California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Purchasing Agents, Except Wholesale, Retail, and Farm Products in California

May also be called: Contract Specialists; Procurement Clerks; Procurement Specialists; Purchasing Managers

What Would I Do?

Purchasing Agents shop for a living and make up a key component of a firm's supply chain. They buy the goods and services for use by their own company or organization. They may purchase office supplies or raw materials to meet company needs.

Purchasing Agents consider price, quality, availability, and technical support when choosing suppliers and merchandise. They try to get the best deal for their company, meaning the highest quality goods and services at the lowest possible cost. Purchasing Agents study sales records and inventory levels of current stock. They identify foreign and domestic suppliers, and keep up to date about changes affecting both the supply of, and demand for, needed products and materials. They may also perform cost and price analysis to prepare for making purchasing decisions. To be successful, purchasing Agents should have a working technical knowledge of the goods or services to be purchased. Also, they must be knowledgeable about packing requirements, transportation and delivery systems, and freight costs to ensure timely product delivery at the least expense to their company.

Evaluating suppliers is one of the most important responsibilities of a Purchasing Agent. Purchasing Agents and managers will usually interview likely suppliers and visit their plants and distribution centers to evaluate their capability to meet supply needs. Most manufacturing companies operate with lean inventories. Therefore, it is crucial to verify that the potential supplier is able to deliver high quality goods or services on a timely basis.

Purchasing professionals use many resources to learn all they can about potential suppliers. They use the Internet as a tool to search catalogs, trade journals, and industry and company publications. Purchasing Agents also attend meetings, trade shows, and conferences to learn about new industry trends and make contacts with suppliers.

After reviewing the research on a variety of suppliers, contracts are granted to suppliers that best meet the Purchasing Agent’s business needs. Currently, most of the purchasing transaction process is automated using electronic systems that connect the supplier and firms together through the Internet.

Purchasing Agents who work for government agencies purchase a wide variety of products such as: raw materials, machinery, construction services, or office supplies. Government Purchasing Agents must follow strict laws and regulations when placing solicitations for services and accepting bids and offers.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Purchase the highest quality merchandise at the lowest possible price and in correct amounts.Judgment and Decision Making
Prepare purchase orders, solicit bid proposals and review requisitions for goods and services.Mathematics
Research and evaluate suppliers based on price, quality, selection, service, support, availability, reliability, production and distribution capabilities, and the supplier's reputation and history.Critical Thinking
Analyze price proposals, financial reports, and other data and information to determine reasonable prices.Economics and Accounting
Monitor and follow applicable laws and regulations.Deductive Reasoning
Negotiate, or renegotiate, and administer contracts with suppliers, vendors, and other representatives.Negotiation
Monitor shipments to ensure that goods come in on time, and in the event of problems trace shipments and follow up undelivered goods.Monitoring
Confer with staff, users, and vendors to discuss defective or unacceptable goods or services and determine corrective action.Coordination
Evaluate and monitor contract performance to ensure compliance with contractual obligations and to determine need for changes.Problem Sensitivity
Maintain and review computerized or manual records of items purchased, costs, delivery, product performance, and inventories.Production and Processing
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Purchasing Agents work in comfortable climate-controlled offices. They frequently work more than the typical 40-hour week due to special sales, conferences, or production deadlines. Evening and weekend work is customary before holiday and back-to-school seasons for those working in retail businesses.

Many Purchasing Agents travel several days a month to visit suppliers. Purchasers for worldwide manufacturing companies and large retailers, as well as buyers of high fashion, may travel outside the United States.

Thus far, there has been little or no unionization of Purchasing Agents.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Purchasing Agent will appeal to those who enjoy leading people and starting up and carrying out new projects. This occupation satisfies those with enterprising interests. Enterprising occupations frequently involve making decisions, taking risks, and dealing with business.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages for Purchasing Agents in California differ widely depending on job duties and responsibilities, work experience, type of industry, and location of the work. Workers in large cities usually earn higher wages than those who work in smaller towns and rural areas.


The median wage in 2020 for Purchasing Agents in California is $0 annually. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Purchasing Agents generally receive vacation, sick leave, health and life insurance, and a pension plan. Those working in retail often earn cash bonuses based on their performance and may receive employee discounts on purchases from their employer.

What is the Job Outlook?

Many Purchasing Agents are now charged with acquiring services that were traditionally done in-house in the past, such as computer and information technology support. Demand for purchasing workers will be limited by continually improving software, which has eliminated much of the paperwork involved in ordering supplies. The growing number of purchases being made electronically through the Internet and electronic data interchange (EDI) also effects the demand. 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 Purchasing Agents is also limited by the increased globalization of the U.S. economy. As more materials and supplies come from abroad, firms have begun to outsource more of their purchasing duties to foreign Purchasing Agents who are located closer to the foreign suppliers of goods and materials they will need. This trend is expected to continue, but will likely be limited to routine transactions with critical purchases still being handled in-house. Job opportunities will continue to arise from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the labor force for other reasons.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Purchasing Agents is expected to decline between 2016 and 2026.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Purchasing Agents
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Educational requirements tend to vary according to the size and the business needs of the organization. Many large companies and distributors prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree, preferably with a major in business administration. Many manufacturing firms prefer applicants with a bachelor's or master's degree in engineering, business, economics, or one of the applied sciences. A master's degree is essential for advancement to many top-level purchasing manager jobs. Also, Purchasing Agents must be computer literate. It is essential that they know how to use word processing and spreadsheet software, as well as the Internet.


Many employers prefer to hire experienced Purchasing Agents, while others are willing to train new employees that meet the companies’ academic requirements. New Purchasing Agents must learn the specifics of their employers' business. Training periods vary in length, with most lasting one-to-five years. In wholesale and retail establishments, most trainees begin by selling merchandise, supervising sales workers, checking invoices on material received, and keeping track of stock. As they progress, retail trainees are given increased buying-related responsibilities.

In manufacturing, new purchasing employees often are enrolled in company training programs. They work with experienced Agents to learn about commodities, prices, suppliers, and markets. In addition, they may be assigned to the production planning department to learn about the material requirements system and the inventory system the company uses to keep production and replenishment functions working smoothly.

Early Career Planning

High school courses in general business, economics, statistics, and computer technology provide helpful preparation for purchasing occupations.


Certification is not required by law. However, professional certification is becoming increasingly important, especially for those just entering the occupation. A number of organizations offer certifications that will enhance employment and advancement opportunities.

In private industry, recognized marks of experience and professional competence are the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) and Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) designations, awarded by the Institute for Supply Management, and the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM) designations, awarded by the American Purchasing Society.

In federal, State, and local government, the indications of professional competence are Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) and Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO), awarded by the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing. Most of these certifications are awarded only after work-related experience and education requirements are met, and written or oral exams are successfully completed. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Business, Buyers, Contracts, Marketing, Merchandising, Procurement, and Purchasing.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Many schools operate placement centers for their students. Jobs may also be found through registration with temporary employment agencies, through classified advertisements in newspapers and Internet job listings. Job leads may also be found through trade publications. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Purchasing Agents.

  • Internet Marketing and Advertising
  • Marketing Consultants
  • Marketing Programs and Services
  • Merchandise Brokers
  • Merchandising Service

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

An experienced Purchasing Agent may become an assistant purchasing manager in charge of a group of purchasing professionals before advancing further to purchasing manager, supply manager, or director of materials management. At the top levels, duties may overlap with other management functions, such as production, planning, logistics, and marketing. Advancement opportunities are better in larger companies that hire a greater number of Purchasing Agents.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Purchasing Agents with links to more information.

Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and InvestigatorsGuide
Cost EstimatorsProfile
Credit AnalystsProfile
Customer Service RepresentativesGuide
Insurance Appraisers, Auto DamageProfile
Procurement ClerksProfile
Wholesale and Retail Buyers, Except Farm ProductsProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification13-1023
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Purchasing Agents, Except Wholesale, Retail, and Farm Products13-1023.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)CER
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Sales, Distribution, and Marketing Operations, General 521801
   General Merchandising, Sales, & Related Marketing Operations521899
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Marketing and Distribution050900