Purchasing manager: Learn more about the career

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A purchasing manager plays an important role in both management and procurement. An integral position in the supply chain, purchasing managers are often in charge of vetting vendors, assessing supplier and staff performance, and analyzing costs to find alternative solutions. It’s possible to reach this career with an online Bachelor of Science degree and a few years of industry experience.

Let’s take a deep dive into the career profile of a purchasing manager.

A purchasing manager visits a warehouse.

What do purchasing managers do?

At a high level, purchasing managers are responsible for procurement — the process of bringing in products and services for a business to use or sell to consumers. Since they operate in a managerial capacity, purchasing managers oversee the efforts of procurement staff.

These business leaders are involved in supply chain management, partner performance evaluation, cost analyses, and staff supervision. Some responsibilities of a purchasing manager include:

  • Negotiating contracts and agreements with vendors to secure the most advantageous rates and terms for their business
  • Undertaking vendor audits and risk management assessments to protect the business’s investment and supply the highest-quality goods and services to consumers
  • Visiting distribution hubs and supplier plants to ensure adherence to operating agreements and compliance regulations
  • Inspecting inventory and assessing service competency so the business can optimize its procurement strategies and spending
  • Designing standards and guidelines for company sourcing, and then enforcing those best practices through procurement
  • Coordinating the activities of buyers, purchasing agents, and other staff within the procurement department
  • Managing vendor relationships by regularly connecting with clients

Purchasing managers have a broad job description, but they’re well compensated.

How much does a purchasing manager make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides a full report of the expected earnings and employment outlook for purchasing professionals. In 2018, purchasing managers saw median annual earnings of $118,940. This is a 207% increase from the national average across all occupations.

Where do purchasing managers work?

Purchasing managers work across a variety of sectors, both public and private. According to the BLS, 27% of purchasing managers work in manufacturing. Companies that assemble products on-site but ship in parts from elsewhere need a purchasing manager to stay on top of the supply chain.

However, there are also many purchasing manager jobs in wholesale trade, retail trade, corporate management, and the government. Wholesale and retail operations rely on skilled purchasing managers to find reliable, cost-effective partners, while enterprise businesses turn to purchasing managers for better organization and spending allocation. Those same reasons make these professionals highly sought after in government, where cost efficiency is a high priority.

While purchasing managers usually work full time in an office setting, trade shows and conferences provide the opportunity for purchasing managers to forge new business relationships and stay ahead of industry trends.

What experience is necessary to become a purchasing manager?

Given the level of responsibility someone in this position assumes, an aspiring purchasing manager should cultivate a certain set of skills and qualities through related academic and professional experiences.

Skills and qualities

A purchasing manager’s role involves investigating and evaluating different options, so it’s essential to possess problem-solving skills, a sharp analytical approach, and decision-making abilities. The most successful professionals also need the ability to confidently communicate their proposals and negotiate to reach the desired outcome.


The BLS has noted that a bachelor’s degree in finance, business, or supply management can help aspiring purchasing managers enter the industry.

A master’s degree isn’t a prerequisite for this six-figure career; with the right experience, professionals can work their way to a purchasing management role with just a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, an undergraduate program geared toward a career in purchasing — such as the online Bachelor of Science in Finance through the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business — has the potential to yield a high return on students’ academic investment.

Alternatively, UAB’s online B.S. in Industrial Distribution or online B.S. in Human Resources can prepare students to tackle supply chain and personnel management on their path toward a purchasing management career.

Work experience

After completing one of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s online business degree programs, our graduates are ready to pursue a purchasing career. Before reaching a management position, professionals typically spend at least five years working in procurement as an assistant purchasing manager, buyer, or purchasing agent.

While not all employers require professional certification, it can be advantageous to get registered as a certified purchasing manager. With the right combination of work experience, education, and industry involvement, you can take an exam to earn designations such as Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) or Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP).

Start your procurement career at UAB

If you’re eager to kick off a career in purchasing, an online undergraduate degree from UAB can prepare you to oversee staff, negotiate vendor contracts, evaluate supplier performance, inspect quality, and make sound financial decisions. Contact an enrollment advisor today to learn more.

Recommended Readings:

What you may learn in UAB’s online BS in Finance program

Online BS in Accounting or online BS in Finance: Which is right for me?


Bureau of Labor Statistics — Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents