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Inside Careers works in partnership with the The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply. Here, CIPS, answers the most commonly asked questions from our graduate readers.

Do I need a degree, and if so, in what subject area?

Increasingly the majority of people joining the procurement and supply profession are graduates and they’re no longer required to start at the bottom. They come from all disciplines, but entry through business and specialist procurement and supply management degrees are becoming more popular.

Some purchasing related degrees will be accredited by CIPS and will give you membership once you have qualified and gained the relevant three years work experience. Although you can enter the profession at any level, those with a general business degree or a specialist procurement and supply qualification will often be viewed as more appropriate candidates. You can also study the graduate diploma (a degree level qualification) which offers a variety of flexible studying options including distance learning.

Whatever qualifications you have, employers will be looking for a strong academic record. For A levels we recommend at least three Cs, and all candidates will need maths and English GCSEs with an A or B grade.

What other qualifications are required?

Once you have finished your degree, employers may ask you to study for a CIPS qualifications. The CIPS Graduate Diploma is a degree-level qualification, which provides an advanced understanding of those issues affecting the business environment, and directly relating to the purchasing and supply management function. Some university degrees however, are already accredited by CIPS so you’ll just need your three years experience to get full membership status and use the MCIPS letters after your name.

How much can I expect to earn?

As with most professions, your starting salary will be dependent on where the job is located and the company you are working for. The salary will also reflect your qualifications and any experience. The average starting salary for junior managers is approximately £28,000, but this will be variable. Our salary survey in 2010 showed that purchasers on average, earned more than their counterparts in marketing, finance, IT and human resources. Within the profession itself, those with MCIPS earned on average £1,500 more.

Where can I get work experience?

Work experience is valuable when you’re looking for the right job after graduation. You could speak to local employers in your area through your local Chamber of Commerce or ask your university to help you secure a place with an organisation that they may have links with, or try a variety of social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

Do your research; decide which type of sector you would like to work in – public, not-for-profit or private sector, and which area of business, whether manufacturing, construction or retail appeals. This will help you make the right choice of placement and help you get the most out of it.

What opportunities are there for mature students?

There are opportunities for good-quality candidates of all ages.

When should I apply?

There is no set recruitment period but organisations generally start training programmes in the late summer period once university exams have ended. It is best to check with each organisation separately to see how and when they recruit. It may be a good idea to attend some graduate recruitment fairs, with access to a range of different organisations – all in one place. If there are specific organisations you’re interested in you should be writing to them in the early part of your final undergraduate year.

What are employers looking for?

As well as relevant qualifications there are other skills employers look for in a good purchasing and supply management professional. General business knowledge and understanding of how organisations operate will be essential, especially as purchasing departments work across the whole of the organisation. Good communication and interpersonal skills will also stand out to an employer as purchasers deal with people most of the time, developing relationships. Good numerical skills and a good understanding of technology will also be key.


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