Contract Negotiator: Employment Info & Requirements

Apr 12, 2019

Career Definition for a Contract Negotiator

Many organizations succeed or fail because of contracts, which are agreements designed to establish the terms of a business relationship, resolve differences, and prevent future disputes. Contract negotiators, also called contract specialists or dispute-resolution specialists, often work in the insurance, software development, and media industries. They serve in the human resources or labor relations divisions of large corporations, non-profits, government agencies, and labor unions. Their work usually involves drawing on knowledge of company policy and economic data as they prepare and negotiate new contracts; they may also review and renegotiate existing contracts, act as a company's prime customer liaison, and work with executives on new organizational strategies.

Education Bachelor's degree required in labor or industrial relations
Job Skills Writing, speaking, computer skills, professional appearance
Median Salary (2018)* $67,790 (for labor relations specialists)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* -8% (for labor relations specialists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Preparation for this career varies but almost always requires at least a bachelor's degree. A contract negotiator for a human resources department might have a 4-year degree in industrial or labor relations and taken courses such as employment law, human resource management, collective bargaining, and conflict resolution. On the other hand, an in-house corporate attorney working in contract negotiation would need a law degree, which generally takes three years beyond a bachelor's degree and requires earning a state law license to practice.

Skills Required

These professionals are adept at various approaches to negotiation. They also have well-developed writing, speaking, and computer skills, a professional appearance, and the ability to work and set priorities independently. They often must be free to travel.

Economic and Career Outlook

The educational background of contract negotiators is highly varied, and so is their pay. The median annual income for a labor relations specialist was $67,790, according to the May 2018 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also noted that the number of jobs in the field of labor relations was projected to drop by 8% for 2016-2026.

Alternate Career Options

Listed here are some other choices for careers related to labor and negotiation:


A lawyer represents his or her client with regard to legal issues. Lawyers advise their clients of how the law applies in their situation and lays out options for action if needed. Lawyers may perform legal research, prepare and file legal documents, and argue their client's case in court. Lawyers can practice in numerous areas of specialty, such as criminal law, corporate counsel, environmental law, family law, tax law, and immigration law, among others.

Lawyers have a bachelor's degree and a 3-year Juris Doctor degree from an American Bar Association-accredited law school; they must also pass their state's bar exam to earn a law license. According to the BLS, lawyers can expect average growth from 2016-2026, at a rate of 8%. Lawyers earned a median pay of $120,910 in 2018, per the BLS, but this figure varied widely by industry; lawyers who worked in state government earned average salaries of $92,270 in 2018, while those who worked in insurance and employee benefit funds earned average salaries of $138,160 that same year.


A mediator assists parties in resolving a conflict. Mediators don't take sides or decide the matter. They initiate and guide a conversation between the parties so that they can work out the difference. Mediators usually have at least a bachelor's degree and often have a law degree; those interested in becoming mediators can earn a certificate or master's degree in conflict resolution. Mediators usually have a lot of experience in the field in which they're working as a mediator, such as business, for example. Licensing, certification, and other regulations may apply, depending on the state and venue where the mediation will be undertaken. Jobs for arbitrators, mediators and conciliators are expected to increase 10% from 2014-2024, per the BLS, and mediators earned a median pay of $62,270 in 2018.

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