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The role of an import or export agent is to act as a middle person for the purchase or sale of products between both domestic and overseas companies. While this is a general description, the responsibilities vary depending on the field and type of company for which the agent works. Duties may also be different depending on where the agent is in the supply chain.
For example, at an export management company, agents work with foreign distributers, overseas marketing and advertising, and organizing budgets and invoices. On the other hand, at an export trading company, agents are busier researching the market for specific projects, as well as delivering sales pitches regarding trade to foreign and domestic companies.
Import or export agents may also choose to be hired by a company, open their own company or work individually. While working individually will cut out the middleman, there is greater risk and much more responsibility involved.
A bachelor’s degree is typically the standard for this career. Earning an MBA with a specialization may be the right choice for those interested in management positions. Specializations may be centered around particular products or areas of the world.
While in school, individuals should pay close attention to learning subjects such as trade policy, currency transactions, import-export law and policies associated with trade deals.
Agents need to be highly organized to maintain correct information about products, different markets, various companies and trading. Individuals should also be very research-savvy and be able to interact with both local and international markets and people in those markets. The most important part of this job is to keep up with trade today as well as the products and materials associated with a particular business. Staying informed and being proactive are valuable assets.
Import or export agents also need to understand global economic trends and be able to recognize how certain announcements and news stories will affect certain trade opportunities. Along with recognizing trends, agents also need to understand the legal formalities, documentation, federal regulations and local regulations associated with different companies and how they may influence current and future prospects. When delays, damages and other issues arise, agents must also know how to quickly and effectively find solutions and report to the proper individuals to have these problems resolved in a timely manner.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide information for this specific career, the similar position of purchasing agent has an annual median salary of $60,550. As with all careers, salary depends on the field in which an individual is working, as well as job responsibilities. Some companies may also have agents receive a portion of commission or retainers depending on their trade arrangements.