Share Article

Why Are So Many People Leaving Engineering Jobs to become Independent Contractors?

Summing Up the Benefits of Contracting in Engineering

Many people in engineering jobs either have or are considering moving from permanent contracts to life as independent contractors. Why is this?

Independent contractors are well paid. However, in exchange for higher income you’ll forego many of the benefits associated with permanent employment. Higher earnings are only part of the equation.

Whatever your professional expertise and job role – process engineer, manufacturing engineer, automation engineer, etc. – you may be considering switching status to independent contractor. Here are the main reasons why so many have made this choice already.

Higher Earnings Potential for Independent Contractors

Independent contractors often earn at higher rates than permanent employees. You get paid for your contract for service, rather than your contract of service.

There aren’t many engineering jobs in which you could earn upwards of €120,000 in Ireland. As an independent contractor – depending on your experience, expertise, and the company you contract to – you could be earning €500 to €700 per day. Perhaps more. If you work 226 days per year, your earnings could top €150,000, and then some.

The flip side to these higher earnings is that you forego in-work benefits such as:

  • Health insurance
  • Pensions
  • Holiday pay
  • Sick pay

On the other hand, you get to decide which of these benefits you pay for – and the provider you use for them.


As an independent contractor, you are your own boss. You decide which contracts you accept, and who you work for. You have a better control over the time you take away from work, and can move between companies more easily.

How easy is it to find a new contract engineering jobs, with more engineers becoming independent contractors?

We asked Jennifer Doyle in Contracting PLUS about the type of people taking up Contract roles at the minute, and approximately 70% of new queries received by her team are from those new to Contracting.

The demand is certainly there – increasingly, companies are staffing by hiring contractors to reduce costs, improve their own flexibility, manage their headcount and increase the expertise within their businesses.

Beneficial Tax Arrangements

Typically, you will set up as a contractor either through your own limited company or by contracting through an umbrella company.

While all individuals’ situations are different, there are tax benefits associated with both structures. For example:

  • As a limited company you have greater control over how much you pay yourself, and your company could help to fund your pension. You can also claim expenses to reduce your profits.
  • As a self-employed contractor, you can benefit from earned income tax credit, which is worth €1,650 per year. It’s gone up in line with the employee (PAYE) credit. The Earned Income is available for those in Umbrella Director and Personal Company Contractors. There are also some great additional benefit you can include like the option to buy an electric car through your own Company and cover the associated costs.

If you are considering becoming an independent contractor, you should take time to sit with someone who can explain all the tax benefits of the different ways you can be independent. We’ve found Contracting PLUS to be an excellent advisor in this space. They offer free consultation calls with their expert team, without obligation.

Say Goodbye to Work Drama

Similar characters exist in every working environment. They very often clash, creating differences in opinions both personally and professionally.

A study by DDI found that a huge 57% of employees leave engineering jobs because of their boss. When you work independently, you can step away from all of that. You no longer need to worry about your toxic boss or the environment. You can concentrate on how you perform in your engineering role, and (mostly) surround yourself with the people you choose.

A Better Work/Life Balance

You are your own boss. This means you have more control over your own schedule. Of course, while in contract you must work your agreed days and hours, but this still provides a lot of leeway to design your professional life around your personal life – and not vice versa as permanent employees must.

This means you can manage your time better to fit in things like:

  • School runs
  • Sports interests and hobbies
  • Voluntary work
  • Special occasions and events
  • Appointments
  • Caring and supporting family members or friends

While you’ll still have to budget for the time off both financially and with your business’s best interests, you have better flexibility to set these at the start of your contract.

A Healthier, Happier You

Being employed can often make you feel like you’re on a never-ending treadmill. A rat race. A hamster wheel. Rigid, scheduled repetitiveness.

As a contractor you have far better freedom of time. Your improved work/life balance will help you to do more of what you enjoy most. Consequently, you return to work rejuvenated, replenished with the good things in life, and motivated to push harder professionally. When you’re happier at work, you’re 10 times less likely to ‘call in sick’.

A More Complete Professional Career

As an independent contractor, you will also benefit from variety of work and by working with a greater variety of client companies. You’ll have greater choice of which roles you take on, and you can aim for contracts that will improve your experience and knowledge.

Career development is important to most. How important?

According to a LinkedIn report, 73% of employees who left their jobs said they would have stayed with their employer had there have been more opportunities for career development. Engineers are no different. You want to learn more. You want to develop. You want to progress your career.

As an independent contractor, you are in control of your self-development. If you want to enhance your skills in a specific area, you can do so, accommodating it within your own schedule and within the contracts you accept.

There’s an added benefit to skills enhancement. By maintaining your skills and knowledge as a subject matter expert, you’ll enhance your value to clients and improve your options and career development potential. As the demand for your services increases because of your expertise, the rates of pay that you can command will increase.

An example of this is the development of the European Medical Device Regulation (MDR). Compliance with these regulations is mandatory for medical device companies. Your engineering expertise accompanied by in-depth knowledge of MDR could make you a highly-valued member of the team, for example, in developing or evolving quality management systems that maintains effectiveness throughout a device’s entire lifecyle.

Summing Up

The benefits of life as an independent contractor are many. With more companies hiring contractors because of the many benefits to them, your contract opportunities and earnings potential as an independent contractor are likely to be on an upward curve.

Chris, who was a manufacturing engineer with a large medical device company, is very happy about his move into being an Independent Contractor. “I have two small kids,” Chris tells us, “and the lucrative income has supported my family so my partner doesn’t have to work”.

Are you considering making the switch from your mundane, repetitive engineering job? Are you curious as to how much your experience and expertise could be worth as an independent contractor? Then get in touch with HERO Recruitment today.

Similar Content

Happy Irish National Employee Wellbeing Day!

Happy Irish National Employee Wellbeing Day! Are you tired of feeling like work is taking over your…

Read More

HERO 4-Day-Work-Week

HERO’s 4-Day-Work-Week Culture At HERO, we know your colleagues can help improve your mood and self-esteem. Friendships…

Read More

Episode 4: Katie Devin, Product Manager, Needles and SMC Medical at TE Connectivity

 Episode Summary We’re excited to bring you the next episode of the High-Flyers in STEM podcast,…

Read More