Become a Professional Buyer: Requirements by Specialization

Learn how to become a professional buyer. Research the education and career requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in professional buying.

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Do I Want to Be a Professional Buyer?

Professional buyers purchase the products and inventory for stores or businesses. They may oversee all product purchasing if they work for small companies, or they may focus on a particular line, like women's accessories, for large department stores.

In order to improve company operations and bottom line, buyers must continuously evaluate suppliers and negotiate contracts with vendors. Buyers also must make connections and learn about new trends in the industry by attending trade shows and conferences. This means that travel both within and outside the United States is often needed. Many of these workers also put in overtime hours.

Job Requirements

Prospective professional buyers usually need to earn at least a bachelor's degree in supply chain management, distribution management or a similar business field. Experience and on-the-job training are also necessary, so that buyers can learn about company policies and procedures. Certification in the field is optional, but may benefit job applicants. The table below includes the requirements to become a professional buyer, based on postings from online job boards in August and September 2012.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Name Supply chain management, distribution management, business administration
Certification Voluntary certification is available; some employers require certification for senior professional buying jobs
Experience 2-5 years buying experience with several years in a particular industry
Key Skills Negotiation, decision-making skills, communication, analysis, business sense
Computer Skills Microsoft Office suite

Step 1: Graduate with a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in supply chain management can prepare one to work as a buyer. In addition to learning about the various aspects of business, students learn to manage and coordinate products and goods. The curriculum typically covers topics in negotiations, logistics, planning and operations, strategy development, and execution systems. Graduates are prepared to work in various industries, including fashion or electronics retail, health care, or agriculture products.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in an internship. An internship can provide beneficial experience in the field and a chance to develop analysis and purchasing experience. Interns often work under the supervision of experienced buyers and learn about supply and demand, strategic negotiation, and inventory management. Having interned by the time of graduating can boost one's chances of landing a job, since a year of experience is often necessary even for entry-level jobs.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Recent graduates may start out with temporary or contract jobs to obtain the requisite experience to become professional buyers. Job duties often include searching for new vendors, purchasing products at negotiated prices, analyzing business trends, and formulating business plans. Entry-level jobs provide opportunities to develop the necessary communication and negotiation skills.

Success Tip:

  • Choose a buying specialization. Employers commonly seek candidates who have several years of experience in specific buying fields, like food products, automobiles, children's toys, or men's clothing, plus a familiarity with the products and goods they distribute. Selecting a specialization and working in entry-level positions in that industry can set one up for high-level buying jobs.

Step 3: Work as a Professional Buyer

After working in the field for 2-5 years, one may be experienced enough to attain more prestigious professional buyer positions with additional responsibilities. For senior buyer positions, 7 or more years of working in the field may be necessary, in addition to 5 or more years of experience in a particular buying industry.

Success Tip:

  • Obtain certification. Earning professional credentials demonstrates a professional buyer's abilities and can help one stand out in the job market; some employers even require certification. Salary increase is another common benefit. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) offers certification to buyers and other supply chain professionals. Designations that are available include the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM), Certified in Supply Management (CSM), and Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity (CPSD). In order to be eligible for certification, one must meet minimum educational and experience requirements.
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