How Do I Become a Contract Specialist?

If you have a talent for haggling, the analytical skills to dissect complicated texts and the good decision-making skills to comfortably make choices that can impact a group of people as large as a company, you might be wondering how to become a contract specialist. As the job title implies, contract specialists work extensively with contracts, written agreements with providers of goods or services. The job titles purchasing manager, purchasing director, or purchasing agent are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to a contract specialist.

Virtually all businesses and organizations need some kind of goods and services to function. Manufacturing companies need machines and raw materials. Service industries need supplies with which to do their work. In various aspects of the federal government, contracts determine what products and services are to be delivered at what price. Contract specialists develop, renew, alter and maintain business contracts and ensure that actual transactions and deliveries follow contracts.

Establishing a new contract or maintaining an existing one may require negotiations to get the best price, so a contract specialist must be prepared to haggle with vendors when writing these contracts to ensure that their company gets the best deal and is able to stay under budget. Contract specialists must have a thorough enough understanding of law to interpret the legal consequences of a contract. Contract specialists should also have the necessary mediation skills to solve any problems that arise regarding contract violations. A contract specialist must be comfortable making contract decisions that play a large role in whether or not the company stays in budget.

Securing a position as a contract specialist requires knowledge obtained through a program of higher education, typically that which results in a bachelor’s degree. Aspiring contract specialists can approach the field from various backgrounds, including business, economics, and law. For entry-level positions, this four-year degree may be enough. Securing higher level contract specialist positions in large, prestigious companies and organizations may require a master’s degree or even a law school degree. It’s often a good idea for contract specialists to begin getting real-world experience in the field by pursuing an internship, either with a private company or the government.

Purchasing managers earned a median annual salary of $95,070 in 2010, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. While a contract specialist’s actual pay varies by experience, level of education, size and profitability of employer and geographical location, the median annual wages are significantly higher than the median annual salary for all occupations in the United States, $33,840. Beyond salary, contract specialists enjoy the opportunity to be in a decision-making role and to have such a direct influence on their employer’s budget by negotiating contracts that save the company money. Do you have an interest in business and finance, an ability to comprehend difficult documents, and excellent bargaining skills? If so, knowing how to become a contract specialist could be your first step on the path to a fulfilling and lucrative new career.

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