In the engineering industry, there are growing opportunities for lucrative contract work where engineers can work on specific projects for a specific period. This means that while contractors can build both their network and their experience, they have the flexibility to work for more than one organisation. If you manage a business that involves engineering staff, hiring a contractor allows you to access specialised skills and cost-effectiveness.
Whether you are an existing contract engineer, a full-time engineer looking to transition, or a recent graduate considering this path, this article will highlight some of the key considerations in the engineering contracting sector.
What is an engineering contractor?
An engineering contractor provides specialised expertise on a project-based schedule. They may be brought on to deal with problems that require a more specialised set of skills or could be asked to adapt their involvement into a leadership role. In either scenario, contractors often work closely with clients and internal teams to build valuable relationships.
Where to start your journey in engineering contract work
Firstly, it’s extremely likely that you’ll have previously obtained a relevant engineering degree. You can begin to develop a specialisation to capitalise on as a contractor and build a portfolio to showcase your work. It is also worth remembering to build your network of potential clients early, building your online profile so you can successfully market yourself. You can do this independently or through contracting platforms, freelance websites, or recruitment agencies to showcase your service. This is true for newly qualified engineers and for former full-time workers moving into contract work.
What are some typical contractor roles to look for in engineering?
Engineering can sound like a broad term and spans across a number of industries. More specifically, roles suitable for contract work include:
- Mechanical engineers who design and develop systems and components
- Software engineers who create solutions for engineering applications
- Production engineers who optimise production processes
- Project managers who oversee plans, budgets, and timelines
- Structural engineers who handle significant physical infrastructure
- Gas engineers who install and repair gas-related systems.
Certificates & qualifications valuable to an engineering career
There are several relevant accreditations that add legitimacy in the eyes of clients. The Engineering Council oversees professional registration for UK engineers. Qualifications include Chartered Engineer (CEng), Incorporated Engineer (IEng), and Engineering Technician (EngTech), demonstrating competence in the industry. There are also health and safety certifications like the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety and CITB Site Safety Plus Certificates as well as qualifications specific to different engineering sectors.
What are the main challenges of being an engineering contractor?
Unlike full-time work where you are reliant on being given specific tasks by a permanent employer, contractors must constantly network and market themselves for work. This means dealing with the possibility of inconsistent income and a lack of job security.
You’ll be responsible for managing tax obligations, such as registering for self-assessment with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and understanding liabilities, allowable expenses, and deadlines. In terms of expenses, it’s important to maintain professional liability insurance, business insurance, and other coverage.
What are the main benefits?
Despite this, there are also important perks to working in contract engineering roles. You have the flexibility to work on a range of diverse projects. Also, due to your specialised skill set and entrepreneurial business model, you can negotiate a higher rate of pay with certain tax reductions for business-related expenses.
How long do engineering contracts last?
The length of an engineering contract varies widely depending on the scale of the task. Task-oriented contracts range between short-term, lasting a few weeks to a few months, medium-term, lasting a few months to a year, and long-term, lasting over a year. Conversely, fixed-term contracts have a predetermined end date.
When considering a career as an engineering contractor, it is important to go in with a clear idea of what the various requirements are. However, if you believe that you are up to the challenge, contracting can be a lucrative and rewarding business path for any self-motivated and talented engineer.