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Contract Specialist

Education and Training: Bachelor’s degree
Average Salary: $89,000
Job Outlook: Fair

Contract specialists, also known as purchasing agents or buyers, specialize in finding the best cost for the highest-quality goods and services. Most of the time, they specialize in a particular area, and there are actually many contract specialists out there who focus solely on government contracts, deciding how tax dollars are best spent for the government.

This job involves lots of record keeping and reviewing, as contract specialists must look over sales and inventory records, find suppliers, and ensure that their companies are constantly getting the best prices on the best goods and services around. Some contract specialists work with wholesale and retail stores to buy things like clothes and electronics, and others specialize in farm related products and produce.

Government contract specialists get bids on services and products on the internet and help the government choose the best way to spend its money to get the most out of every dollar. These specialists often work with the buying project from beginning to end, seeking out bids, making a contract with the chosen supplier, and ensuring that the supplier lives up to the contract by reviewing the goods or services when they’re provided.

Education and Training Requirements

Normally, contract specialists need at least a bachelor’s degree, but this isn’t always the case. Some smaller companies will hire junior purchasing clerks or buyers who have experience in the business world but no degree. Manufacturing firms often prefer their contract specialists to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in applied science, business, economics, or engineering, and most higher level management purchasing positions require at least a master’s degree.

Even with a great education, contract specialists should expect some on-the-job training, and some companies have training programs that last a full five years. Purchasers can benefit from extra certification, such as the Certified Purchasing Manager or the Certified Purchasing Professional programs.

Getting the Job

Contract specialists can often apply with smaller companies or in the bottom levels of larger companies right out of college with a business or applied science degree. They will often take years to go through training and work their way up the ranks.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Contract specialist jobs for the government are expected to grow at a faster than average rate. The rate of growth for these jobs depends largely on the industry in which one is looking for jobs and on the health of that industry. Contract specialist jobs may fluctuate with the economy, since businesses that are not doing well do not need to buy as many supplies.

Once in a contract specialist position, continuing education can take the contract specialist to higher levels of management. Often times, there are several ranks of contract specialists in an organization, and a specialist can go through these ranks and eventually move into higher-level management positions. Since so much time is spent training contract specialists, promotions are often done from within, and advancement opportunities will depend on the type and size of company one works for.

Working Conditions and Environment

Typically, purchasing manager and contract specialists work a forty hour week in an office setting. When production deadlines, conferences, or special sales occur, they may put in extra work. Those who work in retail often put in extra hours around busy seasons, including the holidays and back-to-school.

Salary and Benefits

The average salary for management level contract specialists is about $89,000. Lower level purchasing agents can expect salaries closer to the $50,000 range, and higher level management for larger companies can earn over $142,000 per year.

These full time jobs typically come with health and vacation benefits. In retail, however, contract specialists may be unable to take vacation during peak times. Often, cash bonuses based on performance are given to contract specialists.

Where to Go for More Information
For more information on instructional coordinator positions and training, check out these resources:

American Purchasing Society
PO Box 256
Aurora, IL 60506
(630) 859-0250

Institute for Supply Management
PO Box 22160
Tempe, AZ 85285-2160
(800) 888-6276

National Institute for Governmental Purchasing
151 Spring St.
Hendon, VA 20170-5223
(703) 736-8900

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesBusiness