing agent revolve around supply chain management (SCM). In this Coursera course, you will learn the everyday challenges of SCM and how to overcome it. By the end of the course, you will attain skills in warehouse management, logistics planning, risk management, forecasting, and much more. System Design for Supply Chain Management and Logistics

  • Provider: Coursera
  • Cost: Free
  • Prerequisite: N/A
  • Time: Approximately 6 months, 3 hours/week

Chalmers University of Technology is offering this introductory-level systems design course for logistic and supply chain management. You will learn to design optimal SCOR models for a high return on investment. The course will also teach fundamental economic analysis and a sustainable SCM model. You can purchase certification for $49 at the end of the course.

Purchasing Agent Certificates

There are five primary purchasing agent certification programs that you can take. These certifications include:

The Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP)

The certified purchasing professional exam tests your skills to improve supply chain management and purchasing solutions to increase business productivity and profit. This is a great certification that covers the overall required skills to be a purchasing agent.

The Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM)

The professional purchasing manager certification helps you become a manager from an agent. To be eligible for this exam, you must have three years of experience in a relevant job or have a bachelor’s degree and two years of experience. This certification showcases your skills in managing purchasing operations.

Certified Green  Purchasing Professional (CGPP)

Going green is the new standard across many industries. This includes daily business operations. If you are interested in work as a sustainable purchasing professional, this certification is for you. The certification showcases your ability to conduct sustainable procurement and other purchasing operations.

Certified Professional in Distribution and Warehousing (CPDW)

The warehouse distribution certificate program will showcase your abilities to handle distribution and logistics management at company warehouses. To earn this certification, you must take three logistics courses and pass an examination.

The Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant (CPPC)

The prerequisites of this purchasing consultant certification are: 85 percent or more on the CPP exam and a business degree. To pass the CPPC exam, you must have great consulting and industry knowledge. This is a fantastic certification for those looking to advance their careers in the purchasing industry.

Should You Become a Purchasing Agent in 2021?

You should become a purchasing agent if you have a passion for business and supply chain management. It is also a great career if you have a business degree, but aren’t sure what to do with it.

You can succeed as a purchasing agent if you understand the industry standards and have excellent negotiation skills. If you decide to follow this path, you’ll always be learning how to better analyze the market.


Are purchasing agents the same as buyers?
Both buyers and purchasing agents have similar lines of duties. They both engage in negotiations and set up contracts for product transactions.  Wholesale or retail buyers purchase different products for the company, and these products get resold. Purchasing agents buy raw materials and goods that the company can use.
What are the essential purchasing agent skills?
The essential skills of a purchasing agent include operating ERP systems, lead time, sage, vendor management, and procurement. You’ll also need good negotiation skills and good written and verbal communication skills.
How can I write a good purchasing agent resume?
A good purchasing agent resume showcases your qualifications and best business skills. To stand out, you should try to earn certifications.   Be sure to add important keywords in the resume. Highlight any relevant experience in the field. Make sure to get your resume proofread and critiqued by a professional.
What are some purchasing agent interview questions?
Most interview questions for purchasing agents revolve around operational, role-specific, and behavioral topics. Some questions are: -How would you successfully negotiate a deal with a supplier?  -How do you source the right supplier for the business?- -Describe a situation where you successfully reduced a product price.
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