Director of Purchasing Career Guide

With potential opportunities across a variety of industries, pursuing a career as a director of purchasing can be professionally rewarding for qualified individuals. Breaking into this field may take a combination of education, training and 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.

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 also typically responsible for developing procurement strategies to acquire raw materials. 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 analytical, 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 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 diversity 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 organizations will often 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: Director of purchasing jobs generally 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 and additional work experience.
  • Master’s Degree: Some employers will show preference to candidates with advanced degrees, such as a master’s in supply chain or a Master of Business Administration (MBA). These advanced degrees typically take an additional one to two years beyond the bachelor’s level.

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 multitasking 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 offer tuition assistance or reimbursement programs for eligible employees, enabling them to pursue a master’s degree.

Potential Salary for Director of Purchasing Positions

Salary potential is determined by numerous factors, including industry type, size and location, and a candidate’s education and experience.

As of May 2016, employees listed under the job classification of purchasing managers had an average annual wage of $117,720, according to a national survey by the U.S. Department of Labor. The top 10% of earners had salaries exceeding $177,500 annually.

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 keep their organizations on track with reaching short- and long-term objectives, meeting customer demand and remaining profitable. Attaining the educational qualifications and skill-set described in this career guide can help prepare prospective students for a rewarding career in this complex field.

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