Contract administration (also known as contract management) is both a dynamic and challenging profession, and it's one that requires specialized education, training and work experience. Contract managers and administrators can be found in organizations across both public and private sectors, and are important pillars of law and litigation.
Whether working for a federal government contractor or a Fortune 500 company, contract administrator duties may cover a wide range of responsibilities, including the following:
- Contract negotiation
- Project management and coordination
- Contract oversight
- Goods and services procurement
- Conflict resolution
- Contract closeout and financial payment administration
For example, the National Association of Letter Carriers has a Contract Administration Unit, which is responsible for contract oversight, manages the grievance system and provides support to regional offices throughout the country.
Contract Administrator Education
There are multiple educational paths to becoming a contract administrator, including accounting, business administration, accounting, economics, law and more. Generally speaking, contract administrators transition into the role after developing work experience in a related field.
Although specific educational requirements vary by industry and position, a majority of contract specialists possess either a bachelor's or master's degree. According to 2013 data from the National Contract Management Association, 41% of contract administrators hold bachelor's degrees, while 43% have a master's degree. The complete degree breakdown includes:
- Doctorate: 6%
- Master's degree: 43%
- Bachelor's degree: 41%
- Associate degree: 3%
- No college degree: 7%
3 Types of Contract Administrators
In order to advance their careers or receive additional training, contract administrators may turn to the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) or International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM) for professional certifications. NCMA certifications include the following:
Certified Professional Contracts Manager (CPCM). The CPCM is the most advanced and desired certification within the contract management industry. It demonstrates the certificate holder has mastered the competencies found in the Contract Management Body of Knowledge.
Certified Federal Contracts Manager (CFCM). The CFCM certification demonstrates senior understanding of and experience with Federal Acquisition Regulation, the system of rules that govern the Federal Acquisition Regulation System — how the government purchases both services and goods.
Certified Commercial Contracts Manager (CCCM). The CCCM certification demonstrates fundamental knowledge and experience with the Uniform Commercial Code — the basis for the governing of both commercial transactions and sales in the United States.
Other common certifications from the NCMA include the Industry Certification in Contract Management - Defense (ICCM-D) and the Industry Certification in Contract Management - Federal (ICCM-F). The International Association for Contract and Commercial Management offers three main certifications based on years of experience: Associate (CCMA), Practitioner (CCMP) and Expert (CCME).