How to Become a Purchasing Director: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 10, 2020

Find out how to become a purchasing director. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in purchasing.

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Should I Be a Purchasing Director?

A purchasing director, also known as a purchasing manager or supply manager, heads the team that is responsible for procuring goods and services for resale or company use. Overtime is common, and travel might be required.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Engineering, business, economics, or an applied science area
Certification Voluntary
Experience 5+ years of experience
Key Skills Strong negotiation, decision-making, mathematical, and analytical skills; experience with spreadsheet, word processing, database, manufacturing, supply chain management, invoice, and project management software; willing to work over 40 hours per week
Salary $118,940 (2018 median for purchasing managers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online

Purchasing directors have bachelor's degree in engineering, business, economics or a related area. They are expected to be able to negotiate effectively, and demonstrate strong decision-making, mathematical and analytical skills. They must be willing to work over 40 hours per week and be competent using software for word processing, spreadsheet, database, manufacturing, supply chain management, invoice, and project management. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for purchasing managers, which include purchasing directors, was $118,940 in 2018.

Steps to Be a Purchasing Director

What steps do I need to take to be a purchasing director?

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Purchasing is not offered as a subject area within a typical 4-year program, so many companies expect candidates to hold a bachelor's degree in business, economics or a similar concentration that could include coursework in relevant subjects. Coursework varies depending on the major that each student selects. For example, students in business programs may want to study accounting, finance, statistics, management, and business ethics. Coursework in economics programs can cover microeconomics, macroeconomics, law and economics, international economy, and industrial organization.

You will want to strengthen your mathematical skills. Mathematical skills are essential for purchasing directors since they must work to compare pricing and make the best decisions for their organizations. Students in bachelor's degree programs should focus on developing a strong foundation in math by taking advanced courses when available.

You will also want to attend networking events. Some schools offer opportunities for students to attend networking events while completing their bachelor's degree programs. These events are frequented by both students and alumni. Students may be able to make valuable connections that can help them advance in their chosen career field.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Before advancing to a management position, purchasing director candidates usually must gain first-hand knowledge and experience at a purchasing department. Entry-level positions can be found as a buyer or purchasing agent. Purchasing responsibilities vary by company, but training can include learning aspects of the business' merchandise, pricing, inventory, customers and suppliers. After gaining experience, purchasing agents may advance to assistant purchasing managers before becoming purchasing directors. Aspiring purchasing directors typically must accrue at least 5 years of experience to gain a management position.

It's a good idea to join a professional organization. Several professional associations are available that can provide a network for purchasing agents and directors. One such organization is the American Purchasing Society (APS). Membership benefits include access to industry publications, seminars, and networking opportunities.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

Although certification is not required, it can provide a competitive advantage for purchasing professionals who are seeking to advance their careers and increase job opportunities. The Certified Professional in Supply Management designation requires at least 3 years of purchasing experience, a bachelor's degree and the completion of a series of certification exams from the Institute for Supply Management. Topics include negotiation, finance, sourcing and logistics.

Other certification options have similar requirements. The APS offers the Certified Purchasing Professional and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager designations, while the Association for Operations Management offers a Certified Supply Chain Professional title.

Purchasing directors lead the team responsible for procuring goods and services for their companies. They have bachelor's degrees, strong negotiating skills and expertise with various software programs. And they earn a median annual salary of $118,940.

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