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Contract specialists typically perform administrative duties such as reviewing contracts on clients’ or employers' behalf, negotiating and closing deals and ensuring that clients adhere to contractual obligations. Although most contract specialists work for business entities, government agencies and educational institutions, others find jobs in health care facilities where they administer contracts with health insurance providers. This career is especially suitable for people with a background in law or business administration.
Doing the Job
Excellent analytical skills are crucial to the effectiveness of contract specialists. They use these skills to evaluate the contracts an organization enters into and to determine whether they meet its interests. For example, when a business enters into a supply contract with a supplier, the specialist must determine whether the terms and conditions of the contract meet the company's operational needs. Negotiation skills are also useful to contract specialists, since they are often involved in price negotiation with suppliers and service providers. Contract specialists also require a great attention to detail to spot drafting errors in contracts before they are finalized and signed.
Business entities hire contract specialists to manage various contracting processes, such as the evaluation of bids and the awarding and termination of contracts. When a manufacturing company wants to enter into a contract with a supplier of raw materials, for example, the contract specialist plays a leading role in the selection and awarding of the contract to a suitable supplier. If the company decides to invite bidders, the specialist develops bid evaluation criteria and collaborates with procurement officials to evaluate the bids and select the winner. She may liaise with the supplier's representatives to draft the necessary documentation, such as trade agreements and supply contracts, detailing the agreed terms of contract execution.
Contract specialists working in government agencies help agency program managers to plan and acquire the goods and services the agency needs to achieve its goals. For example, when an agency wants to acquire a certain building for a given period of time, the contracting specialist is responsible for initiating contract talks with the property owner and leading the negotiations until the agency and the owner enter into a lease contract. These contract specialists also solve any disputes that might arise between agencies and contractors.
Health Care Settings
In health care settings, contract specialists evaluate contracts between health providers and third-party payers, such as Medicaid. When a hospital wants to enter into a contract with a third-party payer, these specialists negotiate reimbursement rates, prepare provider contract documentation and implement the contracts. They also ensure that these agreements adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Medicare, Medicaid and other federal and state regulations. These contract specialists also handle the facility's employment contracts with physicians and other health care practitioners.
Becoming the Contract Specialist
Although most contract specialists hold a bachelor’s degree in business administration, you can also enter the profession through a degree in law. If you wish to work for the federal government, you must complete the federal acquisition certification in a contracting program. Aspiring contract specialists looking to work in other fields can obtain the Certified Professional Contracts Manager or Certified Commercial Contracts Manager accreditation offered by the National Contract Management Association. In addition, hospitals may prefer applicants with previous handling of health care provider contracts. You can complete a master's degree in business administration to boost your chances of qualifying for senior administrative positions, such as head of partnerships.
Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.