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What Does a Purchasing Manager Do?

Purchasing managers navigate the complex process of procuring the goods and services their businesses need.
A map with truck, calendar and building icons used to represent what a purchasing manager does

Understanding the Numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.

Every company, corporation and organization in the world needs to procure goods and services to keep operations functioning and ensure business is moving ahead.

Whether it’s equipment and supplies for use by in-house staff, materials and resources needed to manufacture the products they’re bringing to market, or contracts with vendors providing necessary overhead services, purchasing these things affects every business, every day.

Successfully navigating and managing this often complex process is the primary responsibility of a purchasing manager.

What are the Duties of a Purchasing Manager? 

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a purchasing manager, it’s important to understand that there’s more to the profession than simply procuring goods and services.

You'll be relied upon by your employer to carry out a range of duties, from researching purchasing options and vendors, to negotiating agreements and working with colleagues to streamline operations and create efficiencies.

According to Indeed, some of the specific duties of a purchasing manager include:

  • Creating standards and protocols for an organization’s purchasing processes
  • Discussing pricing and negotiating contracts with vendors
  • Exploring vendor options and determining the most cost-effective moves
  • Hiring, training and overseeing the work of other purchasing agents
  • Procuring goods and services for the organization

A blue graphic with an icon of two white outlined hands shakingOne critical component of the day-to-day duties of a purchasing manager is building positive relationships with vendors and suppliers.

Creating and cultivating strong relationships with suppliers can significantly impact everything from product quality, timeliness of deliveries and potential cost savings to mitigating risks from supply-chain disruptions, according to the LinkedIn article "The Importance of Supplier Relationship Management in Procurement."

How Hard Is It to Be a Purchasing Manager?

As with any management professional, purchasing managers encounter a variety of challenges that they must adapt to and overcome.

From new and emerging technologies, to international issues affecting the global supply-chain, to inflation and other fluctuating economic conditions, the challenges you’ll encounter as a purchasing manager will be constantly evolving.

The article "Purchasing Problems and Solutions: 10 Common Challenges" from Procurify, a procurement management company that serves over 50 industries, points out that some of the specific challenges purchasing managers face include:

  • Ensuring data such as inventory, contracts and pricing is accurate, up to date and easily accessible
  • Implementing and integrating digital technologies and purchasing software in a way that streamlines operations
  • Managing and mitigating risks and new challenges presented by a constantly changing global economy
  • Navigating uncontrollable supply-chain problems that can occur and dealing with late or damaged deliveries
  • Working within established budgets during times of inflation and increasing costs for goods and services

Those who succeed in the field use their extensive knowledge, training and relationship skills to anticipate problems and be better prepared to handle them.

What Skills Does It Take to Succeed as a Purchasing Manager?

Dani Lilithson, a strategic procurement manager, explains in her LinkedIn article "Key Skills Every Successful Purchasing Managers Should Have" that there are a number of personal characteristics and skills that can position you to thrive in your career as a purchasing manager. For instance, would you consider yourself a(n):

  • Analytical Problem Solver – Quick yet analytical thinking is a key ingredient for anticipating problems, overcoming challenges and ensuring the procurement process runs smoothly.
  • Master Researcher – From finding the best products and services, to identifying market trends, to staying ahead of the curve on procurement strategies, research is a big part of the profession.
  • Organizational Whiz – As a purchasing manager, multitasking is simply a way of life, and to succeed, it takes someone with exceptional organizational skills to keep everything straight.
  • Relationship Builder – Establishing good working relationships with suppliers and vendors is vital and can be a good way to overcome any potential challenges down the road.
  • Strong Negotiator – You’ll work daily to gain the best possible prices and terms on the goods and services you’re procuring.

If these are characteristics and skills you feel you possess, a career as a purchasing manager could be a good path.

Find Your Program

How Much Can You Make as a Purchasing Manager?

A yellow money symbol on a blue background

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for purchasing managers is expected to grow by 4% between 2022 and 2032.*

The BLS reports that in 2022, the median annual wage for buyers and purchasing agents was $67,620, while the median annual wage for purchasing managers was $131,350.*

Since procuring goods and services is a key necessity for all types of businesses, companies and organizations, there is virtually no limit to what kind of industry and setting you may find yourself working in as a purchasing manager.

According to Zippia, a provider of online tools for job seekers in a broad range of fields and disciplines, a large number of purchasing managers work in the manufacturing industry, technology, and retail.

There is often confusion over the difference between a purchasing manager and a supply chain manager. As explained in an article by Procurify titled "The Difference Between Procurement and Supply Chain Management," the main difference is that, while purchasing and procurement involves finding and acquiring the goods and services an organization needs to function, supply chain management is broader in scope. It includes:

  • Distribution
  • Logistics
  • Procurement and purchasing
  • Production

What Does It Take To Become a Purchasing Manager?

An icon indicating a process with three circles, two of which are checked off, connected by two lines

If you’re looking to embark on a career as a purchasing manager, the best first step is finding a relevant bachelor’s degree program, such as the bachelor's in operations management at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

Finding the right bachelor’s degree program, which the BLS reports is the typical degree held by purchasing managers, can provide you with knowledge and training in things like operations management theory, best practices, low-risk decision making, business sustainability and other areas that apply directly to the profession.

With your degree in hand, the next step is to find an entry-level position in purchasing or procurement as a way to gain the real-world experience most employers are looking for when hiring a purchasing manager.

According to the BLS, most purchasing managers bring at least a few years of experience in procurement before rising to that level. Additionally, a variety of professional certifications in procurement and purchasing can position you for career development and advancement.

Discover more about SNHU’s online bachelor’s in operations management: what courses you'll take, skills you'll learn and how to request information about the program.

*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.

Cary Jordan is an Iowa-based writer with more than 20 years of writing and editing experience on a wide range of issues related to higher education. Jordan has held administrative and cabinet-level positions at multiple colleges and universities, and his writing has spanned topics related to undergraduate education as well as graduate education in the areas of business, law, medicine and engineering, among others. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.