Are You Better Suited to Consulting or Permanent Tech Roles?
by Sean Mahabir
July 30, 2019
Run into any of your peers and the question is inevitable: Are you consulting, or are you perm? Few industries see such focus on that distinction, but tech isn’t like most industries.
Technology professionals like you enjoy an industry with a low unemployment rate and big talent shortage. This creates new and varied types of opportunities, especially in consulting. An increasing focus on IT projects in business has amplified the number of temporary gigs further. With so many options of where to take your career next, what’s truly best for you? Do you thrive in contract or permanent tech jobs?
If You Need Flexibility: Consulting
When studies show that 35% of tech pros are very burnt out, one of the biggest attractions of consulting is the unrivaled flexibility it can bring to your professional and personal life. Work-life balance is completely in your hands. You get to take as much time off between gigs as you desire, allowing you to go on the vacations you’ve always wanted to, spend time with family, or work on hobbies. Need to care for a sick relative? Don’t take a gig for a few months or find one that allows you to work from home for that time frame. Consulting roles give you that chance for a breather. They allow you to get in, go hard at your job, and then take a step back to recharge for a few weeks until your next gig.
If You Need Stability: Permanent
As an IT consultant, you may have gaps of time between gigs. That’s great if it’s on purpose, but may be a negative if it’s unplanned. Being a consultant means you have to work hard to line up your next gig. Your skills are in demand, so options are out there, but who will sift through all that noise to find the right opportunities for you? An excellent technical recruiter can help you there, but if you’re riding solo, the added responsibility of shaping your career growth and string of jobs is on you.
In theory, permanent jobs are as reliable as it gets. You know your paycheck is steady. The number of days off you have are clear and you can plan them out accordingly. Your schedule is consistent, and you’re able to get comfortable in a specific environment and build deep connections with coworkers. However, nothing is foolproof, and permanent IT jobs are not shielded from budget cuts or business closures. Companies have been known to let go of permanent talent in favor of consultants in order to better control costs, so it’s important to be realistic about your longevity in any role.
If You Want to Expand Your Skill Set: Consulting
By default, IT consultants see more and varied projects throughout a year than their permanent counterparts. This can work wonders for your skill set. Let’s say you desire to be a cloud expert. Taking on consulting gigs all geared toward a slightly different aspect of the cloud can provide you with a complete background in that niche. On the other hand, if you wanted to expand your skill set to include other in-demand IT niches, consulting allows you to delve into other adjacent areas like security or data and build expertise there.
Further, when you get to see inside so many companies, you end up getting your hands on many different tools and are less likely to get boxed in. In the above cloud example, a permanent role could mean you get very good with Amazon’s AWS cloud, which is great. However, consulting could mean that you gain exposure to even more, learning the ins and outs of Microsoft’s Azure as well. Just as it exposes you to more tools, consulting also exposes you to more people. That means that your resume gets stacked as you quickly add a large number of professional contacts to your network.
If You Want to Make the Most Money: It Depends
Sometimes the allure of consulting is that it can bring big bucks for a short period of time. However, taking long breaks between gigs or dealing with a complicated tax situation, especially if you’re on your own, can impact salary. Looking at data straight from Dice’s 2019 Tech Salary Report, permanent IT workers make $93,013 while IT contractors earn an average of $94,011. While that’s a minor difference, contractors who work with staffing firms make $98,079. This is because great IT staffing firms can efficiently drive your consulting career, providing guidance to make sure you’re earning what you want while working as often as you prefer.
Given how hot the IT industry is, permanent work is lucrative as well. At a time when companies are seeking consultants more often than before, those who decide they must have permanent talent are sometimes prepared to pay a premium for it. Some may offer enticing bonuses, insurance, or other perks. Maybe you found a company that will allow you to work from home 100% of the time – Even if that pay check is a little smaller than the one a consultant receives, that may be the best move if you desire remote work.
Contract vs. Permanent IT Jobs and You
As you consider your IT career trajectory and job search, reflect on your professional ambitions, personal life, and the factors that are most important to you. Allow these to steer you for the near future, but also understand that IT consulting is becoming more prevalent. Some of the most exciting jobs you see in the news are increasingly tied to shorter-term projects. While permanent work will always be there and is still great for many, consulting is where the future of IT exists.
To find your next rewarding tech job with the help of a technical recruiter and trusted staffing firm, search our open roles here.