Contracts managers are experts in negotiation who work in the purchasing and procurement process of business operations. Contracts managers analyse potential business partners and their proposals to help select an appropriate vendor. They negotiate the details of the deal and participate in the management of the contract relationship once the deal is complete. Contract managers can work for private companies or within government or other public agencies.
Employers prefer to hire contracts managers who have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in business with some coursework in business law. Some organisations employ professionals who have a degree in the specific area of their business and let them use that background in the contract decisions they make. For example, an engineering firm might hire a contract manager with an engineering degree if that engineer also has a business background. A printing company might employ someone with a degree in graphic arts or printing management to oversee the contracts process because of her expertise in the printing industry. In all cases, a bachelor's degree is the basic entry point for a career in managing contracts.
Contract managers have a number of options for career advancement. Companies generally look for analysts with ten years or more of experience working in the field and for employees with significant project management expertise. A contract manager's career typically begins in an entry-level purchasing or contract analyst position in which she learns the business with more experienced managers looking over her shoulder to provide guidance. During this on-the-job training, a contract manager can pursue a graduate degree, a master's of business administration or a law degree that will aid in career growth. Certificate programs are another option. The Institute for Supply Management is one organisation that supplies professional certification programs for contract management personnel.
Contract managers must have a broad understanding of the systems and software that their employers use. A contract manager must be familiar with basic computer hardware and software packages, and must learn the specialised systems in use by his employer to manage the procurement system. The contract manager must have an interest in the business activities of his employer and must learn the organisational structure to ensure the contracts he negotiates work within that structure.