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5 Attributes of Contract Administration

Contract administration may not be the most widely publicized part of the business world, but this behind-the-scenes legal career is a vital part of large and small commercial enterprises around the world. Check out the 5 Ws of contract administration and find out if it's the right career for you.

Who

Depending on the project, a contract administrator — also called a contract manager — may interface with members of business development, IT, engineering and product management divisions, as well as working on pricing and purchasing strategies with other procurement personnel.

What

According to the National Contract Management Association (NCMA), contract administration begins when contract managers, product managers and business development professionals decide that a contract is worth pursuing. Industry-based contract managers interface with pricing specialists and technical personnel to develop a proposal, while administrators on the government side weigh the various proposals that come in.

Tom Reid, founder at Certified Contracting Solutions, speaks to some of the most important elements of contract administration: thorough attention and up-to-date knowledge.

"Contract management, especially at the federal level, is an ever-changing landscape of rules, regulations, and practices," Reid says. "While some might be quickly bored with wading through a 100 page contract, I am not. (I am in the midst of reviewing a 520 page set of regulations this evening!)"

Where

Here's a list of five of the highest paying metro areas for purchasing managers in 2013, according to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), along each region's reported mean annual wages for the year:

  1. Fayetteville, Arkansas: $149,050
  2. San Jose, California: $148,170
  3. San Francisco, California: $145,840
  4. New York, New York: $141,840
  5. Oakland, California: $137,530

Here are five of the top-paying metro areas for administrative service management occupations the same year, also according to the BLS:

  1. New York, New York: $123,440
  2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: $118,320
  3. Nassau-Suffolk, New York: $116,320
  4. San Jose, California: $115,140
  5. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: $114,560

These figures should give you only a rough picture of the wages available in contract administration careers. Multiple factors, including location, education level and experience, can cause salary expectations to vary.

Why

Contract administration is one of the legal careers that may be overlooked by recent law school grads, but it comes with some unexpected advantages as a career destination.

"Perhaps the most attractive point to those just now entering the field is that those skilled in this area are in great demand," Reid says. "The employment prospects are very strong, first because the demand is high generally and second, there are a considerable number of baby boomers retiring out of the field every day."

How

Often, contract administrators earn a law degree before joining the professional ranks. Many employers, particularly those in the federal government agencies and private firms that handle very large contracts, are likely to prefer those with a comprehensive education in the field.

According to the BLS, though, a bachelor's degree may suffice for employers of purchasing managers, administrative services managers and other procurement and supply chain personnel at smaller firms. If contract administration seems like a good fit for your skills and interests, it may be possible for to get your feet wet in the industry without making the full commitment to a law degree.

Sources:
1. What is Contract Management?, National Contract Management Association, http://www.ncmahq.org/About/content.cfm?ItemNumber=993&navItemNumber=9909
2. Position Descriptions For The Contract Professional, National Contract Management Association, http://www.ncmahq.org/jobs/Content.cfm?ItemNumber=971&navItemNumber=9945
3. Tom Reid, Founder of Certified Contracting Solutions, Interviewed by the author on Oct. 29, 2014
4. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Administrative Services Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department and Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes113011.htm
5. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Purchasing Managers, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department and Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes113061.htm
6. Administrative Services Managers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/administrative-services-managers.htm
7. Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Business-and-Financial/Purchasing-managers-buyers-and-purchasing-agents.htm