Becoming a Contract Negotiator: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a contract negotiator career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a contract negotiator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Contract Negotiator

Negotiation is the art of using interaction and influence to arrive at a settlement between parties. Continue reading for some of the pros and cons of this career.

Pros of a Contract Negotiator Career
Positive job growth from 2012-2022*
Work indoors in comfortable offices*
Travel opportunities*
Wide range of specializations*

Cons of a Contract Negotiator Career
Stressful environment*
Fast-paced field with deadlines*
Negotiations may often become contentious*
Must obtain a lot of experience before obtaining this position*

Source: *O*NET OnLine.

Essential Career Info

Career Paths and Specializations

There is a wide array of opportunities available to contract negotiators. As a contract negotiator, you may work in a healthcare organization negotiating contracts with medical suppliers or in the IT industry dealing with licensing agreements. Contract negotiators are also needed in any number of industries dealing with employee contracts or vendor supply contracts. You will be primarily responsible for administering, negotiating, extending, terminating and renegotiating the terms of an organization's contract agreements.

Job Prospects and Salary

As businesses enter into increasingly complex agreement and partnerships, the need for contract negotiators will continue to exist. Many contract negotiators may find employment in healthcare or technology related businesses, two fields that are currently growing.

According to PayScale.com, total pay for contract negotiators in the 10th-90th percentile ranged from approximately $45,000-$98,000 per year as of July 2015. In addition, O*Net OnLine estimated that arbitrators, mediators and conciliators earned a median hourly wage of $27.49 in 2014, with an annual wage of about $57,180. Similarly, labor relations specialists earned roughly $27.38 per hour and a median wage of $56,950 annually that same year. The projected growth for arbitrators, mediators and conciliators from 2012-2022 was 8%-14%. Labor relations specialists are projected to experience little to no change with growth between -2% and 2% during that same time period.

Career Skills and Requirements

Because the field of contract negotiation is a specialized field, there are a number of potential degree programs that can prepare you for this career path. Most employers require at least a bachelor's degree, with most preferring a degree in political science, philosophy or business. Necessary skills for this career include critical thinking, social perceptiveness, strong writing abilities and the gift of persuasion. You should be able to communicate effectively and be sensitive to the problems of others.

What Employers Are Looking For

Advertisements for contract negotiators typically require that candidates have 2-5 years of relevant work experience. The ability to work well under pressure was also a main requirement, as were strong presentation skills. Here are examples of what some real employers looked for during April 2012:

  • A communications management company based in Pennsylvania advertised for a contract negotiator with a bachelor's degree and 2-5 years work of experience in a business or law firm. A knowledge of commercial law was required.
  • A professional defense services company based in Missouri advertised for a senior contract negotiator with a bachelor's degree and a minimum of eight years of experience working with aerospace, defense or government contracts. Experience in finance and human resources was preferred.
  • A contractor in Michigan advertised for a contract negotiator with either a bachelor's degree or two years of formal legal training. The company listed experience preparing legal documents and contract negotiating as requirements. Candidates specializing in an area of contract negotiation, such as tax, patent or litigation, were also preferred.

How to Beat the Competition

Highly developed negotiation and influencing skills are essential to be a competent contract negotiator. You can maximize your potential as a contract negotiator by developing the necessary skills that can help you stand out in this field. As a result, you will need the ability to understand and analyze legal documents. You can gain the best job prospects by having experience with litigation. In addition, you will need excellent communications and management skills. A familiarity and understanding of basic contract components is required.

Alternative Career Paths

According to O*Net OnLine, lawyers can expect average employment growth ranging 10-19% from 2010-2020. In addition, in 2011, the median hourly rate for a lawyer was $54.00, with the median salary being $113,000. Of course, you would have to spend years earning a law degree from an accredited institution and then passing the rigorous bar examination to practice law in your state. As a lawyer, you will represent criminals in legal proceedings and present cases in front of judges. You could also be responsible for drawing up legal documents, interpret laws and resolve conflicts.

Another option would be to pursue a career as an insurance adjustor. According to O*Net OnLine, these professionals examine claims to determine proper insurance coverage. Unfortunately, this field is growing slower than average. In fact, from 2010-2020, an estimated growth of a mere three to nine percent can be expected in this field. Still, employees earned a median hourly wage of $29.00 in 2011. That same year, the median annual wage was $59,000 for insurance adjustors, according to O*Net Online.

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American University

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Virginia College

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Johns Hopkins University

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Herzing University

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