Purchasing Manager

The Job and What's Involved

As a purchasing or procurement manager, you would be responsible for buying equipment, goods and services for your company. The main aim of your job would be comparing costs, quality and service in order to get the best value for your employer.

What you bought would depend on your employer and the industry you worked in, for example:

Raw materials and engineering components for a manufacturing company to use.

Wholesale stock for a retailer to sell (in this case you would usually be known as a buyer).

Furniture, stationery and cleaning services for your offices.

Your day-to-day tasks would typically include:

  • Deciding what goods, services and equipment are needed.
  • Monitoring and forecasting stock levels.
  • Researching and identifying new products and suppliers.
  • Assessing tenders from potential suppliers.
  • Negotiating prices and agreeing contracts.
  • Making sure that suppliers deliver on time.
  • Processing payments and invoices.
  • Keeping up with market trends.

In larger organisations you might run a purchasing department and lead a team of buyers and administrators. In smaller companies, you might combine purchasing responsibilities with other management duties.

You would typically work standard office hours, Monday to Friday, perhaps with overtime to meet an occasional deadline. Part-time work may be available.

You would be mainly office-based, but may also travel to meet suppliers.

Starting salaries are usually around £18,000 to £23,000 a year. With experience this can rise to between £25,000 and £40,000.

Top salaries can reach £60,000 to £80,000 or more in large organisations.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You could work as a purchasing manager in all kinds of industries – not only manufacturing, retail and wholesale, but also for service industries and public bodies like the Civil Service, NHS and local authorities.

Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, trade publications for your particular industry, and specialist recruitment agencies.

Education and Training

Employers could ask for varying qualifications and experience.

One way to start is as an administrator or assistant in a company's purchasing department. You could then work your way up as you gain experience and professional qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS).

You may have an advantage with a BTEC HNC/HND or degree in supply chain management, logistics or business studies, but this is not essential if you have relevant work experience.

For some jobs, employers may prefer you to have qualifications and technical knowledge in your particular industry. This is most common in fashion retail, engineering, quantity surveying and construction.

You may be able to join some large companies through a management training scheme. You will usually need a degree (in any subject) to get on to a scheme, although some employers recruit people with A levels or equivalent qualifications.

Most employers expect purchasing managers to have or be working towards membership of CIPS. If you don't have an accredited degree in supply chain management, you can study for CIPS professional qualifications while you are working in a purchasing department.

See the CIPS website for a list of accredited degrees and postgraduate courses, and more details about their qualifications and membership.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

You will develop your skills on the job, possibly as part of a structured graduate training scheme. You will also normally study for professional qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS):

Level 2 Introductory Certificate in Purchasing and Supply.

Level 3 Certificate in Purchasing and Supply.

Level 4 Foundation Diploma in Purchasing and Supply.

Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Purchasing and Supply.

Level 6 Graduate Diploma, a degree-level qualification.

Level 7 Executive Diploma in Purchasing and Supply Management.

Levels 2-4 are suitable for purchasing administrators and people new to the industry. You don't need any qualifications to start at level 2 or 3, but if you wish to start at level 4 you will need either two A levels or equivalent qualifications, the CIPS Level 3 Certificate, or two years' relevant work experience.

Most purchasing managers aim to achieve the Level 6 Graduate Diploma.

You can study for CIPS qualifications part-time at local colleges and private training providers, or by distance learning. See the CIPS website for full details of entry requirements and where to study.

Alternatively, you could take work-based NVQ's in Supply Chain Management such as the Edexcel Certificates in Supply Chain Management at levels 2-4. If you achieved NVQ level 4 you would be eligible to become a CIPS Member.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A purchasing manager needs

  • Good spoken and written communication skills.
  • Excellent negotiating and networking skills.
  • Mathematical ability, to work with figures and budgets.
  • Good judgement and analytical ability.
  • An organised approach.
  • Accuracy and attention to detail.
  • Good business sense.
  • Leadership skills and the ability to work well as part of a team.
  • The ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines.

Your Long Term Prospects

Larger companies may have good promotion prospects, even to director level

You could also move into related areas such as supply chain management or a buying commercial and trade goods.

There may be some opportunities to work abroad.

Get Further Information

Chartered Institute of Purchasing
and Supply (CIPS), Easton House,
Church Street, Easton on the Hill,
Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 3NZ
Tel: 01780 756777
Website: www.cips.org

Skills for Logistics,
14 Warren Yard, Warren Farm Office Village,
Stratford Road, Milton Keynes MK12 5NW
Tel: 01908 313360
Website: www.skillsforlogistics.org

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