In today’s professional world, the competition is increasing by the minute. It seems everyone is “going back to school,” earning more degrees, obtaining new certifications. With so many new or constantly changing options out there, it can be hard to distinguish a necessity from an additional benefit, and determine what is relevant to you specifically. As a purchasing manager, looking for a certification means you likely want to improve your skill set and marketability. This will give you the “low down,” 4-1-1, or fast facts, of the most popular purchasing certifications out there, helping you narrow down which suits you best.

Which certification option is best for you?
·        SPSM
o   Who: Employers (for employees) and purchasing professionals
o   Where: Offered by the Next Level Purchasing Association, the certification can be obtained from any location through their online program. This means you can stay in your PJ’s and complete the courses from the comfort of your own home.
o   When: You have one full year to complete the program, but it is self-paced. The estimations of hours per week to completion time ratios are as follows: 1 hour/week- finish in a year, 2 hours/week- finish in 6 months, 4 hours/week- finish in 3 months.
o   How: You must complete the six online courses of the program, pass the SPSM Exam, and submit an application in order to obtain the certification.
§  To maintain the certification, you must recertify it every four years. This consists of earning 32 Continuing Education Hours from pre-approved sources in purchasing and supply managements topics.
o   Why:
§  Professionals: have earned better jobs, more respect, excellent performance evaluations, and larger pay increases following completion of their SPSM cert.
§  Employers (by enrolling their purchasing employees in the program): employees are able to save more money, improve supporting operations efficiency, minimize and manage risk, function more independently following completion of their SPSM cert.
o   Other
§  “globally recognized for being the most modern, high-quality purchasing management certification,”
§  NLP has certified thousands of procurement professionals from 100 countries
·        CPSM
o   What: Certified Professional in Supply Management
o   Who: Supply management professionals
o   Where: This cert. is offered by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). Where you choose to complete the requirements is up to you (supply chain professional experience, potential degree, and three exams as a test center of your choice).
o   When: Successful completion of three exams depends on your study program. If you engage in self-paced learning, you can expect an average of 6-12 months to complete the exams. The other criteria (work experience, potential degree) are relative to when you have completed them.
o   How: You must pass three CPSM exams, and will need three years of full-time, professional supply management experience, in addition to a regionally accredited bachelor’s degree, OR five years of supply management experience without a degree. The CPSM must be re-certified every three years with 60 Continuing Education Hours.
o   Why: Professional: career advancement, higher annual compensation, mastering of the supply management body of knowledge. The cert. is considered, “a milestone for professionals taking ownership of their careers.”
o    Other
§  CPSM- covers increased scope of duties purchasing managers are now involved with
§  ISM is likely one of the more visible, well-known accrediting bodies
·        CPPO and CPPB
o   What: CPPO- Certified Public Procurement Officer, CPPB- Certified Professional Public Buyer
o   Who:  Government procurement professionals (you must have government-specific procurement experience to be eligible).
o   Where: Certification can be completed through the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council. The exam takes place at a scheduled testing center, and experience requirements can be completed in your field.
o   When: The length of time depends on when you complete your experience and your own personal studying pace.
o   How: While the extent and level of the requirements differ between the two certifications, both require a degree, public procurement experience, and a combination of procurement coursework and contact hours of “instructor-led” procurement training/education. The specified requirements for each certification can be found here. You must pass an exam at a scheduled testing center. You will need to recertify every five years. Recertification requires Continuing Education & Professional Development, Professional Contribution, and Contact hours.
o   Why: Professional recognition, increased knowledge, new employment/advancement opportunities, indicator or expertise, increased credibility, and personal satisfaction.
·        CSCP
o   What: Certified Supply Chain Professional
o   Who: Supply chain professionals
o   Where: The certification is offered by APICS- the Association for Supply Chain Management. APICS offers exam courses or self-study options.
o   When: Aside from your own paced study plan for the exam, the eligibility requirements are completed in the timeframe of your personal choice.
o  How: Eligibility: 3 years of related business experience, bachelor’s degree, or one of 10 designations, and successful completion of the CSCP exam. The certification must be renewed every five years, and can be done so through employer-sponsored events and events of related organizations.
o   Why: Increase in salary, hiring potential, and professional value, and improvements in ERP investments and global supply chain management.
o   Other: 
§  More than 25,000 professionals in 100 countries since 2006
§  AOP claims to differentiate their cert from others by bringing “your company’s entire value chain into perspective”
§  Goal: learn how to look at the purchasing function relative to the rest of an organization’s value chain
At the end of the day, everyone is different, every organization is different, and therefore goals, aspirations, and requirements will be relative to the individual pursuing certification. Actively pursuing a certification is more than just a title- it can enhance your ability and understanding of the professional world. While something might look nice on paper or in a frame hanging above your workspace- the real goal is to enhance your purchasing abilities. Talking the talk does not allow you to walk the walk, in this case having a certification or title does not necessarily mean you are any more suited to complete the job- you have to prove it.

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Katherine McVeagh

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