Contract Negotiator: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for contract negotiators. Get the facts about salary, along with education and certification requirements, to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Procurement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Contract Negotiator?

A contract negotiator can work in a variety of industries to help manage labor agreements, audits or vendor services. They help two parties settle conflicts or business deals outside of the court system. This typically involves facilitating discussion and communication between the parties, as well as clarifying the different concerns, interests or issues from each side's perspective. Contract negotiators must make sure that all contracts comply with current laws and regulations. They also help each party evaluate information throughout the process and make the decision that is in their best interest. The table below outlines the general requirements for a career as a contract negotiator.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree, master's or law degree may be required
Education Field of Study Business, management, finance
Certification Certification recommended to improve job prospects
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% (for all arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators)*
Median Salary (2017) $69,318**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

What Would I Do as a Contract Negotiator?

Contract negotiators work in many industries helping lawyers with labor and business deals. In business, contract negotiators manage labor agreements, audits and vendor services. Local governments use contract negotiators to fairly administer employment contracts following local, state and federal laws. Federal government agencies require contract negotiators to navigate the many statutes that regulate acquisitions, partnerships and employment. Other industries that employ contract negotiators and their skills include entertainment and sports. You could work with actors, athletes or writers to ensure they get a good deal for their performance.

If your contract negotiation work deals with labor agreements, you advise management about employee contracts, discipline rules and grievances. You review and draft proposals and rules, assess risks, create negotiation strategies, set goals and conduct meetings. You need to know how to interpret contracts, investigate complaints, mediate discussions, and monitor compliance. Exceptional people skills are important in fostering agreeable relationships between the negotiating parties.

What Kind of Education Do I Need?

Due to the legal nature of contracts you will need some experience with law, but a Doctorate of Jurisprudence (JD) is not usually required. In some cases, a bachelor's degree in business, management, finance or other related field can get you jobs in contract negotiation. However, advanced degrees such as a law degree or Master's of Business Administration (MBA) are often preferred.

Some schools offer graduate certificates in government contracting as well as programs in negotiation and conflict resolution to improve your skills. The National Contract Management Association (NCMA) offers three certifications if you want to distinguish yourself by demonstrating your knowledge of contract management. The Certified Federal Contracts Manager (CFCM) certification attests to your understanding of federal acquisition regulations; the Certified Commercial Contracts Manager (CCCM) certification confirms your grasp of the Uniform Commercial Code for business contract negation; and a Certified Professional Contracts Manager (CPCM) certification, the highest NCMA certification, confirms your mastery of the field.

What Kind of Salary Could I Make?

According to a PayScale.com report, the middle 80% of contract negotiators made salaries between $45,570 and $114,550 per year including profit sharing and bonuses as of January 2017. Bonuses of up to $11,992 were reported for contract negotiators. Negotiators with 0-5 years of experience earned an annual median salary of approximately $62,000, including including tips, bonus, and overtime in January 2017, while negotiators with 10-20 years of experience earned a median salary of $86,000 at that time.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a couple of related careers in the legal system, but require varying levels of education. Paralegals and legal assistants need an associate's degree to assist lawyers. They may conduct legal research, organize records and files and help draft legal documents. Lawyers, judges and hearing officers are also similar, but require a doctoral or professional degree. Lawyers represent clients in the court system to help resolve various legal issues. Judges and hearing officers preside over these hearings and make legal decisions based on current laws and policies. Buyers and purchasing agents are related careers that require a bachelor's degree, and are similar to contract negotiators in that they manage negotiations and contracts between vendors as they purchase products for their organization.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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