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What is a Procurement Specialist?

By Carol Francois
Updated Jan 29, 2024
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A procurement specialist is someone who has dedicated significant time and effort to become a subject matter expert in procurement. There are two types of procurement a candidate can specialize in: electronic and traditional. Procurement or purchasing is the process of finding goods or services for a business at an acceptable price that meets the business need. All businesses conduct procurement activity, but the total cost, efficiency, and effectiveness of this aspect of the operation varies widely.

Almost all procurement specialists have completed the education program from the Procurement Association of America® (PAA®) to become a Certified Procurement Professional® (CPP®). Admission to this program requires a specific combination of education and work experience. Most candidates have successfully completed degrees or diplomas in business administration, accounting, or finance. The difference between a degree or diploma is less important than relevant work experience, as both types of education are accepted by the PAA®.

Work experience that is valuable to a procurement specialist is very procurement-focused. For a specialist who is focused on traditional procurement, experience in strategic sourcing, negotiating contacts, bid tendering, and related processes is very important. The expectation is that this experience is at the most senior level. Someone who participated in the process but was not ultimately responsible will not have the experience required to be considered a specialist.

In electronic procurement, the field is slightly more focused. The candidate can be expected to be very knowledgeable about the implementation, customization, and support of a particular tool, but is generally not expected to be familiar with multiple e-procurement packages. The experience should be at the project manager or senior consultant level. Acting as an assistant or business analyst on an implementation project does not provide sufficient breadth of experience to become a procurement specialist.

The tasks that a procurement specialist can be expected to perform include providing consulting services, professional evaluation and advice, and project management. This type of role is one that has evolved over the length of a long, successful career in procurement. Candidates who have less than 15 years working experience in procurement at a senior level would not have the background to meet client expectations.

Evaluating the skills of a procurement specialist is quite complex, due to the very nature of the position. Look for someone who has a solid resume of procurement experience and check their references. There are a number of ways to achieve success in procurement, and business ethics play a very large role in this field. Take the time to find out how they achieved their greatest successes and decide if that approach is suitable to your firm.

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Discussion Comments
By anon326490 — On Mar 22, 2013

Purchasing and procurement jobs can basically be the same thing. The terms can be interchangeable and is generally subject to the industry or department.

A procurement officer/specialist/manager, is generally a member of a supply chain management Team within the manufacturing/processing industry, whereas a purchasing officer/manager is generally from an admin/accounts team from a non-manufacturing industry, say a large wholesaler.

One big difference I have noticed though, is that procurement specialists usually have full knowledge of the entire supply chain management process (demand planning, MRP, CRM, MPS), whereas a purchasing officer usually only focuses and has knowledge of on the purchasing of goods and inventory management.

By anon296148 — On Oct 09, 2012

The procurement guys at the company I work with are questioning the pricing rationalisation/comparison from the purchase requestor (non-procurement personnel) instead of getting it analyzed and verified in the committee approval session. Is this the best or right practice?

By helene55 — On Feb 06, 2011

In smaller companies, I think the purchasing and procurement specialist jobs are connected if not the same person.

By vogueknit17 — On Feb 05, 2011

While I suppose the difference is that procurement specialists do not always get all the materials themselves, but assist others in knowing how, it seems to me like in many ways this is not that difference from a purchasing specialist job.

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