How Do You Become a Purchasing Manager?

There are both formal and informal career paths to become a purchasing manager. While most purchase managers have a formal degree, some purchasing agents informally accumulate experience and take select college courses to help them quickly begin their managerial careers.

Finish Undergraduate School

One advantage of becoming a purchase manager is that there is no officially designated college major. That is, students can enroll in a bachelor’s degree program in finance, business, accounting or supply chain management. In fact, since technology is changing all aspects of business functioning, many employers in certain industries will look for purchasing managers with technical backgrounds. Depending on the industry, this means that students could actually major in computer science or IT administration. Regardless of the degree program, students should take business, accounting and supply chain management classes. Because purchasing is not offered as typical four-year program, students should study relevant classes such as economics, statistics, leadership and industrial organization.

Finish Graduate School

In order to be truly competitive in the job market, students should complete either an undergraduate certificate or degree program with an impressive high GPA. This is because purchasing managers will handle millions of dollars of cash, inventory and shipments. Again, students are fortunate to select a master’s program that they prefer. One of the more popular degrees is a Master in Business Administration (MBA), because it offers a well-rounded education. However, a Master in Supply Chain Management is the next logical next step for aspiring purchasing managers, because purchasing managers who want to advance their careers will most likely end up as directors of logistics or warehouse departments.

Get Certified

Although professional certifications are not required, they do provide competitive advantages for purchasing managers who want to quickly start or advance their careers. The Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM), which is offered by the Institute for Supply Management, is the standard credential for purchasing managers and logistics professionals. This CPSM requires a bachelor’s degree and at least three years of purchasing experience to qualify for a series of certification exams that covers topics like sourcing, finance and negotiation. The American Purchasing Society (APS) offers their well-known Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM) exams.

Pass the Job Interview

During the interview, job candidates must be prepared to demonstrate their knowledge of procurement, purchasing and supply chain management. They should be able to show how they can effectively build strong vendor relationships while still professionally negotiating prices and managing quality. Purchasing managers must have the dignity and confidence to professionally deal with vendors who chronically ship late or poor quality products. Purchasing managers must be proactive in responding to immediate supply chain challenges, such as sourcing shortages or product obsolescence. Thus, they need to be highly analytical and organized while also having strong networking and interpersonal skills. When combined, these attributes allow purchasing managers to solve urgent issues and coordinate resources in timely manners.

Related Resource: Client Relationship Manager

Those who want to become a purchasing manager should also be proficient with Microsoft Excel, inventory programs and warehouse management systems.