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The Accredited Purchasing Practitioner (A.P.P.) Progam


Henry F. Garcia, C.P.M.
Henry F. Garcia, C.P.M., Director of Administration, Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses, and Chair, NAPM Certification Committee (210) 522-5148
Craig J. Johnson, C.P.M.
Craig J. Johnson, C.P.M., Vice President, Merchandise, Music Sound Exchange, A Time Warner & Sony Co., (210) 522-8472
Scott R. Sturzl, C.P.M.
Scott R. Sturzl, C.P.M., Director, Certification, NAPM 480-752-6276, ext. 3011

81st Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1996 - Chicago, IL

Introduction and Overview.
The Purchasing/Materials Management (P/MM) professional's skill-set has begun to shift from a distributive (win-lose) to an integrative (win-win) relationship between buyer and seller organizations. The P/MM function will change significantly and rapidly in the next decade, and current trends suggest movement away from emphasizing process transactions to working in cross-functional teams and facilitating strategic supply alliances. The skill-set of these practitioners must accommodate this change in supply management. However, members of these teams who are not P/MM professionals would benefit from the knowledge of and proficiency in this skill-set. The efficient execution of the P/MM function is integral to an organization's success, and it will continue to play a prominent role in the early years of the twenty-first century.

To accommodate this change, public and private sector organizations have emphasized formal training to address the educational and skill development requirements of not only P/MM professionals but also those professionals who have purchasing and materials/supply management responsibilities and participate in the activities of cross-functional teams and establishment of strategic supply alliances.

The National Association of Purchasing Management (NAPM) realized the need for formal training of P/MM professionals and established the Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) professional designation in 1974. More recently, NAPM recognized that business firms and government entities, each with a different skill-mix, demand individuals who exhibit the specific job skills to collaboratively serve in cross-functional teams and create strategic supply alliances. NAPM introduced the Accredited Purchasing Practitioner (A.P.P.) designation in 1995 to satisfy this demand.

History and Evolution of the A.P.P. Program. Since the establishment of the Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) program, over 26,000 purchasing professionals have earned the C.P.M. designation, and approximately 70 percent have maintained their certification over this period of time. Table I provides numerical information on the C.P.M. Program.

Table I.

November 1995

  • Original Certifications - 26,192*
  • First Re-certifications - 9,368
  • Second Re-certifications - 3,223
  • Third Re-certifications - 526
  • Fourth Re-certifications - 28
  • Lifetime Certifications - 4,769

*Includes original lifetime certifications

While these numbers illustrate a significant achievement in the advancement of the P/MM profession, market penetration for the C.P.M. Program has captured only about 5 percent of the entire market of P/MM professionals. The Federal Government estimates the number of purchasing positions in the United States around 556,000 ( 219,000 purchasing managers, 179,000 purchasing agents, and 158,000 buyers. However, only 7 percent of those filling these positions have chosen to secure a professional designation in purchasing or contracting.

The NAPM Certification Committee initiated a study to ascertain how NAPM might more effectively achieve its goal of serving the P/MM community. The Committee concluded that in the current business environment, the P/MM function could be defined and segmented into three broad scenarios. Each scenario could distinguish the exercise of the P/MM function as a:

  1. strategic resource accomplished in a professional manner,
  2. process to be melded with other organizational functions, or
  3. static or "traditional" activity.

In the first scenario, organizations seeking to more effectively manage their costs and competition are likely to demand the conduct of the P/MM function as an exercise in strategic resource allocation. By association, P/MM professionals are expected to satisfy the most complex acquisition and supply management challenges, thereby assuring their organization's productivity and profitability.

The second scenario suggests that organizations may see the P/MM function as a process to be combined with other functions within the organization. In such instances, teaming within the organization(the operation of cross-functional teams may be used to develop and implement the organization's strategic purchasing and materials/supply management decisions. The more transaction-oriented P/MM activities should be assigned to each division, department or business subunit, and any central P/MM staff can be downsized or eliminated.

Finally, the P/MM function may be accomplished in a more static or "traditional" environment in the third scenario. Here requesters and purchasers dominate the process, and the mechanics of originating a purchase requisition and placing an order may contribute little value to an organization's productivity and profitability.

The Committee concluded, further, that: a) the P/MM function will be performed under one or more of the above mentioned scenarios, and b) the business environment coupled with the nature of each organization will drive the scenario choice decision. The handling of the P/MM function within a particular scenario concerned this committee, and it believed that NAPM, through the certification and/or accreditation of P/MM professionals, could influence the successful accomplishment of the P/MM function under any one of these scenarios.

The Certification Committee, in response to this concern, adopted a conceptual framework for NAPM programs based on the three business scenarios described earlier. Table II describes the three levels, the corresponding NAPM-sponsored program and associated recognition (professional designation) types, and an estimate of those P/MM professionals that would benefit from securing the designation related to each level. This framework assumed that P/MM professionals would require a different set of professional competency standards tailored to the circumstances surrounding each combination of the business environment and a specific organization. Such circumstances dictate the level of knowledge and experience necessary to perform at an acceptable level within any combination.

Table II.

Note: (/) is used to show column breaks in this table.

Level Program / Recognition / Estimated / Population
Strategic (executive) / Graduate-level university (e.g., ASU) / Certificate / 5%
Strategic/ Tactical (manager) / Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) / Certification / 35%
Tactical (practitioner and cross-functional) / Accredited Purchasing Practitioner (A.P.P.) / Accreditation / 60%

Next, the Certification Committee sought information about the possible creation and implementation of a second professional designation, addressing the non-managerial/executive aspects of the purchasing and materials/supply management function, from two specific audiences. Two different surveys were mailed in early 1995 to Non-C.P.M.s and to C.P.M.s/NAPM leadership.

Results from these surveys indicated that 56 percent of the Non-C.P.M.s and 20 percent of the C.P.M.s/NAPM leadership agreed that a second professional designation, similar to the current A.P.P., would benefit purchasing "very much." Further, 57 percent of the Non-C.P.M.s and 24 percent of the C.P.M.s/NAPM leadership agreed to support such a program "very much," and 56 percent of the Non-C.P.M.s expressed a disposition to earn the accreditation described in the survey. A number of concerns about NAPM introducing an additional professional designation were expressed in the survey results from C.P.M.s/NAPM leadership, and these are enumerated and addressed later in this paper.

The Certification Committee used the information gathered from these surveys, focus group interviews with Non-C.P.M.s, and other sources to establish the basic parameters for creation of an additional professional designation. A presentation recommending NAPM's adoption of a new professional designation was made to the NAPM Board of Directors at their August 1995 meeting. After much discussion, the Board approved the introduction of such a designation, titled the Accredited Purchasing Practitioner, in early 1996. However, to mitigate some concerns expressed in the survey by the C.P.M.s/NAPM leadership, the Board made two important modifications to this recommendation. The Board directed that: a) professional work experience include a component of P/MM (supply chain management) responsibility, and b) one year of professional work experience be required of those holding at least an associate's degree. The Certification Committee accepted the Board's direction, and began development of a broad marketing effort which differentiates the C.P.M. and A.P.P. designations and focuses on the benefits of earning each designation by specific individuals.

Focus of NAPM Professional Designations/Target Markets. In the first level of Table II, the Graduate Concentration in Purchasing, Materials, and Logistics Management, co-sponsored by the NAPM and Arizona State University, leads to a Certificate of Advanced Professional Development from NAPM instead of a professional designation. This program addresses the requirements of those professionals with executive and strategic responsibilities over the P/MM function primarily. The Certification Committee has not been concerned with the promotion of this program. Further, all three programs have been designed for the major private and public work sectors.

The C.P.M., the second level of Table II, has traditionally focused on the managerial, administrative, strategic, as well as tactical aspects of the P/MM function. The C.P.M. Program sets the professional competency standards for the P/MM profession, especially those who aspire to manage an organization's P/MM function.

The third level of Table II shows the A.P.P. concentrating on the demand for a different set of professional competency standards, identified by Non-C.P.M.s, for entry-level buyers principally engaged in the tactical or operational side of the P/MM function. These standards can be used also by those individuals whose procurement (supply chain management) responsibilities involve them in the execution of this function via cross-functional teams.

Although the graduate-level program focuses on the strategic, and the C.P.M. on the strategic and tactical, aspects of the P/MM function, only the A.P.P. concentrates on the tactical or operational aspects of this function. Because of this concentration, the A.P.P. program demonstrates a broad appeal to both P/MM professionals primarily responsible for tactical and operational activities and those with related purchasing (supply chain management) responsibilities alike.

A.P.P. Program Overview(Accreditation Requirements. At the request of the Certification Committee, NAPM revisited the results of a job analysis that examined the work of P/MM practitioners within different levels of an organization. Specifically, NAPM sought to compare the work activities of practitioners employed at the manager level, versus those working at the buyer level. Based on the results of this analysis, the tasks covered in Module 1 (Purchasing) and Module 4 (Current Issues) of the C.P.M. examination could logically be applied to the work activities of buyers. Therefore, these two modules could form the basis for a buyer-level accreditation program. On the other hand, while some of the task areas in the other two C.P.M. modules could also be relevant to the work practices of buyers, the large amount of material in these modules clearly not applicable to the work activities of most buyers precludes the application of these modules to any examination for the A.P.P. designation.

The Committee accepted this assessment, and determined that these two modules would constitute the examination requirement for the A.P.P. designation. The NAPM Board of Directors defined the necessary educational and experience requirements to complement the examination requirement. The accreditation requirements were established for introduction of the A.P.P. Program.

The successful A.P.P. candidate must pass an examination and meet education and/or experience requirements. The examination requirement is a subset of the C.P.M. examination. Expressly, the candidate must successfully complete Modules 1 and 4 of the C.P.M. examination.

The candidate also must have either: a) an associate's degree and one year of professional work experience, or b) two years of professional work experience. The requisite P/MM (supply chain management) work experience can be a secondary component of the candidates job.

The reaccreditation component of this program requires the A.P.P. to earn 42 hours of continuing education every 5 years to retain this designation. A lifetime designation will be granted to candidates meeting all other program requirements, and who have at least 15 years of relevant work experience and are at least 55 years of age at the time of their reaccreditation. Although passing Modules 1 and 4 of the C.P.M. examination within a specific time limitation will allow an A.P.P. to waive these examinations if he/she desires to pursue the C.P.M. designation, the requirements for the C.P.M. and A.P.P. designations are substantively different.

Differentiation between the C.P.M. and A.P.P. Programs. Comparison of the C.P.M. and A.P.P. programs is summarized in Table III*.


  • Module 1 - Purchasing
  • Module 2 - Administration
  • Module 3 - Supply
  • Module 4 - Current Issues

Education and Experience
Hold at least a Bachelor's degree and 3 years of experience or at least five years of experience (experience must be primarily P/MM related)

Other Components
Earn 35 C.P.M. points
Required every five years
Lifetime Certification
Attain at least age 55 and 15 years experience



  • Module 1 - Purchasing
  • Module 4 - Current Issues

Education and Experience
Hold at least a Associate's degree and 1 year of experience or at least two years of experience (experience must include a P/MM element which may be a secondary component of candidate's job)

Other Components

Required every five years by earning 42 hours of continuing education

Lifetime Accreditation
Attain at least age 55 and 15 years experience

*Complete details, including costs, for each program can be found in the appropriate application form.

As stated previously, the A.P.P. can be used as a step toward attaining the C.P.M., and eligible individuals are encouraged to pursue the C.P.M. as soon as possible.

Ongoing Management, Support, and Promotion of the A.P.P. Program. A number of NAPM promotional and marketing activities are ongoing or planned to help introduce the A.P.P. to eligible candidates. These activities will educate NAPM members and non-members, organizational management, and human resources professionals about the benefits of earning the C.P.M. and/or A.P.P. designations. In January 1996, active C.P.M.s will be invited to become A.P.P.s at no cost to them for a 6 month period. Press releases will be issued over a period of time to acquaint professionals about the A.P.P. program. A.P.P. application forms and brochures will be produced and distributed to interested professionals. The C.P.M. literature will be revised to include a reference to the A.P.P. and explain the focus of each program.

NAPM, via the Certification Committee and Professional Development Committee, will work within its affiliate structure to promote both designations, albeit to C.P.M.s, Non-C.P.M.s, and the NAPM leadership differently.

Since the A.P.P. is a stand alone program, an A.P.P. Study Guide and a A.P.P. Diagnostic Practice Exam will be published and priced below the same materials created for the C.P.M. program. This will give C.P.M. or A.P.P. candidates more choices when selecting study material purchases and program options.

Item (question) development for Module 1 and Module 4 will remain the same, since those holding an A.P.P. designation may choose to pursue the C.P.M. designation.

The Certification Committee will collaborate with the NAPM staff in: a) differentiating between the two designations and illustrating the benefits of earning each to interested professionals, b) overseeing both programs and maintaining individual program integrity, and c) resolving policy questions regarding the implementation and maintenance of each program.

The NAPM staff will be responsible for the administration of each program and coordination of program activities within the NAPM structure. The NAPM staff will refer any expression of concern or any issues relative to these programs to the Certification Committee.

NAPM Membership Concerns and Issues. Some C.P.M.s have been concerned that introduction of the A.P.P. program could: a) diminish motivation among holders of this designation, b) encourage complacency towards attainment of the C.P.M., and (c) result in the lowering of the C.P.M.'s quality. The Certification Committee began dispelling these concerns by producing a videotape called Expanding Purchasing Professionalism: A New Designation. The Committee understands that it will take the P/MM profession some time to understand the A.P.P., its relationship to the C.P.M., and the benefits to individuals who aspire to attain one or perhaps both of these designations. Historically, the P/MM profession took some time to understand and accept the C.P.M. when it was introduced 22 years ago. NAPM will continue to communicate the value of each program to NAPM members and non-members, their employers, and the P/MM profession. The Professional Development Committee is working at the affiliate level to address these concerns, and this committee has been tasked to actively promote the C.P.M. to the NAPM affiliates.

The Certification Committee expects the A.P.P. to have a positive impact on those within and outside the P/MM organization. One of their goals remains to encourage enhanced individual P/MM capabilities and increased educational attainment. By opening accreditation to a larger body of professionals involved in purchasing and materials/supply management, NAPM is fulfilling its goal of furthering the capabilities and education of these professionals. This effort can only benefit each practitioner, those organizations who employ P/MM professionals, and the profession as a whole. And it ultimately benefits the public, which is one of the primary goals of both professional designation programs.

The Certification Committee will continue to be an active partner in identifying the needs and listening to the concerns of P/MM professionals relative to certification and accreditation programs. The Committee will retain its obligation to establish policies and procedures for the successful development and operation of the C.P.M. and A.P.P. programs.

Future Activities in the NAPM Professional Designation Arena. The Certification Committee has committed itself to enhance the strategic content of the C.P.M. program ² distinguishing it further from the A.P.P. program. It will carefully oversee the item and study material development related to both programs to ensure their individual integrity. In addition, the Committee will continue to monitor the demand for practitioner attainment of a professional designation, and will cooperate with NAPM leadership and staff to carefully position both the C.P.M. and A.P.P. programs to meet the changing needs of the P/MM profession.

Summary/Conclusion. The C.P.M. designation is well recognized within NAPM, among many public and private organizations, and by the P/MM profession. It measures the body of knowledge and sets professional competency standards for the P/MM profession. However, an additional set of professional competency standards was needed to serve the thousands of practitioners for whom the C.P.M. might not be suitable.

The A.P.P. will help buyers and others outside the P/MM organization who have purchasing and materials/supply management responsibilities enhance their knowledge and skill-set. NAPM has recognized that not all professionals pursue the same career track, and the A.P.P. program will help NAPM meet the needs of its members as well as the P/MM profession. The C.P.M. and A.P.P. can accommodate a professional's changing career goals. As an investment in educational and professional attainment, the A.P.P. is a stand alone, self-supporting program, but it can also be a stepping stone for those professionals who choose to boost their professional standing by earning the C.P.M.

The development and introduction of the A.P.P. has consumed the intellectual and organizational energy of the NAPM leadership, and its success assumes significant risk. As a relatively new (for NAPM) measure of professional competency for a broader segment of professionals both inside and outside the P/MM organization, the A.P.P. will require careful promotion and some time for its assimilation among the professional designations coveted by P/MM professionals and those having purchasing and materials/supply management responsibilities. Moreover, strong support from employer organizations will be critical.

Acceptance by the purchasing and materials/supply management community will be contingent on P/MM and related professionals understanding that they control the destiny of the profession. To no small extent, professionalism in the United States is defined through credentialing processes, and P/MM and related professionals can influence the destiny of their profession by adopting that professional designation that clearly demonstrates their professional competence at any point in their career.

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