Purchasing agents and officers (NOC 1225)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Purchasing agents and officers buy the supplies and business services that their companies need to create their own goods and services.

People in this occupation:

  • assess the materials, equipment and service their organization needs and develop requirements for the units to be purchased
  • apply and sometimes determine policies for purchasing
  • help manage their organization's supply chain, since they plan which materials and services to purchase, and schedule when materials arrive
  • help the business save money and be more productive
  • are employed throughout the public and private sectors
  • possess good reasoning and judgment, and an ability to see the broad needs of the organization
  • have an interest in comparison shopping and strategic business planning, and have an understanding of corporate financial tasks
  • have excellent organization, customer service and communication skills and attention to detail
  • have a working knowledge of shipping, transportation, customs and tax regulations
Common job titles
  • administrator, purchasing contracts
  • agent, land / right-of-way
  • agent, purchasing - hotel / restaurant
  • analyst, energy asset surface land
  • business services purchasing officer
  • buyer, grain / ore / pulpwood


Purchasing agents and officers:

  • purchase general and specialized equipment, materials or business services for use by their organization
  • assess requirements of an organization and develop specifications for equipment, materials and supplies to be purchased
  • invite supply offers, consult with suppliers and review quotations
  • determine or negotiate contract terms and conditions, award supplier contracts or recommend contract awards
  • establish delivery schedules, monitor progress and contact clients and suppliers to resolve problems
  • negotiate land acquisition or access rights for public or private use, and may conduct field investigations of properties
  • may hire, train or supervise purchasing clerks

Special duties

Purchasing agents and officers may specialize in the purchase of particular materials or business services such as furniture or office equipment.

Work environment

Purchasing agents and officers work in offices of large organizations. Work is typically conducted during a regular Monday to Friday work week and some overtime and travel to trade shows may be required.

Organizations prefer to have purchasing agents and officers on staff, since jobs require an in-depth knowledge of their corporate requirements, budgets and policies. While some individuals work on a contract basis, very few in this field are self-employed.

Purchasing agents and officers do much of their work at computer workstations, issuing online purchase orders or using computerized information management systems to track orders and small projects.

Some purchasing agents and officers will spend time in different departments of their organization. They may work in suppliers' offices and in receiving areas as they gather information about sales records, inventory of stock and changes to the demand for certain materials or services.

Insights from industry

As the average age of those working in these occupations is older than the provincial average, it is expected that the majority of future openings will arise from retirements.

Industry sources report that the availability of online tools has resulted in decreased demand for workers in this occupation, since it now requires fewer people to do the same work. Currently, there appear to be more individuals looking for employment in the lower mainland than there are jobs available.

As Manufacturing industries employ a significant number of purchasing agents and officers, changes in these industries have a considerable impact on employment. In particular, manufacturing activity has experienced a regional shift in the past 20 years. Much of the physical plant operational capacity is now performed offshore, while the design, marketing and distribution facilities remain in the Lower Mainland region. Despite this shift in the Manufacturing industry, resource processing is still dominant in B.C., especially in northern B.C., where the province's pulp and paper mills, mineral processing plants, and petroleum and coal production plants are located.

Changes in the public sector have an effect on employment of purchasing agent. Industry sources report that fewer purchasing agents are needed in the public sector due to the declining importance of goods-acquisition. There is, however, an increasing need for service procurement specialists who work on much higher volumes of services procurement, which are often more complex acquisitions. These acquisitions require greater responsibility, independent decision-making and a wider range of skills.

Industry sources also report that the number of workers employed in supply chain management in the service sector in B.C. is growing, and has become larger than in other provinces. Technological changes have led purchasing agents and officers into more strategic supply management as they spend less time processing manual purchasing requests or doing more routine work of keeping record of past bids and offers and tracking supplier performance. Instead, these workers are able to spend more time consulting with product development teams. Employers will look for purchasing agents and officers with well developed strategic business planning skills and knowledge of office and supply management software.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Purchasing agents and officers may hold entry level positions such as junior buyer, purchasing assistant, warehouse or logistics clerk, production administrator or material handler.

With experience, workers in this occupational group take on the responsibilities of placing larger orders and negotiating contracts. They may hold positions such as commodity manager, purchasing analyst or officer, supervisor, team lead, warehouse distribution supervisor, material requirement planner, or material manager. Purchasing agents and officers may specialize in the purchase of particular materials, furniture or office equipment, or the procurement of business services.

With more experience and further education, they may progress to occupations with stronger planning roles, such as purchasing manager or director, general manager of procurement or sourcing, vice- president of materials or supply chain management, warehouse manager, vice president of strategic sourcing, or chief procurement or supply chain officer.

Additional resources