Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents
Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents held about 527,000 jobs in 2002. Forty-two percent worked in the wholesale trade and manufacturing industries, and another 15 percent worked in retail trade. The remainder worked mostly in service establishments, such as hospitals, or different levels of government. A small number were self-employed.
Overall employment of purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents is expected to grow slower than the average through the year 2012. 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. Demand for purchasing workers will be limited by improving software, which has eliminated much of the paperwork involved in ordering and
procuring supplies, the increased use of credit cards by some employees to purchase supplies without using the services of the procurement or purchasing office, and the growing number of purchases being made electronically.
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.
The projected change in employment varies significantly by occupational specialty. Employment of purchasing managers is expected to grow more slowly than the average through 2012.
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 the average. In the retail industry, mergers and acquisitions have forced buying departments to consolidate. In addition, larger retail stores are removing their buying departments from regional markets and centralizing them at their headquarters.
In contrast, employment of purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products, is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2012. Despite the greater use of electronic transactions, purchases of complex equipment are more difficult both to automate and to transact electronically.
Employment of purchasing agents and buyers, farm products, also is projected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations, as the need to evaluate the quality and freshness of farm products limits the ease of making purchases electronically.
Persons who have a bachelor’s degree in business should have the best chance of obtaining a buyer position in wholesale or retail trade or within government. A bachelor’s 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 master’s degree in business or public administration for top-level purchasing positions.
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