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What Is a Contract Specialist?

Contract specialists must be skilled in negotiation and legal terminology. Learn more about a contract specialist job description as well as contract specialist qualifications and salary information.

What Does a Contract Specialist Do?

Contract specialists are often called purchasing managers, directors, or agents, though the term contract specialist also refers to positions available at government agencies and manufacturing firms. These professionals act as shrewd negotiators and work to achieve the best possible deal for an organization, as well as supervise contractors' performances to ensure that the stipulations of the contract are being met.

Contract Specialist Job Description

Contract specialist duties include creating, examining, and monitoring contractual agreements between the organization that he or she works for and materials or labor suppliers. Part of the job of a contract specialist is being aware of legislative and regulatory issues that may be related to the contracts you are overseeing. You might have to make revisions to contracts if new laws and regulations are established, or if old laws and regulations are changed or otherwise modified. Another important element of a contract specialist's job involves building relationships with trusted vendors and keeping a detailed list of possible contractors that may be needed for any given situation.

Important Facts About Contract Specialists

Work Environment Full-time, often in an office for a government agency
Key Skills Buying goods and services for business operations, evaluate suppliers, ensure contract compliance
Training Defense Acquisition University training courses (for U.S. Department of Defense Contracts Specialists)
Similar Occupations Financial managers, bookkeepers, logisticians, auditing clerks

Contract Specialist Qualifications

A bachelor's degree is the typical education needed for employment as an entry-level contract specialist, and many fields of study are considered acceptable. Some contract specialist programs are available online. However, you are not always required to have earned a bachelor's degree as long as you've taken at least 24 credit hours in areas like business, economics, law, contracts, or a similar field. For those interested in growing their career or in higher levels of professional employment, graduate education and prior work experience may be helpful in career advancement. On-the-job training is also fairly common for people in this field.

Voluntary certification also is available through agencies like the Federal Acquisition Institute. To earn Federal Acquisition Certification-Contracting (FAC-C), you'll need to meet education, training, and experience requirements. Other organizations involved in certification of those in this profession include the American Purchasing Society, Next Level Purchasing Association, and the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council.

Contract Specialist Salary and Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, purchasing agents and buyers made a mean yearly wage of $67,530, while purchasing managers earned $125,630 annually as of May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Purchasing managers who work in oil and gas extraction have the highest mean annual salary of $156,030. The states with the highest level of employment of purchasing managers are California, Texas, Illinois, New York, and Florida. Employment of purchasing managers, buyers, and agents is expected to decline by 3% in the 2016 to 2026 decade. This is partially because some features of procurement work is able to be automated.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs similar to purchasing managers include financial managers, logisticians, and wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives.