Many administrators begin their careers as lower-level business professionals. Contract administrators should be organized and have excellent written and verbal communication skills. They should be able to negotiate contract terms and provide precision and objectivity in contract administration and management. Degree programs to become a contract administrator are offered at the bachelor's and master's degree levels in the fields of business administration, human resources and contract management. A high school diploma is required to apply to the bachelor's degree, while the master's degree programs ask for a business-related Bachelor of Science degree as a prerequisite, as well as for students to complete a thesis.
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
A bachelor's degree program in business administration provides students with a well-rounded business education that allows for a variety of professional opportunities. Students learn how businesses operate and maintain financial and operational success. Programs provide a variety of courses, including:
- Business law and ethics
- Business operation, management and analysis
- Accounting methods and information systems
- Marketing, promotion and advertising
Bachelor of Science in Human Resources Management
A human resources management bachelor's degree program qualifies students to work as contract administrators. Programs offer courses on mediation and negotiation, employee relations and professional collaboration. Students learn how to communicate with employees and create productive and efficient work environments. Typical courses include:
- Employee recruiting and retention
- Human resources leadership
- Training and development
- Employment laws
- Risk management
- Organizational change and behavior
Master of Science in Contract Management
To obtain supervisory or advanced positions in contract administration, students can earn a master's degree in contract management. These programs teach students how to supervise contract negotiations and how to ensure contract legality through research and studies of contract law. Common courses include:
- Administrative politics
- Negotiation and mediation
- Federal contract administration
- Commercial contract management
- Contract laws and regulations
- Acquisition administration
Contract administrators should have at least two years of contract administration experience. Some private employers require more and federal agencies may require up to ten years of involvement in government contract administration. Many contract administrators build experience by working as human resource administrators, mediators or business negotiators.
Licenses and Certifications
Contract administrators are not required to obtain licensure or certification. However, voluntary certification is available from the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) and may lead to increased employment opportunities or higher salaries.
The NCMA offers certification for contract management professionals working in either federal or commercial contract management. Contract administrators can earn the certified federal contracts manager (CFCM) credentials, certified commercial contracts manager (CCCM) credentials or certified professional contracts manager (CPCM) certification. Contract administrators with CPCM credentials are considered experts in both federal and commercial contract management.
Each certification requires candidates to meet strict educational, professional and training requirements. Contract administrators must have a degree, one year of experience, meet continuing education requirements and pass a comprehensive exam to obtain each certification.
Colleges and universities that offer business-related programs often sponsor contract administration and management workshops. Typically, these workshops focus on federal or commercial contract administration and management.
The NCMA offers seminars and workshops for all experience levels. These include courses in cost estimation, contract negotiation, performance-based acquisitions and risk management. Many focus on federal contract administration, though commercial contract administration workshops are also available.
Professional development resources are available from the NCMA and the federal government. The NCMA provides information on legal issues, legislation, and unions in contract administration. It also offers a number of publications, including Contract Management magazine and the Journal of Contract Management. There is also an online, bimonthly NCMA newsletter. The federal government has a website for federal contract administrators called Acquisition Central (www.acquisition.gov).
There are a number of programs to prepare prospective contract administrators for a career in their field, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees available to study. After the completion of a degree, those interested in contract administration will need to gain relevant experience and may choose to gain voluntary certification to aid career advancement.