A purchasing clerk often performs clerical work in the procurement department of an organization. He might be responsible for preparing orders and reviewing them for accuracy. Another duty might be checking stock and keeping records of what items should be ordered and when. This employee could be in charge of receiving the items when they are delivered. He could also file claims for lost or damaged merchandise with the appropriate parties.
This individual typically works under the direct supervision of a purchasing agent. He does not usually negotiate contracts or authorize purchases. He may, however, be responsible for filing these documents and entering them into a database. He might also type up orders and track their shipments with the vendors.
Once an order has been placed, a purchasing clerk sometimes reviews it to make certain the correct items were requested, in the proper amounts. He may also make sure the company is not over-charged for merchandise or shipping. He often does this by reading over the purchase order one line at a time, to find mistakes before the order is placed.
A purchasing clerk may advise his boss as to which products need to be ordered. He might do this by keeping track of the inventory in a company's storage rooms. This person may also need to forecast the future use of particular items in order to make a valid assessment. He could also be called upon to track the usage of certain materials if theft or misuse of assets is suspected.
The receiving department can ask a purchasing clerk to verify that the correct products were shipped from the seller. In this case, the individual might need to count the items or check the products against the original order. The clerk may also make reports of items that are damaged in transit, or of incomplete shipments. He might also be responsible for trying to obtain credit from the vendor or carrier when these types of problems occur.
In order to obtain employment as a purchasing clerk, a person generally needs only a high school diploma. He should have a good understanding of warehouse operations and good communications skills. A background that includes using automated spreadsheets and databases might also be helpful.
In the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that job growth in this field is likely to be below average. This is due largely to the fact that computerized ordering methods are expected to be used more often in the future. There is, however, a need to replace workers who have retired or changed career fields, so job prospects in many areas may remain favorable.