On the week when we get a chance to focus on the work of our public servants, it’s only fitting that we should look at employment with the federal government. And when it comes to working for the DoD, what better way than to support the contracts with a job on the inside? The contract specialist plays a key role in the national security world.
What Does A Contract Specialist with the DoD Do?
While you don’t have to work directly for the federal government to be a contract specialist, it can be a great way to get contract experience that sets you up for future options. Contract specialists hold all the pieces together for the thousands of programs that are put out for proposals and bids, awarded, modified, and completed. It’s no surprise that to do the work of a contract specialist, you need to be assertive and detail-oriented, since the job requires tracking information from multiple parties.
Any contract specialist with eyes towards moving up the chain needs to have a strong knowledge of regulatory and legislative issues, as well as the ability to ensure that contractors are adhering to contractual obligations. Contract specialists with the government will need to draft contracts, sometimes negotiate pricing, and then cancel or modify contracts, evaluate bids, and maintain ongoing relationships with contractors.
At a minimum, expect to walk into the field with a bachelor’s degree, and the more contracting experience you have, the higher you can begin on the pay scale. It can take a long time to work your way up the federal pay scale, so bring any and all relevant work experience to the table in the hiring process. Large and mid-size defense contractors all have their own contracting staff, so if you find that federal employment isn’t your thing, there are many cleared contracting positions available that will allow you to continue to support the government in a different capacity. While you don’t have to work for the DoD to be a contract specialists, with contracts moving through the agency daily, it is an agency with higher contract needs.
Working for the DoD
According to USAJobs, the DoD is the nation’s largest employer, with 1.4 million active duty service members, 1.1 million National Guard and Reserve members, and over 718,000 civilian personnel. With a focus on deterring war and protecting the country, the DoD provides mission-focused work for civilians, military, and contractors. However, for transitioning military, the civilian DoD life can feel like coming home. While you can hit the ground running without prior military experience, it does take a little bit of time to understand the language of acronyms.
DoD Clearance Considerations
Depending on the position, a clearance isn’t always required. But most of the time, working with DoD contracts will require either a Secret or Top Secret clearance. And for positions supporting places like the the Missile Defense Agency, you’ll need a TS/SCI. Often, contracting positions can be located on site, so a contract specialist with the MDA requires access to buildings and work that has highly sensitive information. While many find that different clearance levels translate to more pay, most positions offer more compensation based on experience, job requirements, location, and certifications. The federal government will hold a little more tightly to paying based on education and experience, but if you get the itch to jump ship to the contractor world, you may find that Top Secret clearance in hand helps boost your annual salary.