This sector involves buying and selling goods and services for businesses and organisations. The role of procurement (one of the professional terms for purchasing and selling) is to find a sustainable supply of goods at a reasonable price, the purchaser could be responsible for anything from TV components, the energy to run factories or even models to appear in photo-shoots. However all buyers need to find the right products at the right price. Evidence has suggested that the procurement role is still not as highly regarded in an organisation as it should be. Purchasing plays a key role in the success of an organisation and can make or break a business as companies often spend two thirds of their revenue buying goods and services. This even a modest reduction in costs could have a significant effect on profit. 

The recession has helped to highlight the importance of effective purchasing and supply as companies try to keep their costs down, meaning that demand for professionals in this area is high and job opportunities are increasing. For news and information on international trade and how it is developing, visit the IOE’s (Institute of Export) website.

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Jobs and salaries

Typical job titles found within the purchasing and supply sector include: 

  • Procurement officer
  • Buyer 
  • Supply chain manager.
  • Supplier relationship manager 
  • Contract manager 
  • Purchasing manager 


Other roles that may interest you:


Purchasers and sellers can command higher salaries than their equivalents in IT, sales, marketing and HR. Entry level jobs for graduates with no experience start with a salary of about £18,000 - £25,000. However, strong candidates can expect to be promoted quickly. Purchasing directors, especially those who work for large organisations, can expect a salary in excess of £100,000. Those with CIPS qualifications can expect to earn up to £5,000 more than non-members in the same. 

Almost a third of purchasing professionals received a bonus last year of around £2,500; however this can vary with job role. 

Check out this payscale for procurement managers to get an idea of an average salary; you can also search for other roles in this sector.


Routes and qualifications

Although it is not necessary to have a specific degree to enter the Purchasing and Supply profession, qualifications may help to increase your employability and job prospects. The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) offers many courses and qualifications  to help you develop your career. Routes to obtaining a CIPS qualification can be tailored to an individual’s style of learning, including distance learning, self-study with course books, the modular training programme and flexible learning programme.

CIPS qualifications range from level 2 to level 7, with level 3 being the most common starting point for anyone without prior purchasing knowledge. Once you achieve your CIPS qualification through our structured study programme and combined with the evidence of your three years’ experience means you can use the letters MCIPS after your name. For more information on CIPS and ways to further your career, visit their website

The ISMM (Institute of Sales and Marketing Management) also offer qualifications to people at every stage of their selling career, whether you are a beginner or Sales Director. Read more about what qualifications are on offer.

The IOE offer professional qualifications and examinations relevant to international trade. They also offer other training in international trade.

Find out about training opportunities from the Institute of Commercial Management.

Fancy getting trained in Direct Marketing? The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing also offer a range of professional qualifications.


Funding and support

If you are interested in studying at university for a career in this sector, check out the pages on student finance from gov.uk, and/or contact the funding or careers departments of the organisations you are considering training with.


What’s it really like working in Purchasing and Selling?

Take a look at our career videos from professionals working in this sector.

Research conducted by CIPS and Croner Rewards suggests that:

  • Average working hours have risen significantly over the last year, with the average purchasing director working 51-60 hours per week, whilst junior managers typically work between 40-45 hours a week. These tend to be Monday to Friday; however this can depend on the organisation. There is a tendency to work fewer hours in the public sector and longer hours in the private sector. 
  • Purchasing professional receive 25 days’ basic holiday entitlement a year. 
  • Energy, enthusiasm and initiative are essential along with a problem solving attitude and team-working abilities.  Skills such as strong time management, precision, planning and prioritisation are important within the purchasing career.
  • A good knowledge of financial markets and a willingness to work with a company’s ethos is also beneficial. 


Location, location, location

Jobs in purchasing and supply can be found around the country, with slightly more opportunities in London and the bigger cities.   


Will a career in Purchasing and Selling suit me?

Test to see if you have what is needed to succeed by playing the Buying Game.

Good communication and interpersonal skills are also important as developing relationships with people is part of the job.