What is a Purchasing Specialist?

An organization uses Purchasing Specialists to handle all of their purchasing needs. This person is responsible for ensuring that a business is able to acquire needed supplies, materials and other relevant items, following a strict budget and keeping records of all the transactions.

A Purchasing Specialist usually works in the finance department, reporting to the Chief Financial Officer, or works very closely with that department. Alternatively, these individuals can work as part of the Operations Department, reporting to the Chief Operations Officer; this typically depends on the company size, dynamic and structure. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 1 percent decrease for careers in Purchasing, including Purchasing Specialists through 2024.

 

Purchasing Specialist Duties and Responsibilities

A Purchasing Specialist’s core duties are a little different today than they were many years ago: Purchasing is now often referred to as “supply chain management.” The most important duties of this position entail purchasing business-related items and equipment and negotiating with vendors to get the best price for goods and services. Common duties include:

Purchasing Supplies

The most recognizable and position-specific role of a Purchasing Specialist is to find and purchase necessary supplies; sometimes in very large companies, this position may take part in deciding whether to make the item in-house versus purchasing it. In general, purchasing departments work with product development teams to order materials and determine costs of a particular product. A Purchasing Specialist sometimes uses trade publications or can go straight to the manufacturer of the product to find the most relevant and cost-effective option.  The most challenging part if this duty is finding the right item at the right price.

Record Keeping

An effective Purchasing Specialist has to be able to adhere to very strict record keeping.  Depending on the company, records are kept in many different ways; paper files, computer databases or both. Purchasing Specialists will work with specific software to maintain and access records, such as invoices, purchase orders and bidding contracts, to make sure they are up to date. Besides keeping accurate records, a Purchasing Specialist will usually prepare reports for appropriate individuals within the company of the items ordered, prices as well as need.

Bidding

Depending on what industry and company these workers are employed in, there might be items needed in bulk, or specialty items. The Purchasing Specialist will have to bid and choose the best vendor to partner with. The Purchasing Specialist is responsible for all aspects of the bidding process, which can involve writing detailed instructions, accepting vendors for the approved list of bidders, handling bidding funds, reading bids publicly and making a recommendation on which bid is the best for the company.

Maintaining Vendor Contacts

A very large part of the Purchasing Specialist’s job is to maintain regular contact with vendors and suppliers. Oftentimes, a good business relationship with a vendor will result in lower prices or better service; as such, this employee is tasked with building these types of relationships for the good of the business. If financial issues arise, the Purchasing Specialist will be the one to work with the vendor to resolve any issues.

 

Purchasing Specialist Skills

A Purchasing Specialist must be extremely organized, have an excellent ability to communicate with people in all positions and have excellent negotiating skills. This person must be able to think critically and quickly, have good judgment and decision-making skills, as well as great time management skills.

Core skills: Job listings for Purchasing Specialists sought out individuals with the following basic skills:

  • Communicating well and clearly with others
  • Using logic and reasoning to identify a problem and find solution
  • Strong time management skills
  • Strong persuasion and negotiation skills
  • Strong math skills

Advanced skills: You may not possess all of these skills, but it will be advantageous to add a few to your resume to make your resume stand out:

  • Experience with management of financial resources
  • Knowledge of system analysis, how work flow changes and related outcomes
  • People management
  • Experience working with programs that serve the purchasing department

Tools of the Trade: Learn how to utilize the following tools that are typically used by Purchasing Specialists:

  • Personal computers
  • Purchasing specific software
  • Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook
  • Record keeping software and programs
  • Office equipment, such as copiers

 

Purchasing Specialist Salary

Purchasing, a category that includes Purchasing Specialists, earn a median yearly salary of $62,200. Those in the 10th percentile make $37,900, while those in the 90th percentile can make in excess of $100,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia offer the highest yearly median salaries – $90,800, $77,100 and $73,000, respectively.

 

Purchasing Specialist Resources

Access the following blogs, LinkedIn groups and book to learn more about a career in purchasing.

On the Web

Procurement Sense Blog – Purchasing and supply management insights.

Next Level Purchasing Blog – A blog that presents news on purchasing and procurement.

Global Purchasing Blog – Learn latest news and inventions in this industry.

The Network for Sourcing Executives – The premier global sourcing association that provides thought leadership and networking opportunities to executives in sourcing, procurement, outsourcing, shared services and global business services from Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies.

On Linked In

ISM – A group of purchasing and supply chain management professional.

Supply Chain Ltd – A group that supplies information about purchasing and supply chain careers.

Books

Purchasing and Supply Chain Management by Robert M. Monczka and Robert Handfield – First hand experiences in purchasing and solid advice from a manager’s standpoint.

Purchasing and Supply Management by P. Fraser Johnson and Anna Flynn – A comprehensive guide to the purchasing and supply chain management field.

 

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