With steady job growth and opportunities in a wide variety of growing industries, pursuing a career as a director of purchasing can be smart move – if you have the right qualifications. Breaking into this field takes a combination of education, training, and sometimes, industry certifications. If you have good negotiation skills and a knack for analyzing data, you may enjoy preparing for a director of purchasing career.

Start by reviewing this career guide. Here you’ll find valuable information about where the jobs are, as well as the education and training required, common job duties and potential earnings.

This is a solid field for job growth, according to national data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2011. The BLS predicts director of purchasing jobs will grow steadily through 2018. Prospective students should note that a growing job rate does not guarantee employment in the industry. You are encouraged to conduct independent research regarding actual job growth rates, which vary according to location, education and experience.

What is a Director of Purchasing?

A director of purchasing performs a variety of duties to ensure a company obtains the goods and services it needs at the best possible price. In manufacturing, they are typically responsible for developing procurement strategies to acquire raw materials, as well. In some firms, the supply chain may involve complex commodities and international suppliers. To accomplish a company’s goals, the director of purchasing is involved with developing and implementing strategic purchasing plans, and then making adjustments based on their strengths and weaknesses.  

Why Directors of Purchasing Matter

The director of purchasing contributes to the bottom line of an organization by utilizing analytic, forecasting and negotiation skills to procure goods, materials and services on favorable terms. These professionals stay on top of lead times to assist with manufacturing and distribution planning. They report on parts and materials expenses so finished goods can be priced correctly, and they support a firm’s production and sales efforts by ensuring materials orders and inventories stay on track. In these ways, the director of purchasing positively impacts an organization’s operations, profits and ability to grow.

Typical job duties for a director of purchasing include sourcing new suppliers, establishing relationships with vendors, negotiating purchasing contracts, solving order grievances and discrepancies, and managing the purchasing process from the request for proposal (RFP) stage through delivery. They will typically review and analyze processes to reduce waste and errors, and may partner with departments such as production, customer service, sales and safety on supply chain matters. Directors of purchasing may also supervise a staff of buyers or purchasing agents.

Where Can I Find Jobs as a Director of Purchasing?

Employers of all types require the skills of purchasing professionals to maintain smooth operations and keep costs under control. The skills involved in a successful director of purchasing career are applicable to a variety of industries. Directors of purchasing are often employed in the hospitality, construction, manufacturing and distribution, healthcare, retail and wholesale industries.

Education Preparation For Director of Purchasing Jobs

A broad base of business skills and knowledge is utilized in a director of purchasing job. Education requirements will vary depending on the employer and industry, but most employers will prefer to hire candidates with a college degree.

  • Associate’s Degree: Depending on the size and nature of the business, certain entry-level purchasing jobs may require a two-year associate’s degree, along with knowledge of the industry, wholesaling and retailing practices, and related work experience. Continuing education is typically required to advance in this field.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: Most director of purchasing jobs will require at least a four-year bachelor’s degree, with a concentration in engineering, economics, supply chain, or mathematics. Senior and executive level positions typically require an advanced degree, additional work experience, or both.
  • Master’s Degree: Some employers will show preference to candidates with advanced degrees, such as a master’s in supply chain or a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). These advanced degrees typically take an additional one to two years beyond the bachelor’s level, and may expand your career opportunities. 

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement

Along with the required educational background, employers will also assess your business skills and personal qualities. Success as a director of purchasing will require excellent communication, organizational and critical thinking skills. Other vital attributes include:

  • Planning and decision-making abilities
  • Negotiation and collaboration skills
  • The ability to analyze technical data
  • Exceptional mathematical and multi-tasking skills
  • The ability to schedule and manage people and projects

Prospective employers may show preference to applicants with industry certifications, such as the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) or the Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM), awarded by the American Purchasing Society. Career advancement for a director of purchasing may require additional work experience, an advanced degree or industry certifications. Some employers may offer tuition assistance that could enable you to earn a master’s degree.

Potential Salary for Director of Purchasing Positions

According to a 2010 national survey conducted by U.S. Department of Labor, the average annual salary for the category that includes directors of purchasing was $100,600. The middle 50% earned average salaries between $71,600 and $122,760. Those in the lowest 10% bracket earned about $55,040, while the highest 10% of earners brought in around $149,920 annually. Because salary potential may vary depending on location, education, employer and experience, prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research to determine actual earning potential.

Is Becoming a Director of Purchasing in Your Career Plan?

Businesses around the globe need skilled directors of purchasing to stay on track with their objectives, meet customer demand and remain profitable. Obtaining the education and building the skill set described in this career guide can help you prepare for a rewarding career in this exciting field. 

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