How Do I Become a Contract Manager?

T. L. Childree

Contract managers prepare, review, and negotiate bids, proposals, and other binding agreements. A bachelor’s degree in business administration is usually sufficient to become a contract manager, but some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree. You will probably need to begin this career in an entry-level position to gain some practical work experience. It may also be necessary to obtain some type of professional certification to work in this occupation. After you become a contract manager, you might want to attend some professional development seminars to further improve your skills.

Doing entry-level work reviewing contracts can help one gain the experience needed to become a contract manager.
Doing entry-level work reviewing contracts can help one gain the experience needed to become a contract manager.

In order to become a contract manager, you will need to earn a degree from a four-year college. A bachelor’s degree in business administration or human resources is usually best for this career. These degree programs typically offer coursework in relevant subjects such as negotiation and mediation. Supervisory contract manager positions usually require completion of a master’s degree program. Advanced degree programs offer classes in subjects such as governmental contract administration, contractual law, and acquisitions.

In addition to a college degree, a certain amount of practical work experience is also needed for this career. These professionals usually begin their career by working in an entry-level position until they gain sufficient experience. Typical duties for an entry-level worker include drafting, reviewing, and negotiating basic contracts. You will usually be given more complex assignments as your experience and skills increase. This on-the-job training period generally lasts for two years, but up to ten years may be needed for a governmental position.

Professional certification is usually not required to become a contract manger, but could be very helpful when seeking employment. This certificate assures potential employers that your skills and knowledge are up-to-date with current standards and practices. In the United States, a widely-recognized, professional certification is offered by the National Contract Management Association (NCMA). Candidates must successfully complete a comprehensive skills and knowledge examination to receive NCMA certification. You must meet certain educational and work experience requirements in order to sit for this exam.

The NCMA also sponsors a number of professional development seminars and workshops each year. Once you have become a contract manager, it might be a good idea to attend some of these events. The programs are designed to sharpen your skills and improve your overall job performance. A typical workshop or seminar will address topics such as contract logistics, pricing, and analysis, as well as laws and negotiations. Some of these events are focused primarily on governmental contracts while others deal only with commercial business.

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