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After five to 10 years of working in procurement, many people want to become a procurement consultant. These professionals travel widely, working for companies that have one of three primary needs: procurement policy review, enhancement of current business process, or implementation of a procurement system. Although there are many paths to become a procurement consultant, there are four common elements that all procurement consultants have: significant work experience in procurement, post-secondary education, professional certification, and communication skills.
Procurement or purchasing is the process of selecting suppliers and signing contracts for the purchase of goods and services by a business. The types of goods and the total dollar value of the contract vary widely, depending on the industry and business size. In addition to traditional procurement, system implementation has greatly increased the demand for procurement consultants. These consultants must be subject matter experts, able to advise the company and the systems staff in what best practice is and how to use the system for the greatest advantage.
Work experience is essential for a procurement consultant. In general, at least 10 years' experience in management roles within a procurement department or organization is necessary. This aspect of business administration is best measured through actual achievements, not just academic qualifications. As the typical career path in procurement is to start as a buyer, transfer to procurement officer, and finally be promoted to manager, time is required to gain the experience necessary.
Post-secondary education is required to become a procurement consultant. Specialized procurement programs are available, but often as post-graduate diplomas. The vast majority of procurement consultants have degrees in accounting, business, finance, or economics. The implications of procurement policy and procedures touch accounting, business operations, and law, requiring these professionals to have at least some formal education in these areas.
Procurement staff who want to become a procurement consultant will find that candidates with the Certified Procurement Professional (CPP®) certification are preferred by employers. This designation has international and industrywide recognition and is becoming an industry standard. Graduates have a combination of procurement work experience, academic qualifications, and have successfully completed a comprehensive examination. In addition, continuing education is required to maintain this designation. All these factors reassure employers that the consultant has the skills necessary to meet their needs.
Communication skills are critical for anyone who wants to become a procurement consultant. Written and oral communication must be clear, concise and be easily understood by people with a variety of backgrounds. Many people find that the standard of communication is higher in consulting, and take a short course in business communication to improve their writing style and speed.