Looking to better understand the role of a Purchasing Assistant? We’ve got you covered with this in-depth guide that covers everything you need to know.
Businesses need help making purchasing decisions. A purchasing assistant is the ideal choice to help assist with the buying process. In this guide, we’re going to cover the nuances of this position, the skills needed and the career path options available to you.
What Is A Purchasing Assistant?
A purchasing assistant, also known as an assistant buyer, is responsible for helping businesses with:
- Sourcing suppliers
- Inventory management
Businesses rely on the expertise of the assistant to help lower costs and keep materials in stock. Through vendor negotiations, these experts will help secure the best prices for goods and build strong relationships with vendors.
Purchasing Assistant Job Description
Employers have their own range of job descriptions, but most will include an intro similar to the one below:
We’re searching for a purchasing assistant who is energetic, well-organized and willing to grow with our company. Your responsibilities will involve inspecting and monitoring inventory, developing and maintaining relationships with vendors, and researching new market trends.
Candidates with impeccable communication and administrative skills will excel in this position.
Purchasing Assistant Responsibilities
- Schedule and attend meetings with vendors
- Make travel plans and arrangements to meet with vendors
- Negotiate pricing and terms with vendors
- Place and track orders
- Monitor and resupply inventory
- Inspect goods
- Research and make recommendations
- Stay up to date on industry and market trends
You’ll also find a long list of requirements that are required for the position. Requirements will change from company to company.
Candidates who bring the right skillset for the position will have a higher chance of being hired for the position. The most in-demand skills for this position are listed below:
Skills Needed for a Purchasing Assistant
Purchasing assistants who want to enter the field will need a mix of soft and hard skills to be considered for the job. Monster’s Future of Work 2021 report cites soft skills being required by employees.
Some of the most important skills include:
However, the most important skills for someone entering a career as a purchasing assistant include:
Purchasing is a major responsibility, and an assistant will need to have a sharp set of analytical skills to excel in their position. An assistant must be analytical in nature, taking on a role that demands:
- Analytical skills
- Critical thinking skills
An assistant will need to use their analytical skills to negotiate terms with vendors and find the best combination of price and quality for their employer.
Two forms of communication are necessary for excelling in this field:
Beyond basic communication skills, it’s important to be able to articulate your ideas both verbally and in written form. When writing emails or discussing purchasing with business stakeholders or vendors, all information must be clear, concise and not misleading.
Assistants need to remain professional and analytical during communication to ensure everyone is on the same page.
All parties must receive the communication accurately, allowing for no room for misinterpretation.
Day-to-day activities for a purchasing assistant can be time-intensive and overwhelming. Pristine time management skills are of the utmost importance. It’s the responsibility of these professionals to:
- Analyze day-to-day activities
- Prioritize tasks by time sensitivity
- Adjust schedules accordingly
Math skills will further help strengthen the assistant’s skillset.
Quick responses and the ability to do math quickly are an asset for a purchasing assistant. Basic math skills are necessary, such as being able to compare prices, understand discount rates and ensure that there are no discrepancies with orders.
Purchasing assistants are often supervised when negotiating with vendors. However, moving to a buyer or higher position will demand impeccable negotiating skills. Assistants can differentiate themselves from other candidates by focusing heavily on their negotiating prowess.
Negotiating will require the individual to:
- Maintain strong self-confidence
- Build strong interpersonal skills
- Understand the business’s products or services well
If there’s one skill that can help an applicant transition into a career as purchasing assistant, it is negotiating skills. Landing the best deals for a company and saving them money will lead to promotions, raises and bonuses.
Part of the negotiating process involves organizing arguments properly and ensuring that the vendor understands the benefit of the business relationship for all parties.
A growing business and multiple vendors can be very demanding for an assistant. Strong organizational skills will allow for an easier time with:
- Purchasing agreement reviews
- Nurturing relationships
- Maintaining an organized schedule
Organization and time management skills can further be improved with a strong set of technical skills.
Purchasing assistants must also have technical skills. Much of their responsibilities revolve around tasks like managing inventory or keeping records.
At the very least, a purchasing assistant should have the technical skill to use:
- Word processing programs
- Calendar and scheduling programs
- Financial management software
Additionally, purchasing assistants should be tech-savvy enough to use the web for online research.
Purchasing assistants spend a lot of time using computers, scanners, printers and other office equipment. So, technical skills are an absolute must.
Client Service and Relationship Management Skills
Purchasing assistants must have excellent client service and relationship management skills. Agents work with vendors and suppliers on a regular basis, so they must be able to nurture and manage these relationships for the benefit of the organization.
They must also be able to work with other departments and interact with vendors or suppliers with ease.
Client relationship management skills are crucial not only for maintaining contacts but also for negotiations.
These are the most critical skills a purchasing assistant will need to excel in this role. Many of these skills can also help them progress into a more advanced role.
Purchasing Assistant Career Path
A purchasing assistant role can be a stepping stone to more advanced careers in the field. Before looking at the career path for this role, it’s important to understand how to become a purchasing assistant.
How to Become a Purchasing Assistant
There are no formal education requirements for this role. You can become a purchasing assistant with just a high school diploma or GED. However, a large percentage of individuals in this role have at least a bachelor’s degree. A small percentage have a master’s degree.
Most purchasing assistants choose a major that’s field-related, such as:
Having a degree in business, accounting or marketing can help you develop the basic skills that you will need to succeed in this role.
Many purchasing assistants also spend time completing relevant on-the-job training. On average, individuals in this role will spend 3-12 months on training.
Certifications are also available, including:
- Certified Supply Chain Professional
- Certified Purchasing Professional
- Certified Purchasing Manager
Certifications can help purchasing assistants move into a higher role more quickly.
But which roles do these individuals progress to?
The Career Path for Purchasing Assistants
A job as a purchasing assistant can eventually lead to a senior role in the department. But the skills and experience gained on the job can also transfer to other related roles.
Often, the first promotion from purchasing assistant is to:
- Buyer/purchasing agent: Finds products that meet the organization’s needs and budget.
- Planner/buyer: Ensures that office supplies are always in stock.
- Executive assistant: Conduct research, analyze reports and handle information requests.
- Procurement agent: Purchases materials or products their organization needs for its daily operations.
- Contracts administrator: Create and manage contracts, and ensures that the organization is meeting its deadlines and contractual obligations.
- Material handler: Responsible for moving, loading, unloading and shelving materials.
- Assistant buyer: Provide support for store buyers by performing clerical, analytical and operational tasks.
From here, you may progress to the role of:
- Purchasing manager: A senior-level position. Purchasing managers help a business grow and increase its sales. They manage teams and make important business decisions.
- Senior buyer: A high-level buying role. These individuals research, evaluate and source products for their employers. They also analyze market trends, sales and profits to make more informed decisions.
- Material manager: These individuals oversee procurement, manage inventory, and handle many other production, storage and shipping-related tasks.
- Supply chain analyst or manager: These individuals help organizations optimize supplies, production and transportation by making data-based recommendations.
- Senior purchasing agent: Create purchasing orders and submit them to suppliers. They also maintain vendor relations and negotiate prices.
After a decade or more of experience in the role, a purchasing assistant may move into a director or senior manager role.
What Do Purchasing Assistants Do Each Day?
A purchasing assistant has several tasks that need to be completed each day. Much of their time is spent coordinating meetings and ensuring shipments are on the right track.
Purchasing assistants typically start their days by checking voicemails and emails for updates on budgets or product needs.
Some purchasing assistants may start their days with a stock report to see whether there are any issues that must be dealt with immediately.
From here, they’ll review the progress of shipments and log estimated delivery times. During the day, they may attend meetings with the accounting, purchasing and sales departments to discuss product performance. Understanding which products performed well and which ones did not will help make the purchasing assistant’s job easier.
A purchasing assistant rarely has downtime during the workday, but whenever they do, that time is typically spent reaching out to vendors to order more shipments or to renew contracts.
They may also spend time researching new potential vendors that may have products that align with the organization’s needs and budget.
A purchasing assistant’s daily tasks will largely depend on the industry they work in.
Purchasing Assistant Salary
A purchasing assistant’s salary can vary greatly depending on experience, location, employer and industry. However, data shows that the average purchasing assistant’s salary is:
- $38,331/year, or about $18.43 per hour
The bottom 10% earn an average of $31,000 per year, while the top 10% earn $47,000 per year.
Several factors will impact how much you earn as a purchasing assistant.
Earnings will largely depend on location. Salary data shows that purchasing assistants in Baltimore, MD, have the highest salaries. Seattle, Washington, comes in second for the highest salaries for this role, with the average person earning $42,487 per year.
Those who work in New Mexico have the lowest salaries for this position, earning an average of $32,641 per year. That equates to about $15.69 per hour.
Of course, location is just one piece of the salary puzzle. Some employers also pay more than others.
Some of the top paying employers for purchasing assistants are:
- Universities and colleges
- Medical centers and hospitals
- Local cities
- Energy companies
The University of California, Berkeley, for example, pays over $50,000 per year for purchasing assistants. Similar salaries are found at other universities and major hospitals, such as East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.
Purchasing assistants can also earn higher salaries by simply choosing the right industry. Here’s a breakdown of the average salaries for purchasing assistants in different industries:
- Tech: $41,542/year
- Automotive: $40,864/year
- Manufacturing: $40,513/year
- Healthcare: $40,218/year
- Retail: $37,782/year
Salaries for purchasing managers have been steadily rising over the last decade. Choosing the right employer and city will make all the difference in maximizing your earnings as a purchasing assistant.
Purchasing Assistant Responsibilities
Purchasing assistants have a variety of responsibilities, but their main goal is to assist purchasing managers or supervisors by:
- Maintaining inventory
- Keeping accurate records
- Monitoring shipments
- Reviewing or preparing purchasing orders
Additionally, purchasing assistants may also perform administrative tasks, such as:
- Scheduling appointments
- Answering calls and inquiries
- Managing schedules
- Contacting vendors and suppliers
- Coordinating with other departments
- Creating reports
Purchasing assistants play a supportive role in the team, helping ensure a smooth flow of products within the company.
To Summarize The Purchasing Assistant Guide
Purchasing assistants help purchasing managers and supervisors ensure that purchases, shipments and deliveries go smoothly. They may also handle other tasks, such as appointment scheduling and getting in touch with vendors or suppliers.
To succeed in this career path, you must be organized, have excellent time management skills and have adequate tech skills.
With time and experience, a purchasing assistant can progress into a higher position, such as a purchasing manager or director of purchasing.