The age–old question for people pursuing an IT career is whether to work as a contractor or full-time employee. Advantages exist to both options, but the answer for each individual is only found through careful consideration, as each person weighs the pros and cons that can affect their future roles.
To build upon our previous look at contract vs. full-time employment, let’s take a deeper dive into areas to consider as you make the big decision.
The most significant aspect to consider in making the choice between working as a contractor of full-time employee is how it will impact career growth. Contract work requires someone who needs little to no further coaching, while a full-time employee often goes through more regular and formal professional development. Those who value continuous on the job training may be more suited for full-time permanent roles with organizations that can provide mentorship.
On the other hand, contracting work allows those in IT to see the inside of many tech companies, often picking up a variety of skills they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to otherwise. This can quickly bolster a resume and provide extensive networking opportunities. If one values getting varying experiences quickly, contracting will be attractive.
With the IT skills gap driving up salaries, it’s a great time to be working in IT. Comparing contracting pay with full-time pay, contracting work often pays more with individual IT contractors reporting over 60% higher wages over full-time similar roles. Adding to the already high salaries, organizations that contract out can afford to pay more in salary as they have less taxes than when they employ a full-time employee. For IT job-seekers valuing pay above all else, contract work may very well be their choice.
However, the topic of compensation is not so straightforward. Full-time employees enjoy valuable benefits that contractors typically do not. Employer contribution to healthcare plans, in some cases covering the entirety of a premium, is an attractive benefit that can make up for a lower salary. Likewise, full-time workers receive paid vacation and holidays, while contractors are paid for the days/times they are working. Companies offering excellent benefit packages to their permanent workforce are a popular reason to forgo contract work.
Job engagement in the U.S. is poor, with 68% of employees defining themselves as not engaged or actively disengaged. If IT workers feel indifferent or unhappy about their current employer, then it is no wonder they may prefer contract work that allows for a change of workplace more often. A bad experience that makes IT workers want to change jobs can happen to anyone, but the desire to work in new environments frequently is a lifestyle decision.
One group that enjoys a lifestyle of variety are Millennials, with 60% being open to a new opportunity and 21% having changed jobs within the last year. It’s clear this newer generation of workers enjoys change and values novel experiences, and IT contract work could speak to those preferences better than being full-time. As baby boomers continue to retire and the younger generations take up an even larger portion of the workforce, this trend in tech could continue.
Will contracting work be the norm in the future? The amount of non-permanent workers in the U.S. is higher than ever, with contingent workers making up over 40% of the entire workforce. With the rise of automation set to take over low-level menial tasks, IT talent will only become more specialized, and that could lead to more niche temporary jobs. Honing a niche skill could make a tech worker valuable to many employers willing to pay top dollar for a limited engagement.
The decision IT workers must make between contracting and full-time work is not an easy one, and will come down to individual career paths and opportunity. As long as marketable skills are continuously honed, either choice will lead to success. Whether they choose to be a contractor or full-time employee, staying fresh on the latest tech trends will keep one gainfully employed and paid for years to come.
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