Contract Specialist Career Info and Education Requirements

Contract specialists, also known as purchasing managers or agents, work for government agencies or many types of private-sector organizations. These professionals generally hold a bachelor's degree or higher, though some employers hire candidates who have only done some post-secondary coursework in marketing, economics, law, business or management.

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Contract Specialist Career Information

Contract specialists review a transaction's terms and conditions to ensure that both parties, the vendor and customer, are complying with the specialist's organizational guidelines and government laws. This review can include negotiating prices, managing delivery terms and interpreting documents. For example, contract specialists may be required to analyze product specifications, find alternatives to goods or services that can't be delivered or issue purchase orders. Other duties include processing paperwork, which may range from insurance documents to pay requests.

Entry-level contract specialists usually work with previously arranged or company-standard contracts. Career advancement often puts contract specialists in charge of negotiating, evaluating and administering new or specialized contracts that may expose the organization to more risk.

Career Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of purchasing managers and agents, including contract specialists, is expected to increase by seven percent between 2010 and 2020 ( The bureau also noted that those with bachelor's degrees or higher should have the best employment opportunities. The average annual salary for a purchasing manager was $106,200 as of May 2012.

Contract Specialist Education Requirements

Contract specialists with the federal government must either hold a bachelor's degree or have completed approximately one academic year of college-level business coursework. Private sector employers generally request at least a bachelor's degree in a business management field, and they may also request some legal or paralegal training. Coursework in negotiations and contract administration, in which students are trained in legal and contract analysis, may be beneficial.

Graduate Studies

Senior-level contract specialists may need to complete some graduate education. Universities offer graduate certificates and master's degree programs in contract management. Topics typically cover negotiation, ethics and contract law. Advanced courses may delve into legal and business decision-making.

Professional Certification

Contract specialists looking to advance may consider completing the voluntary 3-level Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting (FAC-C) certification program offered through the U.S. government's Federal Acquisition Institute. Additionally, the National Contract Management Association offers three industry-accepted certifications options for federal government, commercial or combined contract management.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics