Studying Government Contracting: Degrees at a Glance
At the master's degree level, the study of government contracting utilizes an interdisciplinary academic approach to convey the methods and techniques behind buying and contracting within large and intricate organizations. These programs are designed to provide the educational background needed by those who want to pursue purchasing and procurement jobs with governments or the non-profits and private companies that supply goods and services to governments.
At the doctorate level, the field of study changes. Doctoral programs in government contracting do not exist. Instead, you'll want to study the broader field of public policy, public budgeting or public administration. These programs are most often research based, created to train and equip the teachers and researchers that will forge the public policy of the future
|Who is this Degree for?||Individuals interested in pursuing careers as government acquisition specialists||Those interested in teaching or conducting public policy research|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate annual mean salary)|| - Purchasing agent ($61,000)* |
- Logistician ($75,000)*
|College professor ($87,000)*|
|Time to Completion||1.5-2 years full time||3-7 years depending on program requirements|
|Common Graduation Requirements||Some programs require completion of master's thesis||Doctoral research thesis|
|Prerequisites||Bachelor's degree||Either bachelor's or bachelor's and master's depending on program|
|Online Availability||Yes||Limited availability|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Master's Degree in Government Contracting
Enroll in this program and you'll learn the art and science behind efficiently improving the way the government buys goods and services. You'll study the public policy behind topics such as purchasing systems, program analysis, cost reimbursable schedules, human resources management, negotiation tactics and more. Many programs feature an internship, through which you'll work within a governmental agency, gaining valuable work experience for course credit. Upon graduating, you'll be eligible to pursue procurement positions with the federal government and also private companies, state and local governments and foreign governments.
Pros and Cons
- You can complete your degree in two years or less
- Many programs feature flexible class schedules, with evening, weekend and online courses widely available
- By studying the way governments procure goods and provide social services, you may be in a position to affect positive change for your community
- This degree will most likely not prepare you to teach at the university level
- To make the most of your vocational opportunities, you may need to conduct a nation-wide job search
- Elected governments are by their nature temporary, which may mean less job security depending on your position
Courses and Requirements
If you aren't approaching this field with a business administration degree, you'll most likely need to complete some prerequisite business courses before enrolling in the core curriculum. In addition to the core contracting courses, you'll have a master's thesis or graduate research project as a degree requirement. Below are listed several core course topics.
- Cost analysis
- Transportation logistics
- Government contract accounting
- Organizational behavior
This degree program is available in an entirely online format. The online version of the program should differ from the traditional classroom-based program in no discernible way, other than providing you the convenience of taking your courses anywhere, at any time. Online programs are widely available and can also be found in a hybrid format, using both distance learning and classroom-based education.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
Once you've graduated from a government contracting degree program, you can separate yourself from the pack through voluntary industry certification. The National Association of Government Contractors offers a Certified Government Contractor (CGC) program that can signal to potential employers that you have the necessary procurement skills.
The CGC certification process includes a number of exam-preparation courses. After you complete the courses you'll sit for the exam. The exam is available online and takes 60 minutes to complete. The certification process lasts one year. After the year expires, you have to complete the re-certification process annually.
Ph.D. in Government Contracting
Doctoral programs that cover only government contracting do not exist. If you want to study government contracting and related issues at the doctoral level, you may want to consider pursuing a Ph.D. in a field such as public policy or public administration.
These programs are designed to provide you with a thorough grounding in a host of relevant topics, such as political history, public policy ethics, modes of economic development and more. Coursework is devoted to studying the various qualitative and quantitative methodologies you'll use in your research. You'll be required to choose a concentration from within the larger field of public policy or administration. Examples of concentrations include emergency management and nonprofit management.
Pros and Cons
- A Ph.D. degree allows you to teach at the university level
- Should make you eligible for careers in both the public sector (crafting public policy) and the private sector (teaching, research or administrative positions).
- This degree represents one of the pinnacles of academic achievement
- By the time you're done, you may have been in college for up to ten years or more
- Doctorate degree programs can be very challenging and often feature a high attrition rate
- These programs can be expensive and funding is often limited and competitive
Courses and Requirements
In addition to your core public policy courses, you'll also receive course credit for conducting the research related to your doctoral dissertation. Below are listed several general course topics you are likely to encounter.
- Economic policy analysis
- Public finance
- Statistical analysis
- History of public policy
Online doctoral programs in public policy, public administration and related fields are rare. When they do exist, they are usually offered at for-profit colleges. If you going to invest the time and money in a doctoral degree program, you may want to consider the advantages offered by a traditional classroom-based educational program. There are facets of this educational model, such as working closely with your academic thesis adviser, that online degree programs have a more difficult time fulfilling.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
If your career objectives involve teaching at the university level, it is never too soon to start publishing articles based on the concentration of your studies. Most doctoral programs encourage, or even demand, that you start honing your research skills from the very beginning of the program. If you conduct this research with your future in mind, you may find that you have a history of publishing behind you by the time you graduate.