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Increasingly, employers are looking for talented professionals to join their purchasing teams and there is a huge demand for good quality candidates to enter the profession.

Although there are a variety of routes into purchasing, the majority of people who get into the profession have a university degree, this level of education will often help to advance your career further than if you hadn’t been.

CIPS study programmes are recognised around the world and after successfully completeing a CIPS qualification you will have the backing of a well-informed professional body. CIPS members enjoy higher salaries than non-members in similar roles and can demand higher salaries than IT, HR, marketing and finance professionals.

Routes into Purchasing

School leavers

Anyone without previous experience, and joining the profession straight from school, will benefit from the CIPS Certificate and Advanced Certificate in Purchasing and Supply, which is a good start for anyone completely new to the profession.


A growing number of undergraduates choose to join the purchasing profession when they graduate. There are a range of specialist courses that are accredited by CIPS, offering an alternative route to membership.


The CIPS Graduate Diploma (foundation and professional levels) is a degree-level professional qualification. Recognised worldwide, the qualification proves the holder has achieved a sound technical knowledge and understanding of the subject through rigorous examination.

Two stages to the syllabus:
The foundation stage has six subjects covering basic commercial skills; whilst the professional stage is more closely focused on purchasing and supply management specifically.

It is possible to obtain exemption from some subjects depending on previous academic record and work experience, but virtually all graduates have to sit the four core professional stages; the exemptions apply to people who have completed one of the accredited specialist degree courses.

For further details on exam exemptions visit the CIPS website.

There are various study pathways to the Graduate Diploma, including evening classes, distance learning through correspondence course, and a self-study programme using the CIPS study guides. CIPS also offers a flexible learning scheme to support self-study programmes. An alternative is modular training from CIPS which consists of a series of intensive tutorial days. It can cut the time down needed for the foundation stage to six to eight months and for the professional stage to about a year.

Examinations are held five times a year. Candidates can take as many subjects as they like at any of the sittings and in any order but should complete the foundation stage before moving on to the professional stage.


Similar to the undergraduate route, there are variety of specialist postgraduate purchasing and supply management programmes that are accredited by CIPS and offer an alternative route to membership.

NVQs and SVQs

Although N/SVQs are not CIPS accredited qualifications; they do offer a route through to full memberships of CIPS. Details of N/SVQs in procurement are available from the three awarding bodies in England; City and Guilds, Edexcel and OCR and in Scotland, The Scottish Qualifications Authority.

There is an advised progressive route through levels 3 and 4 rather than transfer to the CIPS academic route. If you are working towards NVQ level 4 in procurement, you will need to have at least three years’ experience in a position of responsibility within purchasing and supply management to gain full memberships of CIPS


There are various other routes for those looking to start the Foundation Stage of the CIPS Graduate Diploma in Purchasing and Supply. This includes individuals with two A levels and three GCSE’s, an NVQ/SVQ at level 3 or over 21’s and with three years’ business experience.

Corporate Award is for organisations that choose to train their purchasing and supply team in a group and undertake the CIPS Corporate Award, which is an accredited programme, tailored to the organisation’s specific training needs and leads to full membership.

Qualification levels

National qualification levels

Level  Qualification  Content
2 Introductory Certificate in Purchasing and Supply
  • The roles and scope of purchasing
  • Systems and procedures in purchasing
  • Working with suppliers
  • The importance of purchasing contracts.
3 Certificate in Purchasing and Supply
  • Understanding the purchasing environment
  • Purchasing operations
  • Client and supplier relationships
  • Securing supply
  • Purchasing in action.
4 Foundation Degree in Purchasing and Supply
  • Effective negotiation in purchasing and supply
  • Purchasing contexts
  • Developing contracts in purchasing and supply
  • Measuring purchasing performance
  • Managing purchasing and supply relationships.
5 Advanced Diploma in Purchasing and Supply
  • Management in the purchasing function
  • Risk management and supply chain vulnerability
  • Improving supply chain performance
  • + two choice units from three options: Marketing for purchasers; storage and distribution; operations management in the supply chain.
6  Graduate Diploma in Purchasing and Supply
  • Leading and influencing in purchasing
  • Supply chain management in practice
  • Strategic supply chain management
  • + two choice units from three options: Legal aspects in purchasing and supply; advanced project management; finance for purchasers.
7 Executive Diploma in Purchasing and Supply
  • Self-managed learning programme.
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