How to Become a Certified Contract Manager

Feb 27, 2019

Learn how to become a certified contract manager. Research the job description and the education requirements and find out how to start a career in contract management.

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Become a Certified Contract Manager

The National Contract Management Association (NCMA) issues contract management certification. The organization notes that entry-level contract professionals usually perform clerical tasks, prepare responses for contract modification, assist upper-management, and analyze contract requirements and terms to make sure that the contract complies with laws and regulations. Mid-level contract managers have increased exposure to creating and reviewing contracts, negotiating contractual issues, developing contract policies, reviewing solicitations, and supervising entry-level contract professionals. Senior contract managers typically manage a department of contract professionals and work with other department directors and senior management.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Business, contract management or related fields
Experience 2-5 years of experience
Certification Voluntary certification available
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills, analytical skills, leadership abilities; strong organizational skills, ability to multitask, meet deadlines, and draft contracts according to guidelines and templates; knowledge of corporate procedures and policies and international contract law
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $86,110 (for administrative services managers)

Sources: National Contract Management Association, Online job postings (December 2012), *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2015 )

Steps To Be a Certified Contract Manager

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

NCMA requires candidates to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree to be eligible for certification. Although there is no single degree field for contract management professionals, a degree in business or contract management may be the best option to prepare aspiring contract managers for the tasks and duties associated with the career.

Bachelor's degree programs in business or contract managements typically include classes such as project management, contract law, contract administration, business communication, and negotiation, as well as courses in general business, social sciences, computers, English, and mathematics.

Step 2: Gain Experience

After graduating from an accredited bachelor's degree program, individuals can get an entry-level job in contract administration or in related positions in the business field to gain the experience needed to move into a contracts management position. According to the NCMA, entry-level contract management positions typically require a bachelor's degree and 2-5 years of experience.

Entry-level contract management positions include reviewing contract solicitations, drafting and negotiating simple contracts, preparing and organizing documentation, and assisting mid-level to management-level contract professionals.

Step 3: Choose a Certification

Several types of contract management certifications are issued by the NCMA, including the Certified Commercial Contracts Manager (CCCM), which commercial contract professionals may apply for), and the Certified Federal Contracts Manager (CFCM), which is the certification contract for professionals who work with federal contracts. Advanced contract professionals who have mastered all of the competencies in the Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK) are eligible for the Certified Professional Contracts Manager (CPCM) certification. Other certification options are available, such as the Industry Certification in Contract Management-Defense (ICCM-D) credential, which is comparable to the certifications used by the Department of Defense and the federal government.

Step 4: Apply to Take the Test

The application for the certification exam is available on the NCMA website. Applicants must complete the forms and submit college transcripts. In addition to having a degree, each certification requires prior work experience. CCCM and CFCM certifications require candidates to have one year of experience, while the CPCM certification requires applicants to have five years of experience. Additionally, applicants must have completed continuing professional education (CPE) hours before submitting the application. Candidates for the CCCM and CFCM certifications have to complete 80 CPE hours. CPCM candidates must complete 120 CPE hours in order to qualify for the certification.

Step 5: Prepare For the Test and Take It

NCMA offers an online preparatory course, study group guide, and practice exams to help prepare candidates for the test. After the NCMA reviews and approves the application, they email the candidate with instructions for registering for the exam. The CCCM and CFCM exams have 150 questions, while the CPCM exam has 180 questions. The test is administered at Kryterion Learning Centers and at local NCMA chapters. Results are available right after the test is completed. After passing the test, candidates are awarded the certification. Be sure to renew your certification. To maintain certification with NCMA, you must pay the renewal fee, follow the NCMA's code of ethics, and complete a minimum of 60 CPE hours every five years.

Certified contract managers have bachelor's degrees, certification, and 2 to 5 years of experience. They are analytical and know about corporate procedures and policies and international contract law and earn a median annual salary of $86,110.

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