Engineering Contract Work: A Fast-Track to Cooler Projects

Man with headphones on computer coding

Driverless cars. 3D printing. Smart grids.

Every generation believes that it faces change at a greater rate and in more fundamental ways than ever before. In 2019, there’s plenty to support that argument.

Engineering is a major driver behind these developments, many of which were unimaginable just a few years ago. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting nearly 140,000 new jobs in the sector between 2016 and 2026, it’s a great time to be an engineer.

Projected Growth for Engineering Jobs


Job Title

% Growth, 2016-26

Civil engineers


Industrial engineers


Mechanical engineers


Electrical engineers


Environmental engineers




Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Qualified engineers are in high demand, and with that demand comes control. You’re in the driver’s seat.

That said, now’s a great time to reevaluate your career goals. Are you getting all that you want from your current job? Your increased mobility opens the door to salary bumps, advancement opportunities and the chance to work with new and emerging technology.

How can engineers take full advantage of today’s hot market and position themselves to be part of the cutting edge in their field? We spoke with Strategic Delivery Executive Bethany Jordan to find out.

Contract work is the path to cool projects and happiness
Consider contracting.

“The engineers we work with want the next, newest and greatest technology, for sure,” says Jordan. “We see more of a focus on job happiness because they’re able to get more out of the work.” Many of the engineers we work with develop new work experience by taking on new and challenging contracts.

“The option to take on a short contract in a new industry is alluring, especially knowing that there’s a safety net in knowing that we’ll work with you to provide continuous employment,” added Jordan. It doesn’t hurt to mention that the typical hourly rate for contract work is much higher in comparison to a salaried position. Some recruiting agencies — like Aerotek — include benefits, making contract work even more attractive.

There’s also the lure of the open road.

“We see a lot of contractors who want to travel, who have no problem moving to San Jose for one contract, then to Seattle, and then Austin,” says Jordan. “They want to go to the big tech hubs where new tech is being developed.”

Reinvigorate your career
If you’ve felt like your career has stalled, or you’re plain bored with what you’re doing — it’s time to make a change. Contract work offers you the chance to try out a new technology you haven't worked on — and may never work on in your current position. You can take a six-month stint and find out if it’s something you want to invest in long term, or go back to what you were doing previously.

And if you’re winding down your career — or retired with a pension — contract work offers an opportunity to supplement your income and stay engaged in your profession. How about you get paid for some of that job knowledge?

Jordan explains: “With the more seasoned engineer, they want to be valued and appreciated as an engineer. We make sure we're finding them a good fit in terms of the companies were placing them with, that the work's exciting and they're actually valued wherever we're putting them.”

The takeaway: It doesn’t matter where you are in your career, contract work can be a valuable — and popular — option, for both employees and hiring managers.

Be intentional, curious and consistent
Given the wealth of opportunity that exists for engineers, and with a wide range of contract work out there, where do you start?

Start with understanding yourself. Have a plan, stay curious and work with a recruiter who understands your goals. Whether you’ve plotted your career through retirement, or simply want out at your current job, there’s a contract for every situation. Who knows, you might just find something truly satisfying, and we often see contract positions for the right engineers lead to long-term assignments.

Jordan advises, “Be curious. Go out on that limb and take an extra risk. It may pay off huge —you might really love it. It also might be financially gratifying as well.”

Next steps
You have a plan. You’ve identified the projects you want to work on. What’s next?

Start looking! And remember that a strong partner will be able to match your aspirations with the most current openings.

“When we have a candidate, our job is to get you to as many opportunities as possible and to make sure we're putting you in front of the best positions,” says Jordan. “We want to make sure we're working with the best candidate and putting them first.”

That’s the best you can ask for from your next position: being put first.