Jobs Outlook: Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

Overall employment of purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents is expected to grow slower than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Offsetting some declines for purchasing workers in the manufacturing sector will be increases in the services sector. Companies in the services sector, which have typically made purchases on an ad hoc basis, are beginning to realize that centralized purchasing offices may be more efficient. Also, many purchasing agents are now charged with procuring services that were traditionally done in-house in the past, such as computer and IT (information technology) support in addition to traditionally contracted services such as advertising. Demand for purchasing workers will be limited by improving software, which has eliminated much of the paperwork involved in ordering and procuring supplies, and also by the growing number of purchases being made electronically through the internet and electronic data interchange (EDI). Despite slower-than-average growth, some job openings will result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

Employment of purchasing managers is expected to grow more slowly than average. The use of the Internet to conduct electronic commerce has made information easier to obtain, thus increasing the productivity of purchasing managers. The Internet also allows both large and small companies to bid on contracts. Exclusive supply contracts and long-term contracting have allowed companies to negotiate with fewer suppliers less frequently.

Employment of wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products, also is projected to grow more slowly than average. In the retail industry, mergers and acquisitions have caused buying departments to consolidate. In addition, larger retail stores are eliminating local buying departments and centralizing them at their headquarters.

Employment of purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products, is expected to increase more slowly than average, limited by the increased globalization of the U.S. economy. As more materials and supplies come from abroad, firms have begun to outsource more of their purchasing duties to foreign purchasing agents who are located closer to the foreign suppliers of goods and materials they will need. This trend is expected to continue, but it will likely be limited to routine transactions with complex and critical purchases still being handled in-house.

Finally, employment of purchasing agents and buyers, farm products, also is projected to increase more slowly than average, as overall growth in agricultural industries decreases and retailers in the grocery-related industries consolidate.

Persons who have a bachelorís degree in business should have the best chance of obtaining a buyer position in wholesale or retail trade or within government. A bachelorís degree, combined with industry experience and knowledge of a technical field, will be an advantage for those interested in working for a manufacturing or industrial company. Government agencies and larger companies usually require a masterís degree in business or public administration for top-level purchasing positions.