Professionals wanting to serve the public as leaders may choose to pursue careers in the public administration field. Roles in this field often involve ensuring that government resources are used as efficiently as possible for the benefit of the people they are meant to serve. One such career deals with government contract management, a position that involves the negotiation and administration of contracts on behalf of government agencies. The role requires specialized knowledge as the laws and regulations that apply to government contract management differ from those that apply to commercial contract management.
Government contract managers require skills in strategic planning, organizational leadership, financial management, and negotiation. People interested in pursuing a career in government contract management should consider advanced education such as an online Master of Public Administration program, which helps individuals develop the skills considered fundamental for this career.
What Makes Government Contract Management Different?
In both the private and public sectors, contract managers oversee agreements to purchase goods and services. Government contract managers may serve federal, state, or local government agencies. The role of government contract managers differs from that of commercial contract managers in part because of the particular laws and regulations that apply to each area.
The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) governs federal government purchasing contracts, while private sector contracts typically must comply with the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), according to the Wisconsin Procurement Institute. Under FAR and other laws, the government can exercise rights that private-sector organizations do not have. A government agency can modify contracts more easily than a private-sector organization. However, government contracts are subject to audits differently than private-sector contracts. In addition, laws often dictate payment terms for government contracts typically negotiated in a contract between two businesses. But, government agencies can terminate contracts in ways that businesses cannot.
Besides, government contracts may be subject to labor standards and wage rates that do not apply to agreements in the private sector, including the Davis-Bacon Act. Government contract managers must possess knowledge of relevant laws, regulations, and executive orders that are enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Educational Steps to Government Contract Management
Aspiring government contract managers may have backgrounds in areas such as accounting, political science, management, or public administration. Graduate programs such as Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration with its Procurement and Government Contract Management concentration can give individuals an advantage when entering this field. The master’s degree is structured to deepen a student’s core competencies in leadership, analysis, project management, and communication. The Procurement and Government Contract Management concentration is particularly beneficial as Norwich University collaborates with the National Institute for Government Procurement to enhance the educational goals behind the overall curriculum. Core and concentration courses prepare students for federal, state, and local government contract management positions.
The Master of Public Administration program provides the following core courses:
- Foundations of Public Administration & Policy—Examines key elements of U.S. public administration, including governance and strategic planning, in the context of such factors as fiscal constraints and public needs. It addresses concepts of leadership and professional ethics and enables students to build competency in analysis, research, and writing.
- Public Administration Research & Analysis—Focuses on research models and how they apply to policy development and evaluation. The course addresses applicable statistical techniques. Topics include quality assurance and best-evidence management.
- Public Organization Resources and Processes—Introduces students to the legal, human resources, and organizational leadership aspects of public administration. Areas of focus include employment law, due process, hiring and managing staff members, and strategic leadership.
The Procurement and Government Contract Management concentration offers the following courses:
- Public Procurement and Contracting—Covers the ways that contracts are formed at all levels of government. Topics include planning, ethics, and the legal basis of the public procurement function.
- Government Contract Management—Details the contract management process from the request for proposal through contract negotiations, award, and management. Government contract management is discussed from the perspectives of both government and the private sector.
Common Responsibilities of a Government Contract Manager
While government contract managers can seek different positions in various government organizations, many of the jobs share common responsibilities. Contract managers prepare proposals and draft detailed contracts. They analyze bids, negotiate terms, and oversee both contract execution and funding.
The median annual salary for purchasing managers, including government contract managers, was $118,940 in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment of purchasing managers is expected to increase by 4% between 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS.
Prepare to Build a Career in Government Contract Management
Individuals looking to make a positive impact in public service may consider a role in government contract management. Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration program and its Procurement and Government Contract Management concentration can provide graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to effectively manage contracts. Learn more about how the Norwich program and its concentration can help you move into a career in government contract management.
Changing the Role of Contract Managers, Federal Times
Master of Public Administration, Norwich University
Contract Specialist Duties, Houston Chronicle
How is Selling to the Government Different From Selling to Commercial?, Wisconsin Procurement Institute
Government Contracts, U.S. Department of Labor
Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics