Contract Management Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Training Info

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What will you learn in a contract management degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of bachelor's and associate degrees and potential careers.
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Studying Contract Management: Degrees at a Glance

The National Contract Management Association (NCMA) reported that, as of 2011, nearly all of its member contract managers held a bachelor's degree or higher, so an associate degree probably won't be enough to land you a job in this field. However, you may be able to transfer to a 4-year college or find work as an administrative services manager after completing a 2-year program.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), administrative service managers are projected to see a 15% increase in employment from 2010-2020, while purchasing managers will only see job growth of around 7%. However, there's a significant salary differential between these two professions - purchasing managers earned a median annual income of about $97,000 as of May 2011, while administrative service managers earned a median salary of about $80,000 per year.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want to work in administrative services or transfer to 4-year degree programs Those who want to work as contract managers
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) Experience is usually required, but a degree is optional for some positions in the following occupations:
- Administrative Services Manager ($80,000)*
- Purchasing Agent ($58,000)*
- Purchasing Manager ($97,000 - at least 5 years' experience is usually required)*
- IT Contracts Manager ($90,000 - about 5 years' experience required)**
- Provider Contracting Manager ($86,000 - 5-8 years' experience required)**
- Service Contract Administrator ($52,000 - 2-4 years' experience required)**
Time to Completion 3.5 years part-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Internship - Same as for the associate degree
Prerequisites - High school diploma - Usually same as for the associate degree (some programs also require students to complete a certain number of undergrad courses with a minimum GPA before enrolling)
Online Availability Rare Rare

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011) and **Salary.com (June 2012).

Associate Degree in Contract Management

Associate degree programs in contract management are rare because the typical education requirement for this profession is a bachelor's degree. If you do choose to enroll in an associate degree program, you'll take basic business and liberal arts courses, along with specialized classes in contract law, negotiation and other relevant topics. If it isn't feasible for you to attend an associate degree program in contract management specifically, you might consider enrolling in a 2-year business administration degree program and then applying for a transfer to a 4-year institution with a relevant academic major or coursework.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • If you have some experience, you may qualify for jobs in administrative services management
  • You may be able to transfer into a 4-year contract management degree program, which will prepare you for entry-level contract management jobs
  • Associate degree programs in contract management are rare, so you may need to move or commute long distances to participate in one

Cons

  • You're unlikely to qualify for jobs in contract management with just an associate degree
  • This degree will take 2 years of full-time study to complete, which means you'll most likely lose 2 years of work experience and income
  • Transfer into a bachelor's degree program isn't guaranteed - you'll need to meet minimum GPA criteria and other requirements to gain acceptance

Courses and Requirements

In addition to taking general education and standard business core courses, like accounting and finance, you'll learn current contract management principles that you'll need for both corporate and government contract management positions. Coursework might include the following:

  • Purchasing and materials management
  • Principles of government contracting
  • Contract administration
  • Procurement law

Online Course Options

Just as on-campus associate degree programs in contract management are rare, online programs are also difficult to find. If you need to take your courses online due to geographic constraints or work and family responsibilities, you might consider choosing an online associate degree program in business administration. These programs can help prepare you for related careers in administrative services, and you can also attempt to transfer into a bachelor's degree program so that you can qualify for contract management jobs.

Standing Out with This Degree

If you want to eventually work as a contract manager, you'll need to go on to earn a bachelor's degree first, the BLS reports. However, this doesn't mean you can't start taking steps to stand out while you're earning your associate degree. You can get a jump on the competition by finding a relevant internship, and taking courses in engineering or the applied sciences can be helpful if you'd like to work in the manufacturing sector. The NCMA also suggests that aspiring contract managers become student members of the organization, which provides the opportunity to learn more about the profession and network with those already working as contract managers.

Bachelor's Degree in Contract Management

Bachelor's degree programs specifically in contract management are also uncommon; however, you may consider majoring in a related field like distribution management or finding a business administration degree program with a relevant concentration. Regardless of the type of program you choose, you'll most likely be required to take general business courses and liberal arts electives, as well as courses in your major or specialization. For some programs, you'll need to apply directly to the major during your sophomore or junior year, and acceptance is not guaranteed.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You'll meet the minimum education requirements for entry-level contract management jobs
  • Since you'll be in school for 4 years, you'll have more time to complete internships and gain work experience
  • If you want to advance your career by earning a master's degree in the future, you'll most likely meet the education requirements to do so

Cons

  • You may need to gain additional education to advance to higher-level positions
  • Slow job growth is projected for purchasing managers overall, so you may need to find work in another field
  • Nearly half of NCMA members worked in the South Atlantic region as of 2011, so opportunities may be more limited if you live elsewhere*

Source: *National Contract Management Association (2011).

Courses and Requirements

You'll likely take courses in core business disciplines, like marketing, finance and accounting. If your program offers specialized contract management courses, you'll also learn fundamentals like contract initiation, negotiation, management and monitoring. An internship is required for some degree programs. Specific topics of study that you may encounter in a bachelor's degree program in contract management include the following:

  • Regulatory requirements
  • Contract law formation and performance
  • Procurement and materials management
  • Quality management and process improvement

Online Options

Fully online bachelor's degree programs in contract management are uncommon. In the few existing programs, you'll take courses similar to those that on-campus students enroll in, but internships are usually not required. You may also be able to choose a specialization in an area like information or healthcare management. In addition, it's possible to enroll in an online business degree program and specialize in contract management.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Students may want to consider internships or part-time employment during school, since experience is usually required to move up to management positions. The NCMA also suggests that undergraduate students join their local student chapter in order to network within the profession. Once you've graduated, completed 80 hours of continuing professional education and worked in the field for at least 1 year, you can sit for either the Certified Federal Contracts Manager (CFCM) or Certified Commercial Contracts Manager (CCCM) certification exams. If you pass, you'll have a credential that can help you advance your career.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Benedictine University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors in Management
      • Bachelors in Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Business Admin: Management
      • Business Administration, BA - Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BLS in General Studies - Professional Studies Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Management
      • Bachelor: Project Management
      • BS - Business Administration - Project Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Business Development
      • BS - Business Administration - General
  • Online Programs Available
    6. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Project Management
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Operations Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Central Christian College of Kansas

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Operations Management
      • BS in Business Studies - Small Business Mgt
      • BS in Operations Management / Project Management concentration
      • BS in Operations Management / Logistics and Transportation concentration
      • BS in Business Studies - Business Adminis
  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Business
      • B.S. - Sports Marketing and Media
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Business (General Business)
      • BS in Business (Operations Management)

Featured Schools

Benedictine University

  • Bachelors in Management

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Keiser University

  • B.A. - Business Admin: Management
  • Business Administration, BA - Management

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Herzing University

  • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration

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Saint Joseph's University

  • BLS in General Studies - Professional Studies Concentration

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Colorado Technical University

  • BS - Business Administration - Management
  • Bachelor: Project Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Project Management

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American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
  • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Project Management

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Central Christian College of Kansas

  • Bachelor of Business Administration

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Southern New Hampshire University

  • BS in Operations Management
  • BS in Business Studies - Small Business Mgt
  • BS in Operations Management / Project Management concentration

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