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Sources of Additional Information
- About 3 in 10 procurement clerks work for Federal, State, and local governments.
- Most employers prefer applicants who have a high school diploma and who are computer-literate.
- Overall employment is expected to decline through 2014 as a result of increasing automation.
Nature of the Work
Procurement clerks compile requests for materials, prepare purchase orders, keep track of purchases and supplies, and handle inquiries about orders. Usually called purchasing clerks or purchasing technicians, they perform a variety of tasks related to the ordering of goods and supplies for an organization and make sure that what was purchased arrives on schedule and meets the purchaser’s specifications.
Automation is having a profound effect on this occupation. Orders for goods now can be placed electronically when supplies are low. For example, computers integrated with cash registers at stores record purchases and automatically reorder goods when supplies reach a certain target level. However, automation is still years away for many firms, and the role of the procurement clerk is unchanged in many organizations.
Procurement clerks perform a wide range of tasks and also have a wide range of responsibilities. Some clerks act more like buyers, particularly at small to medium-size companies, while others perform strictly clerical functions. In general, procurement clerks process requests for purchases. They first determine whether there is any of the requested product left in inventory and may go through catalogs or to the Internet to find suppliers. They may prepare invitation-to-bid forms and mail them to suppliers or distribute them for public posting. Procurement clerks may interview potential suppliers by telephone or face-to-face to check on prices and specifications and thereby put together spreadsheets with price comparisons and other facts about each supplier. Upon the organization’s approval of a supplier, purchase orders are prepared, mailed, and entered into computers. Procurement clerks keep track of orders and determine the causes of any delays. If the supplier has questions, clerks try to answer them and resolve any problems. When the shipment arrives, procurement clerks may reconcile the purchase order with the shipment, making sure that they match; notify the vendors when invoices are not received; and verify that the bills concur with the purchase orders.
Some purchasing departments, particularly in small companies, are responsible for overseeing the organization’s inventory control system. At these organizations, procurement clerks monitor in-house inventory movement and complete inventory transfer forms for bookkeeping purposes. They may keep inventory spreadsheets and place orders when materials on hand are insufficient.
Procurement clerks usually work a standard 40-hour week. Most procurement clerks work in areas that are clean, well lit, and relatively quiet. These workers sit for long periods of time in front of computer terminals, which many cause eyestrain and headaches. Workers in this occupation may sometimes be expected to work overtime or varied shifts.
In 2004, procurement clerks held about 74,000 jobs. Procurement clerks are found in every industry, including manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade, health care, and government. About 3 in 10 procurement clerks work for Federal, State, and local governments; most of these clerks work for the Federal Government.
Most employers prefer applicants with a high school diploma or its equivalent or a mix of education and related experience. Most employers prefer workers who are computer-literate and have a working knowledge of word processing and spreadsheet software.
Most procurement clerks are trained on the job under close supervision of more experienced employees. Proficiency with desktop computer software is becoming increasingly important as most tasks, such as preparing purchase orders, are being filed electronically. Some procurement clerks that have more education and show a greater understanding of contracts and purchasing may be promoted to the position of purchasing agent or buyer.
Employment of procurement clerks is expected to decline through 2014 as a result of increasing automation. The need for procurement clerks will be reduced as the use of computers to place orders directly with suppliers—called electronic data interchange—and as ordering over the Internet—known as “e-procurement”—become more commonplace. In addition, procurement authority for some purchases is now being given to employees in the departments originating the purchase. These departments may be issued procurement cards, which are similar to credit cards that enable a department to charge purchases up to a specified amount.
Although overall employment in the occupation is expected to decline, job outlook varies by industry. For example, employment will decline in manufacturing, the primary employer of procurement clerks in the goods-producing sector of the economy. In contrast, employment of procurement clerks will increase in some industries in the service-providing sector—such as retail trade, professional services, and health care—which are beginning to realize that a centralized procurement department may be more cost effective than units making purchases independently, as many service companies had been doing. However, most job openings will arise out of the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Persons with good writing and communication skills, along with computer skills, will have the best opportunities for employment.
Median hourly earnings of procurement clerks in May 2004 were $14.85. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.82 and $18.11. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.52 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $21.03. Procurement clerks working for the Federal Government had an average annual income of $39,011 in 2005.
Procurement clerks compile information and records to draw up purchase orders for materials and services. Other workers who perform similar duties are purchasing agents and buyers, order clerks, file clerks, secretaries, and receptionists and information clerks.
Sources of Additional Information
Information on employment opportunities for procurement clerks is available from local offices of the State employment service.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Procurement Clerks, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos279.htm (visited July 14, 2006).
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