Contract administration, also commonly referred to as contract management, involves monitoring the creation, negotiation and review of contracts as they relate to the buying or selling of various products, supplies or services. Several certifications in the field, which require the completion of at least an undergraduate degree program, are available through the National Contract Management Association (NCMA). At the bachelor's and master's degree levels, students might begin to specialize in fields like acquisition or contract formation.
For admission, certificates and bachelor's degrees require a high school diploma or equivalent. Certificates further require standardized test scores. All master's programs require a bachelor's degree and admissions test scores, while some also require a minimum GPA and letter of intent.
Contract Management Certificate
The certificate program is commonly designed for those who negotiate contracts both in the private and government sectors who wish to enhance their skills. The certificate program typically fulfills the requirements for becoming a professionally trained contracts administrator. The NCMA will approve some certificate programs; however, completion of one of these programs will only fulfill a portion of the educational requirements needed for one of three certifications offered by the association. Students learn to prepare, negotiate and execute contracts with vendors, distributors and end-users. Students also learn to develop legally valid contracts relevant to international markets.
By taking courses in this program, students study the process and techniques behind contract administration, purchasing and cost-analysis, among other areas. Sample course topics include:
- International contracting
- Supplier relationships
- Process and negotiation
- Intellectual property
Bachelor's Degree in Acquisition and Contract Management
Studies in the field at this level can vary. Students can pursue a bachelor's degree in acquisitions and contract management or choose to concentrate in something more specific, such as federal contract management, as part of a management major. A concentration in acquisition with coursework in contract formation and administration is also available with a major such as project management. Electives are available to students within the concentration. Programs may include a study of the Federal Acquisitions Regulations.
Earning a bachelor's degree requires completing general education requirements as well as courses in the major. Sample courses include:
- Acquisition and contract management
- Contract creation and management
- Acquisitions law
Master's Degree in Acquisition and Contract Management
Occasionally called acquisition and contract administration, the master's program trains students for leadership roles as contract managers and contract administrators in the public and private sectors. Students learn the procedures involved in procurement, as well as the financial and legal issues concerning contract management. They also acquire an understanding of the statutory and regulatory requirements of the acquisition process. Some programs meet the educational, training and experience requirement needed for working in the military, as well as civilian agencies.
Although admission requirements vary from school to school, all require an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. Some require minimum grade point averages. Admission tests, such as the Graduate Record Examination, Miller Analogies Test or Graduate Management Admissions, must be submitted. A letter of intent describing the individual's work experience and goals may also be required.
The graduate program consists of a core curriculum with elective credits in the acquisition and contract administration specialty. Some electives include:
- Contract law and government
- Cost and pricing in government
- Economy politics for public administration
Popular Career Options
Several career options are available for the graduate of a a certificate program in contract management. They include:
- Contracts administrator
- Contracting specialist
- Procurement agent
- Pricing analyst
- Subcontract specialist
Earning a master's degree in acquisitions and contracts management leads to a number of career options in and related to the field. These include:
- Contracting officer
- Industrial property specialist
- Program management intern
- Cost analyst
- Budget analyst
- Financial management analyst
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Administrative services manager jobs, including contract administrator positions, are expected to increase 7% from 2018-2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Contract administrators will be in demand as the outsourcing of administrative tasks, such as negotiating contracts with vendors, becomes more common. Higher-level contract administrators will face stiff competition. According to May 2018 BLS figures, the median salary for a U.S. administrative services manager is $96,180.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
The Certified Federal Contracts Manager (CFCM) designation, as well as Certified Commercial Contracts Manager (CCCM) and Certified Professional Contracts Manager (CPCM) are available from the NCMA. All three require an undergraduate degree. For the CFCM and CCCM credential, 80 continuing professional education hours are required together with one year of work experience in the contract management field. For the CPCM credential, 120 continuing professional education hours are required with five years experience.
Education programs in contract administration are offered at the certificate, bachelor's and master's degree levels. While the certificate level may prepare students for entry level employment and one level of NCMA certification, the bachelor's and master's degree programs prepare students for higher level of employment, certification and specialization.