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Contracting versus permanent: Career development as a project manager

Andrew Wayland
March 6, 2014

While contractors get paid more and permanently employed project managers have better job security, which of the two has more control over their professional development?

The plain and simple truth is that, as a contractor, your company is unlikely to invest in your development. You probably won’t get put on training courses or stretch projects that focus on skill development. Rather, you’ll go where they need you to go to get work done in the company’s priority areas.

So, as a contractor, you need to be proactive in managing your professional development. For example, working for a few different companies across different industries can be a great way to broaden your experience, as opposed to depending on your employer to give you different roles. In fact, as a contractor, I find this to be one of the great advantages of contracting—you have the flexibility to really develop in a range of roles.

However, being a contractor can mean that it is hard to move up the career ladder by staying in the same company, as employers are less likely to take a chance and invest in your upwards development.

You’ll often see organisations promote permanent staff over contractors because they expect their permanent staff to be developing while they expect their contractors to be expert. This is partly what they pay for in a contractor’s higher daily rate. So while permanent employees often face opportunities for advancement in the same organisation, contractors often have to look outside for the next step-up opportunity.

Winner: Permanent if you want a company to invest in your development. Contractor if you love working in different situations and developing accordingly.

The contracting versus permanent series looks at the various factors that may encourage a project manager into a permanent or contract role according to:

  1. Income
  2. Job security
  3. Employment management
  4. Career development
  5. Delivery pressure
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Andrew Wayland
Andrew Wayland runs Online Course Academy an Australian provider of online project management training. He has a decade of experience in projects and has worked in banking, utilities, government and logistics.
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