Public procurement is an evolving profession that is gaining respect and credibility. Elected officials and financial officers are realizing the value that procurement professionals can bring to their organizations. As agency budgets are strained by the economic downturn, it becomes more important than ever to leverage the savings and value that proper procurement techniques can bring. There is a lot of opportunity in this profession and a lot at stake: Within the United States, public procurement professionals are responsible for spending more than 15 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

There are also financial incentives to enter a career in procurement. In the past decade, salaries have risen in the field to become more on par with counterparts in other business areas. Today it is not unusual to see a public procurement position with a six-figure salary. What seemed to be unthinkable just a few years ago is now a reality. Additionally, there are often financial incentives for professionals who become certified. For example, those holding certified public purchasing officer (CPPO) or certified professional public buyer (CPPB) designations are given a 5 percent pay boost by the Oregon Secretary of State and the Fairfax County Water Authority in Virginia.

Public procurement professionals come from all backgrounds, both related to experience and education. Many in the field hold business or finance degrees (or even psychology and history!) and are quite successful. A small number possess purchasing and supply management degrees, which are also valuable. The only major university offering a public procurement degree is Florida Atlantic University. They offer elective courses within their MBA and MPA programs and are poised to offer a degree in public procurement in the near future. Currently, they offer a certificate program in public procurement that many professionals are pursuing.

While formal education continues to be important to public procurement, there are other qualities you can bring to the table. Many skills and attributes have been identified as important to the field. CAPS Research, a collaborative program through Arizona State University and the Institute for Supply Management, have identified key attributes for world-class procurement professionals. These include areas such as collaboration, communication, team building, interpersonal skills and negotiation. These skills will serve future procurement professionals well, as they will increasingly rely on relationship management skills to improve efficiency and service delivery.

Why not consider a career in public procurement?

About the author

Darin Matthews, CPPO, C.P.M, is the chief procurement officer for Metro, the regional government of Portland, Ore., and a past president of NIGP. He speaks throughout North America on a variety of procurement topics.