Ironclad Journal icon Updated for 2023

How to Become a Contract Manager

a contract manager working on a laptop

Contract managers have become increasingly common in many businesses, particularly those that need detailed-oriented individuals to manage an ever-increasing volume of contracts.

Responsible for administering and managing contracts, contract managers spearhead the process by which contracts are consolidated and created. They also work with the rest of the company to ensure contracts move quickly and smoothly from creation to negotiation to execution.

If you’re interested in learning how to become a contract manager, read on to discover what contract managers do, the attributes of a good contract manager, and the career path of a contract manager.

What is a contract manager?

A contract manager is responsible for administering and managing contracts, as well as overseeing the process by which contracts are consolidated, created, and executed.

What does a contract manager do?

The objective of a contract manager is to make sure that contracts move quickly from creation to execution. They are also responsible for ensuring compliance, preventing revenue leakage from disorganized contracts, and minimizing risk.

After the contract has been executed, the contract manager will then make sure it’s stored securely. The contract manager also needs to make sure that the contract is saved in a format that makes it easy for stakeholders to find it in the future.

Contract managers may also be responsible for the following:

  • Creating and reviewing automated templates that they and their team will use to create future contracts.
  • Analyzing data about the contract workflow and seeing which parts of the workflow may be slowing down the execution process.
  • Integrating the legal team’s digital contracting workflow with Salesforce, Workday, and other useful apps that boost productivity.
  • Managing vendor and subcontractor relationships
  • Helping the legal team with contract negotiation
  • Analyzing new and old contracts with stakeholders, business partners, suppliers, and customers to make sure that the content is legally sound and executable.

Do contract managers need to be attorneys?

No, contract managers don’t necessarily have to be attorneys or have law degrees.

In many companies, particularly sales-oriented ones, contract managers are basically revenue operators. Their goal is to make sure the sales team can create and execute contracts effectively and efficiently. This means that while they do need to know key legal terms, they don’t need to know case law or legal arguments.

However, some contract manager roles may require a law degree. Some companies need a contract manager who works with lawyers and other legal personnel on the legal side of contracts. The contract manager may also serve as a liaison between the legal department and the rest of the company. As such, they will also be responsible for interpreting legal clauses for non-legal team members who lack sufficient legal knowledge.

Attributes of a good contract manager

Good contract managers should be detail-oriented and tech-savvy since they have to deal with a huge number of contracts. They should also have a strong grasp of:

  • Business knowledge: To manage your organization’s contracts well, you need to know how your business works, what standard clauses your organization typically uses and for what purposes, and risk management as it relates to non-compliance
  • Negotiation skills: To get contracts executed as quickly and smoothly as possible, contract managers need to negotiate with stakeholders and internal and external parties to make reasonable changes to the contract and provide alternatives if needed.
  • Attention to detail: You should have an eye for detail to revise and edit contracts, since contracts can be notoriously long and wordy.
  • Communication skills: You need to have strong communication skills to negotiate and collaborate with others to execute and make changes to the contract as needed.
  • Understanding of risk management/compliance: Contract managers need to know how to determine risk and oversee contracts so that they conform with regulations and obligations as required.
  • Collaboration skills: As a contract manager, you need to work with many different types of individuals, both externally and internally, to create and revise contracts, since contracts often cover many different business areas.
  • Love for process and improvement: Finally, you should have a love for process and improvement because contract managers are always looking for ways to better automate their processes or streamline their methods.

Career path for contract manager

Career path for a contract manager

Here is the typical career path for a contract manager.

‌1. Earn a bachelor’s degree (mandatory).

All contract manager positions require candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree. There’s no degree specifically for contract management, but having a degree in business, pre-law, or human resources may be a good way of preparing for this career path.

‌2. Get relevant work experience.

After getting your bachelor’s degree, aspiring contract managers can get entry-level positions in contract administration or related positions to gain the experience needed to get into more senior contract management positions.

According to the National Contract Management Association (NCMA), entry-level contract management positions require a bachelor’s degree, as well as two to five years of working experience.

‌3. Go to law school (optional).

‌As previously mentioned, not all companies looking for a contract manager require candidates with law degrees. Some companies may consider a law degree mandatory, or some may just see it as a great asset to have, particularly if they want a contract manager to work closely with the legal team.

Having a law degree will show that you know the black-letter law well and can work on contract management projects that require a lot of writing and legal negotiation.

‌4. Become a certified contract manager (optional in most cases)

Certification is not mandatory, but you might want to look into becoming a certified contract manager if you want to move into certain contracts management positions.

The NCMA offers a variety of certifications, including the Certified Federal Contracts Manager (CFCM) and the Certified Commercial Contracts Manager (CCCM). Advanced contract managers may be eligible for the Certified Professional Contracts Manager (CPCM).

5. Network and community

While you don’t need to go to law school to become a contract manager, you do need to speak to the right people at the companies you want to work for to better understand what they’re looking for in a contract manager.

As such, you need to network with other contract managers and in-house counsel who work in contract management. This will help you learn how to improve your skills and get a better understanding of the trends and expectations in contract management.

By joining Ironclad’s community, you’ll be able to connect and build relationships with other in-house counsels and contract managers. You’ll also be able to talk to Ironclad experts and participate in virtual as well as in-person events.


6. Choose the right technology

Finally, you need to choose the right technology to succeed as a contract manager.

Consider requesting a demo of Ironclad, a digital contracting platform that helps companies execute smarter agreements faster. Easy-to-use, codeless, and flexible, Ironclad was built for in-house legal teams. It comes with powerful tools that you and your business can use to create, redline, and execute contracts, such as:

  • Built-in redlining and editing capabilities
  • A Word/DOCX native platform that also allows for real-time communication
  • Advanced search functions
  • Contract data reporting and analytics

Sign up for a demo today to see for yourself how Ironclad can reduce your contract processing by 80%.

Contract manager salary range

Contract manager salary range

You can expect to get paid quite well as a contract manager. According to, contract managers typically earn anywhere from $114K to $152K, with an average salary of $132K.

Salary ranges depend on factors such as your:

  • Geographic location
  • Experience in the field or a similar field
  • Education
  • Certifications

Additional benefits of becoming a contract manager

Choosing to be a contract manager can offer several benefits for individuals who enjoy working in this field. Here are some advantages of pursuing a career as a contract manager:

  • Diverse job opportunities. Contract managers are in demand across various industries, including IT, healthcare, construction, government, and more, providing diverse job opportunities and potential for career growth.
  • Relative job security. As contracts are an integral part of business operations, organizations continually require skilled contract managers to handle their contractual relationships, leading to greater job security.
  • Intellectual challenge. Contract management involves analyzing legal documents, negotiating terms, and ensuring compliance, providing intellectual challenges that keep the job interesting and engaging.
  • Skill development. Working as a contract manager hones various skills, including negotiation, communication, analytical thinking, problem-solving, and project management.
  • Influence on business outcomes. Effective contract management directly impacts an organization’s success by optimizing agreements, reducing risks, and improving performance, allowing contract managers to have a significant influence on business outcomes.
  • High earning potential. Skilled contract managers with experience and expertise can command competitive salaries and benefits due to their importance in safeguarding company interests.
  • Opportunity for advancement. With experience and a track record of successful contract management, professionals can advance to higher-level positions such as contract director or procurement manager.
  • Cross-industry mobility. Contract management skills are transferable across industries, allowing contract managers to transition into different sectors if desired.
  • Networking opportunities. Contract managers interact with various stakeholders, including legal professionals, vendors, clients, and internal teams, which provides ample networking opportunities.
  • Job satisfaction. Successfully managing contracts and contributing to the organization’s growth can lead to a sense of fulfillment and job satisfaction.
  • Flexibility. Depending on the organization and industry, contract managers may have the flexibility to work remotely or have flexible work hours.
  • Global reach. In an increasingly interconnected world, contract managers may have the opportunity to work with international clients and vendors, broadening their horizons.

Simply put, choosing to be a contract manager can be a rewarding career path for those who enjoy working with contracts, legal matters, and negotiations while playing a crucial role in ensuring the smooth functioning of organizations and protecting their interests.

Is it a stressful job?

As with any job, the level of stress in a contract management job can vary depending on multiple factors, including the specific industry, company culture, workload, and individual temperament. In general, contract management can involve significant responsibilities and pressure, which can lead to stress. Here are some factors that can contribute to the stress in contract management roles:

  • Complexity of contracts. Dealing with complex contracts, legal language, and compliance requirements can be demanding and stressful.
  • Deadlines. Contract managers often work with tight deadlines, especially when dealing with time-sensitive contracts or contract renewals.
  • Negotiations. Contract managers may need to negotiate terms and conditions with vendors, customers, or partners, which can be stressful, especially when trying to strike a mutually beneficial deal.
  • Risks and liabilities. Contract managers must ensure contracts protect the company’s interests, and any mistakes or oversights can have serious consequences, which adds to the stress.
  • Communication and coordination. Effective contract management requires excellent communication and coordination with various stakeholders, which can be challenging and stressful, especially in complex projects.
  • Contractual disputes. Resolving disputes arising from contracts can be time-consuming and stressful.

On the other hand, some contract management roles might be less stressful, especially in smaller organizations or industries with simpler contracts and less regulatory scrutiny.

Ultimately, whether a job in contract management is stressful or not also depends on how well-equipped the individual is to handle the pressures, how organized they are, and the level of support and resources provided by the company. Proper training, a supportive work environment, and effective tools for contract management can help reduce stress in this role.

Go forth and conquer

If you want to become a contract manager, you first need to get a bachelor’s degree. After that, you can either decide to get an entry-level position as a contract manager or go to law school. Some companies may prefer or even require contract managers to have law degrees, but it’s not a necessity for many contract manager positions.

Either way, once you begin working in the contract management industry, you should start networking with other contract managers. This will help you get a better idea of what you want to achieve in your career, learn the tricks of the trade, and maybe help you land another job in the future.

Ironclad is not a law firm, and this post does not constitute or contain legal advice. To evaluate the accuracy, sufficiency, or reliability of the ideas and guidance reflected here, or the applicability of these materials to your business, you should consult with a licensed attorney. Use of and access to any of the resources contained within Ironclad’s site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the user and Ironclad.

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