What Is a Master's in Acquisition and Contract Management Degree?
Students interested in studying acquisition and contract management can most commonly pursue a Master of Science (MS) in the field. However, there are other closely related degree programs available, such as a Master of Contract Management, Master of Arts (MA) in Procurement and Acquisitions Management, or an MS in Contract Management. In general, these degree programs train students how to manage a contract from start to finish and obtain materials and services for their organization. Students further develop their management and leadership skills in addition to gaining specific knowledge pertaining to the field. Some of these degree programs are available in online formats for flexibility. Read on to get details concerning these master's programs.
Common Undergraduate Degrees for Acquisition and Contract Management
Many applicants to a master's program in acquisition and contract management will hold a bachelor's degree in a business-related area. Some master's programs require that students hold a bachelor's degree that has business-related accreditation. Others do not necessarily require students to have a business degree, but have additional course requirements for students who do not have a background in the field. There are some bachelor's degrees available in acquisition and contract management, such as a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) with a concentration in the field. Students can also pursue a degree in areas such as management or supply chain management.
Admissions Requirements for Acquisition and Contract Management Master's Programs
Colleges and universities that offer master's degree programs in acquisition and contract management usually have some variation in their admissions requirements for the program. However, all applicants are required to hold at least a bachelor's degree. Those who do not have this degree in a business-related field may be required to take additional prerequisite coursework. Common prerequisites for these master's programs include courses in financial accounting, economics, marketing, statistics, algebra, and more. Some master's programs in the field do not require students to take the GRE or GMAT. There are also some programs that require applicants to have at least 5 years of work experience before applying.
Why Should I Get an Acquisition and Contract Management Master's Degree?
Students who are interested in contracts, negotiations, policymaking, and related areas of business could decide to pursue a master's degree in acquisition and contract management to advance their careers. These programs are designed to give students advanced business knowledge that can be applied to a wide range of careers. Master's programs could be preferred by employers and commonly include hands-on learning opportunities to help prepare students for working in the real world. With an advanced degree usually comes a pay raise. According to PayScale.com, graduates with an MA in Acquisitions made a median annual salary of $89,300 as of March 2020.
How to Choose a Master's in Acquisition and Contract Management Program
When finding a program and school that is the right fit, students need to first consider what type of master's degree they want to earn. Students may choose to focus on acquisition or contract management or pursue a degree that combines both subjects. Then, once students have chosen a degree, they can begin comparing the unique features of programs. Depending on their schedule, needs, and goals, students may need a full- or part-time program or an online program. Some students prefer to have hands-on learning experiences, such as capstone projects, or may choose programs with other stand-out learning opportunities, like following a cohort model or the opportunity to earn a dual Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
Master's in Acquisition and Contract Management Program Accreditation
Accreditation indicates that programs have met specific academic standards that have been set to demonstrate quality of education. Usually, schools that offer master's programs in acquisition and contract management are regionally accredited from organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission. This means that all of the programs, no matter the subject or degree level, have met general standards for quality. Accreditation also qualifies students to receive financial aid and may be preferred by employers. Depending on the subject area, employers can also look for students who have earned a degree that holds program-level accreditation. In the case of acquisition and contract management and related programs, some programs hold accreditation from organizations such as the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). This means that programs have met additional business-specific standards for academic quality and could better prepare students for careers in the real world.
Acquisition and Contract Management Master's Degree Courses
Master's degree programs in acquisition and contract management can require between 33 and 36 credits of coursework. These programs can typically be completed in 2 years or less. Students either take all core courses in the subject or some core courses and a few electives. Many of these programs include a final project or capstone experience of some kind. The goal of the curriculum is to equip students with advanced business knowledge, management skills, and a detailed understanding of contracts. Below, we explore the curriculum breakdown in greater detail.
Acquisition and Contract Management Foundational Courses
Some programs break their core courses into a couple foundational courses in business or general management classes and then more specific core courses in acquisition and contract management. Students may get to choose between a couple different courses, but in general, these courses are required and could follow a particular sequence. It is fairly common for these programs to include a capstone course or final, applied project to help students apply what they have learned throughout their studies. These final courses or projects often include some aspects of research for the field. Other possible core courses include topics in:
- Procurement and acquisitions management
- Acquisitions law
- Contract management and administration
- Project management
- Logistics management
- Business decision for contracting
- Contract changes, terminations, and disputes
- Government contract law
Acquisition and Contract Management Specialist & Elective Courses
Depending on the setup of the program, students could take upwards of 6 credit hours worth of elective coursework. Typically, electives are available to give students a chance to focus their studies and explore different areas of interest that are usually more specific and detailed in nature. These courses could help students prepare for a certain type of job in the field or provide additional information in a particular area. Electives usually need to have approval from a graduate advisor, but can often be taken from a range of departments or be pulled from other related business majors.
Licensure & Certification in Acquisition and Contract Management
Professional certifications are available in the field of acquisition and contract management, but vary by position. Some employers may require certifications, while others may not. However, certifications can help professionals stand out and demonstrate their expertise in the field. Professionals who focus on contract management can pursue the Certified Professional Contract Manager (CPCM) certification from the National Contract Management Association (NCMA). Students must pass a 180-question exam to earn the CPCM certification. Professionals working in acquisition, purchasing, and supply chain management can pursue different types of certifications, such as the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) certification from the American Purchasing Society or the Senior Professional in Supply Management (SPSM) certification from the Next Level Purchasing Association. The Universal Public Procurement Certification Council also offers a couple of certifications for professionals working for the government. Usually, students need to meet eligibility requirements and then pass an exam to earn certification.
Post-Graduate Options After Master's in Acquisition and Contract Management
Master's degree programs in acquisition and contract management are usually terminal degrees for the subject. However, students who wish to further develop their leadership skills and business knowledge can pursue several different types of doctoral degree programs. For instance, students can earn a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Business, or a PhD in Business Administration. Many of these programs allow students to further focus their studies in specific areas of interest to help prepare them for a certain career. These programs are also usually research-focused and include a dissertation.
What Can I Do with an Acquisition and Contract Management Master's Degree?
Graduates with a master's degree in acquisition and contract management can pursue a variety of careers in the field. They can pursue job titles such as contract manager, acquisitions analyst or procurement analyst. There is also a range of closely related careers available to graduates that are not directly involved in acquisitions and contract management, but perform similar duties, such as a project manager vs. a contract manager. Professionals in acquisitions and contract management can work in a wide range of settings. For example, there are many contract specialist jobs available in the government through the military, law enforcement agencies, and other federal organizations. Graduates can also work for public or private organizations in almost any industry as part of their operations.
- Contract officer
- Purchasing officer
- Contract analyst
- Project manager
- Logistics analyst
- Purchasing manager
- Chief executives
- Compliance managers
Job Outlook for a Master's in Acquisition and Contract Management
The job outlook for graduates with a master's in acquisition and contract management varies by position, but in general, management positions in business tend to have a positive outlook, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, the BLS reported that management occupations (in general) and top executives had a job outlook of 5% and 4% respectively, from 2019 to 2029. Other positions in different areas of acquisitions and contract management also have positive growth, while others are expected to decline over this period. For instance, the BLS stated that the job outlook for purchasing managers alone is 3%, but the outlook for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents together will decline by 7% over the decade.
How to Become a Purchasing Manager
Purchasing managers typically need to have at least a bachelor's degree and several years of work experience, usually at least 5 years' worth. They commonly begin their careers as a buyer or purchasing agent and work their way up with experience. Professional certifications are widely available in the field, but requirements for having to earn these certifications or not can vary by employer. These certifications are available to more specific job positions, such as becoming a Certified Purchasing Professional or a Certified Professional Public Buyer.
Purchasing managers supervise buyers and purchasing agents and usually have job duties that intersect in areas of marketing, production, logistics, and planning. They help manage complex procurement activities, monitor contracts for compliance, evaluate vendors and potential suppliers, and participate in negotiations on behalf of their organization. Purchasing managers need to have great negotiation skills, as well as strong decision making and analytical skills. According to the BLS, purchasing managers had a median annual salary of $125,940 as of 2020.
How to Become a Top Executive
Top executives is an umbrella term used by the BLS that includes positions such as managing directors, executive directors, general and operations managers, and presidents. These professionals have to have a bachelor's degree, but many hold a master's degree, which can also be preferred or required by some employers. Top executives also need multiple years of work experience and commonly work their way up through their organization. Professional certifications vary by position, as some need certification that is relevant to their management area.
Top executives can use skills in acquisition and contract management for the negotiation of contracts and agreements for their organization as they help oversee the long-term goals for the group. They also influence policy and procedures for the organization to help improve efficiency and effectiveness. Other job duties vary by position but could include managing budgets, communicating with board members, monitoring performance indicators, and supervising other managers. Top executives need to have strong communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills. Per the BLS, as of 2020, top executives made a median annual salary of $106,180.
Master's in Acquisition and Contract Management Program Financial Aid & Scholarship Resources
The cost of earning a master's degree in acquisition and contract management can start to add up when considering the price of tuition, fees, books, other materials, and more. Students should always begin the financial aid process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and can include special school codes for their schools of interest on the form, so the schools have a copy on record. The FAFSA notifies students of federal and state aid that they may qualify for, such as loans and grants. Then, students can begin to explore the financial aid options available at their school(s) of interest to help cover the rest of their learning expenses.
Colleges and universities typically offer multiple forms of financial aid to help make education affordable. Some schools provide different tuition discounts for students, such as military benefits. Students can pursue different forms of work study or assistantships. There are also some schools or programs that could be eligible for tuition reimbursement through a student's employer. This means that a student's full-time employer helps pay for them to earn their advanced degree. Finally, students can pursue scholarships from a wide range of sources. For students pursuing a master's in acquisition and contract management, they should check their qualifications for awards related to various areas of business, like management, supply chain management, purchasing, and project management.