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Project Manager Vs. Contract Manager

Project mangers and contract mangers share a number of similarities. We'll examine their respective salaries, career outlooks, and degree requirements, as well as their day-to-day duties.

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Comparing Project Managers to Contract Managers

Contract managers focus solely on the contracts that bond a business and client together. They'll conduct research, assess risk and negotiate the terms of a contract. Project managers also deal with contracts and contract negotiation, but that is only one part of their job. As the name implies, project managers are also responsible for the overall execution and success of a specific task, project, or endeavor.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Project Managers Bachelor's Degree $72,069 8% (managers, all other)
Contract Managers Bachelor's Degree $80,366 10% (administrative services managers)

Sources: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Project Managers vs. Contract Managers

Project managers are focused on meeting the goals and specifications of designated projects such as product launches, building projects, and software development. Contract mangers, however, are more involved in negotiating and working with clients to help them understand the paperwork they sign. While project managers and contract managers both work on teams, their clients are the main focus. This is why keeping them updated on any contractual changes is pivotal for both careers.

Project Managers

The first step of project management is to meet with clients and work with them to build a plan. This includes where to get raw materials at the best price, the budget, the timeline, and the specifications for the product. Then a project manager will either assemble or oversee an existing team to see the project through to completion. Throughout the course of the project, the project manager will assess the progress of the endeavor, troubleshoot complications, and regularly update relevant parties.

Job responsibilities of a project manager include:

  • Negotiating contracts by developing a document that outlines project details
  • Reporting any delays in progress to the client or company
  • Working with vendors and third-party resources to obtain required material
  • Meeting all applicable safety and legal regulations and codes

Contract Managers

These professionals are responsible for helping clients understand the complex language in contracts. They may even work with the legal and financial departments of the company to ensure the contracts meet the needs of the organization. Contract managers may also create new contracts and evaluate the legality of old ones. If they are part of a project team, they are also responsible for planning the budget and procuring any employees or supplies that are part of the contract.

Job responsibilities of a contract manager include:

  • Researching competitive companies with similar contracts
  • Managing any clerical personnel that are responsible for filing and editing paperwork
  • Leading negotiations between clients and companies to ensure a contract that benefits both
  • Explaining any risks to clients based on points in the deal that may negatively affect them

Related Careers

Many of a project manager's skills and traits can be found in administrative managers, who ensure the efficient and proper functioning of an office. Purchasing agents and contract managers are similar, as both find resources for clients and companies.

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