Industry Market Trends

Procurement Pros Focus on Education, Experience

Apr 04, 2013

Employees and managers within the procurement industry are becoming more educated and experienced, according to new research.

A recent study by Source One Management Services, titled "The Roles of Education & Experience in Procurement," part of their Procurement & Sourcing Survey Whitepaper Series, finds that while a four-year college degree isn't necessary for procurement personnel until the higher management levels, experience certainly is - fully 76 percent of procurement staffers have more than 11 years of experience.

According to Source One, procurement is "the process to obtain materials, supplies, services, and contracts with the highest level of qualitative services and the best total cost through open and fair competition."

New blood is entering the procurement field, "armed with degrees and higher education," the study found. It predicts that if current trends continue "it will likely further the shift from old school methods rooted in tradition to new school sourcing methods rooted in strategy, securing a larger foothold for complex strategic sourcing methodologies, business acumen, and broad-based experience within the industry."

Source One polled sourcing professionals from across all areas of procurement and from a wide range of organizations. The survey resulted in what Source One calls "the clearest synopsis of the industry ever offered by those actively involved in it."

Reflecting on the fact that a four-year degree seems to be a requirement for most professional jobs today, the study said that while degrees are expected to become more common in the procurement profession in coming years, currently 39 percent of sourcing employees have a bachelors' degree as their highest academic achievement, and 16 percent hold a masters' degree, for a total of 55 percent of the procurement workforce with higher-education credentials. Twenty-five percent said they had no more than a high school degree.

This contrasts with the high experience levels across the procurement profession. In addition to the 76 percent of respondents with 11 or more years of experience, 48 percent have more than 20 years' experience in the field. Only 24 percent of respondents said they have less than 10 years of experience and, probably most surprisingly, only four percent have less than three years' experience.

The preference for experience dominates all four categories studied in the survey: procurement coordinator, manager, director and VP/CPO. The findings show that 40 percent of procurement coordinators, 50 percent of managers, 38 percent of directors and 57 percent of VPs and CPOs have more than 20 years' experience in the industry.

Educational experience also tends to rise among the higher levels. The survey found that 78 percent of procurement directors and 69 percent of VPs and CPOs have either a bachelor's or master's degree, whereas 55 percent of managers and 50 percent of coordinators do.

The trend is clearly toward more education. In one of the more interesting findings, the survey revealed that "those newest to the procurement industry are the most heavily invested in education." All of those surveyed who have less than three years' experience in the field have some sort of post-high school degree, be it master's (10 percent), bachelor's (35 percent), or a two-year associate's degree (55 percent).

The study failed to draw a clear connection between experience and rank. "There was no clear separation between corporate level when it came to experience," the study's authors wrote, noting that while 40 percent of procurement coordinators have 20 years of experience, only 38 percent of directors do.

However, the study did find that more education typically leads to higher-ranking positions. A clear majority of VPs and CPOs have obtained their bachelor's or master's degrees, along with an overwhelming number of directors.

Source One officials say their research indicates that the use of procurement service providers is rapidly increasing "due to global market conditions and the need for businesses to maintain and reduce costs without eliminating resources."

The report can be obtained by contacting Source One at