Contract Negotiator: Employment Info & Requirements

Find out what contract negotiators do. See what kind of education and training are required for employment. Learn about the career and earnings outlook to decide if this field is right for you.

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Career Definition

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 re-negotiate existing contracts, act as a company's prime customer liaison, and work with executives on new organizational strategies.

Become a Contract Negotiator

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 $54,660, according to the May 2012 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Lawyers, including those working in the management of companies and organizations, earned median annual salaries of $113,530, according to the May 2012 BLS figures.

Alternate Career Options

Lawyer

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 2012-2022, at a rate of 10%. Lawyers earned median pay of $113,530 in 2012, per the BLS, but this figure varied widely by industry; lawyers who worked in state government earned median salaries of $79,220 in 2012, while those who worked in finance and insurance earned median salaries of $134,940 that same year.

Mediator

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 in this field are expected to increase 10% from 2012-2022, per the BLS, and mediators earned median pay of $61,280 in 2012.

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