Become a Professional Buyer

By Eric Hammer

If you fondly remember Friends and Rachel Green, then you probably already know what a professional buyer is. Now, for all the jokes that are made about the dainty princess (ala Rachel at the beginning of the show) being qualified only to become a buyer, the reality is that professional buyers do have a very important job to do. Here's what you need to know:

Almost every major company on the planet has to have a professional buyer on staff. If you work for a large hospital for example, you may be a professional buyer of medical supplies. If you work for a department store, you may be a professional buyer of clothes or knickknacks. Even the dollar store chains have professional buyers who negotiate the deals to buy all the stuff those stores sell.

The point is that as a professional buyer, you need to be prepared to make deals and take chances. If you go to the Far East and buy 50,000 units of some kind of silly looking vase, you'd better be prepared to defend your purchase and explain why these silly vases are going to make the company money. In fact, as a professional buyer, you are likely to be more responsible than almost anyone else for making sure the company makes money. After all, if you paid too much wholesale for a product, you can't sell it for enough to make a profit at retail.

How Much Can You Make?

According to, the average salary for a professional buyer ranges quite widely, from as little as $31,000 per year to as much as $71,000 per year. Keep in mind however that your salary may well be dependent on whether or not your company makes money from the items you've purchased.

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A professional buyer, more than anything else is a professional negotiator. When you are out at a factory trying to make a deal for your company to buy a particular product, you need to be able to strike the lowest possible deal you can make. Otherwise, your company will take a loss. According to one site, professional buyers report that they have been taken for a ride if they weren't careful and that everyone in the business is constantly maneuvering - after all, it's big business and when you're buying a million units of a product, even shaving an extra nickel off the price means saving an extra $50,000.

You will also need to know a lot about the industry you work in since you need to be able to tell for example why a particular fabric used on a shirt is worth spending the extra money for as opposed to the cheaper version. Or why this kind of wood makes for better tongue depressors than that kind of wood.

You should also be prepared to travel quite a bit since you will have to travel to the factories to see the products that are available for sale. This means that you'll often be away from home for extended periods of time, making it difficult to maintain personal relationships.

Qualifications / Requirements

There are no formal requirements to become a professional buyer. Rather, you need to have an education in the area that you are working in. This may mean a degree in fashion if you work for a clothing chain or a degree in English if you are a book buyer. In most cases however, you won't start as a professional buyer. Instead, you'll be a member of the sales staff and work your way up to the point of being a buyer for the company.

First Steps

Start by deciding what kind of business you are interested in becoming a professional buyer for. Then, get the right kind of degree to work in the field and apply either to become an assistant buyer or even a member of the sales staff if that's what it takes to get your foot in the door.


Check out these helpful resources to learn more about becoming a professional buyer:

Princeton Review: Buyer - A good basic introduction to the business of becoming a professional buyer.

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Become a Professional Buyer

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