Procurement & Contract Management Degrees: Master's, Certificate & Online Class Info

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What kind of job can you get with a master's degree or graduate certificate in procurement and contract management? Find out degree requirements, online options and info on courses and procurement and contract management master's and certificate programs.
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Studying Procurement and Contract Management: Degrees at a Glance

Procurement (sometimes referred to as acquisition) and contract management graduate programs involve the study of buying and acquiring services and handling the contracts made from these agreements. Although a master's degree is not usually required to work in contract management, it can be necessary for advancement opportunities or high-level management positions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that purchasing managers were projected to see a seven percent increase in employment between 2010 and 2020. Employment opportunities are expected to vary between industries, but the healthcare, wholesale, retail and computer systems design industries should have some job growth from 2010-2020, according to the BLS.

Master's Certificate
Who is this degree for? Individuals looking to work in mid- and high-level purchasing and contract management positions Managers who want specialized training in contracts and acquisitions
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary) - Purchasing manager ($89,000 - with eight years of experience)*
- Service contract administration manager ($87,000 - with five years of experience)*
- Provider contracting manager ($87,000 - with five years of experience)*
- Purchasing director ($119,000 - with ten years of experience)*
May qualify you for similar positions to master's degree holders plus:
- Contracts administrator ($50,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years, full-time 1-2 years, part-time
Common Graduation Requirements - About 6-10 courses covering contract and procurement management concepts (3-5 for MBA programs)
- Roughly 2-4 elective courses
- Core business courses (for MBA programs)
- Research or capstone seminar
- Approximately 5-8 graduate-level courses covering procurement and contracts
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- Completion of foundation courses (specific courses vary between programs)
- Bachelor's degree
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *Salary.com (September 2012 figures).

Master's Degree in Procurement and Contract Management

Procurement and contract management studies can be found as part of a standard master's program or a specialization within an MBA program. MBA programs require you to take a set of core business courses in addition to your specialization studies, while standard master's programs don't include business courses and just focus on contract and acquisition management studies. Procurement and contract management programs at the master's level are usually flexible and are designed for working professionals, so you won't have to quit your job to pursue the degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • What you learn in the program can be applied to many different industries and careers
  • Employers may prefer master's degree holders for top-level positions and advancement opportunities
  • Nature of the programs allows for flexible course schedules and can be completed in less than two years by working professionals

Cons

  • You may be competing against other applicants who have a bachelor's degree and experience
  • Most programs don't include options for you to gain experience while you study
  • Job opportunities vary between industries (overall job growth for purchasing managers was only expected to be seven percent from 2010-2020)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

The standard master's program consists of about 10-13 total courses in topics that include:

  • Negotiations
  • Contract law
  • Logistics management
  • Contract formulations
  • Costs and pricing
  • Organizational behavior

Some programs may include a capstone or research project, but this varies between schools. Master's programs don't tend to offer internships or hands-on learning experiences, so you only have to focus on coursework throughout the duration of the program.

MBA programs require you to complete a core set of business courses, including managerial economics, financial strategy, strategic management and marketing strategies. Your elective course options are practically identical to what you'd find in a standard master's program.

Online Options

The MBA and master's degree programs in procurement and contract management are available completely online. Due to the lack of hands-on experience requirements in MBA and master's programs in this field of study, you won't have to worry about missing out on anything, such as course topics or the level of your training, by choosing a distance-learning program.

Stand Out with This Degree

You may want to obtain a professional certification to get an edge over other procurement professionals who also have a graduate degree. The American Purchasing Society (APS) offers the Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM) and Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant (CPPC) designations. The CPPM credential is designed for professionals who have purchasing management experience and the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) designation, as well as pass an exam. The CPPC certification is available to CPP holders who have a business or related bachelor's degree and consulting or teaching experience in purchasing.

The National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) offers the Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) and Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO) designations, as well as online professional development courses and webinars. These designations can be obtained after passing the exams and are meant for professionals who work in federal, state or local government agencies.

Certificate in Procurement and Contract Management

Procurement and contract management certificate programs are typically short and focused. Most programs are intended for working students who wish to supplement their bachelor's or master's degree. Students without any procurement or contract experience may benefit from taking a course that introduces them to government, public and private contracting. Part-time students can usually complete the program in about 18 months, while full-time students could finish it sooner.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs are usually flexible and designed so students don't have to leave their job to obtain the certificate
  • Since few jobs in acquisitions and contracts management require a master's degree, you'll be qualified for many of the same positions as master's degree holders
  • Can be completed in less time than a master's program if the student chooses

Cons

  • Employers may prefer applicants who have a full degree rather than a certificate
  • You'll probably only be able to choose 1-2 elective courses, limiting the amount of specialized training you could get from the program
  • Programs are usually offered only online, limiting your on-campus learning options

Courses and Requirements

The certificate program is strictly based on coursework, which means you won't have any projects or experiential learning opportunities. The curriculum includes about 4-6 core courses, such as contract administration, procurement laws, cost analysis and contract planning. You'll then be able to choose elective courses, which may include:

  • Acquisition personnel
  • Construction contracts
  • Service contracting
  • Financial management
  • Program evaluation

Online Options

Procurement and contracts management certificate programs are usually found in online formats, and you'll probably have a difficult time finding an on-campus program. Since the program is focused on coursework, it is a great fit for a distance-learning format. The online format is also beneficial for working professionals, as they don't have to change their schedule to attend the classes.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Obtaining a professional certification can show employers that you're committed to your field, as well as illustrate your set of skills. The International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM) offers a variety of certification levels for procurement and contract managers, including the Certified Contract Management Practitioner, Certified Contract Management Expert and Certified Contract Management Associate designations. IACCM certifications can be upgraded after holding your current one for a year, while your current certification must be renewed every two years. Each credential requires a certain amount of work experience and the completion of the appropriate exam.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master : Business Admin
      • MBA: Project Management
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    2. Herzing University

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      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
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    3. Johns Hopkins University

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      • Master of Science in Government Analytics
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      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
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    5. Colorado State University Global

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      • MS - Management
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      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
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      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
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      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
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    8. Baker College Online

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      • General Business (MBA)
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    10. American InterContinental University

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master : Business Admin
  • MBA: Project Management
  • Master: Management/Project Mgmt

Which subject are you interested in?

Herzing University

  • MBA
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
  • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.

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Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Government Analytics

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • M.S. - Internet Marketing

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Management
  • MS - Organizational Leadership
  • Master of Project Management

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Master of Business Admin - General Business
  • MBA - Management
  • MBA - Financial Management

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Saint John's University

  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

What is your highest level of education?

Baker College Online

  • General Business (MBA)

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