What is Public Procurement?

Simply put, public procurement is the contracting and acquisition of the goods and services required to sustain society and its way of life.

Consider: how do roads become roads? How are parks, schools, libraries, and water treatment facilities established and maintained? How is water and electricity provided to commercial buildings and private residences? How does a community provide for emergency response to a natural or man-made catastrophe?

At every level of society and every entity of government there is evidence of the public procurement profession.

It’s a lot of responsibility, but I’m really happy I went to work in government procurement

Matt Bauer, Procurement Administration, Mesa, AZ

Why a Career in
Public Procurement?

Public Service

First and foremost, a career in public procurement is truly a career dedicated to serving the best interests of the community. Qualities intrinsic to public procurement professionals include: a dedication to ethical practice; a belief that through best practices, government can make a positive difference in its community; a deep-seated understanding that they are custodians of the public trust, that they champion and protect the taxpayer and the tax dollar.


Government procurement officials have the unique ability to greatly influence how to best meet the goals of the community as identified through the political process. Whereas the politicians may approve the building of roads, the procurement agent may identify whether that road must be constructed using recycled materials, whether eco-friendly lighting is installed or solar powered traffic signals employed.


Over the course of a procurement career, you may have the opportunity to purchase everything from IT infrastructure and mass transit systems to syringes for injecting giraffes and elephants (really!). That means exposure to business operations and market segments across the gamut of the economic spectrum that you may have otherwise never heard of much less experienced.


To excel in this profession, you will need to develop a broad base of skills and knowledge and constantly hone your abilities. In your role as a government procurement agent you will wear many hats. You will have the opportunity to be a strategic business person, establishing contractual relationships that leverage your buying power; a shrewd negotiator who understands how to achieve win-win solutions for both the agency and the supplier; a lawyer; a money manager; a visionary champion of the public you will serve.

Is there an advantage to being certified?

Certification of procurement professionals is a vital tool for agencies all over the country as they watch over every dollar and look to maximize value, which well-trained professionals are better equipped to do. Certification can also provide an edge when applying for an open position or looking to be promoted.

Is there a lot of opportunity for jobs in the public procurement sector?

The short answer is yes.  In December 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ workforce projections report noted that “the baby-boom generation has become a generator of change, this time in its retirement.”  The BLS further projected that the 2012-2022 period would experience 3.9 million more people leaving the work force than during the previous 10 year period.  That increase is largely due to aging and retirement.

In addition to worker demographic influences, federal, state and local governments are comprised of over 130,000 individual agencies.

  • Federal 60,000
  • State 4,350
  • County 3,043
  • City 19,372
  • Special Districts 35,257
  • School 17,178

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

What skills and knowledge do I need to begin a successful career in public procurement?

  • An undergraduate degree in business, public administration, or related courses of study provide an excellent background for those considering public procurement as a career
  • A commitment to ethical practice, personal integrity, strong problem solving skills 
  • An eagerness to serve, be challenged and grow professionally


We welcome the opportunity to share our enthusiasm for the opportunities available through the public procurement profession. E-mail membercare@nigp.org or call 800-367-6447.

Model Job Descriptions


Standardizing Job Descriptions

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