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Independence, job variability, earning potential, skills development. But is it worth it?

The upside of life as an IT contractor is alluring. You get to be your own boss, accept only the jobs you want, and work flexible hours. With each assignment comes the opportunity to learn new skills and gain exposure to different environments.

But there are obvious sacrifices – job security and paid vacations, for starters. As an IT contractor, you’re also often responsible for your own benefits (healthcare, retirement), paying taxes, and marketing yourself for the next gig.

Tech pros who successfully balance the pros and cons of contracting play an important role in the IT world. They provide manpower when workloads spike and can bring key expertise or niche skills to a team. In recent years, companies have increasingly relied on a contingent workforce to augment their full-time staff. According to new survey data from IT staffing and services firm TEKsystems, 26% of IT hiring managers expect to increase headcount for contingent workers in the second half of 2017 (another 46% report that headcount will remain the same for temporary workers, and 13% say it will decrease).

“The current environment for IT workers is one of opportunity, as unemployment remains low and demand continues to rise,” says Jason Hayman, market research manager at TEKsystems. Across every industry, it’s a job seeker’s market, Hayman says. “IT talent for the most part is in the driver’s seat, so tapping into contingent talent is a great way to fill gaps and find potential long-term talent solutions.”

On the jobs front, contingent workers make up a significant percentage of open positions. As of mid-2017, there are roughly 30,000 contract positions posted on IT careers site Dice.com, representing more than one-third of the total available tech jobs. The average contract rate for a tech professional in the U.S. is $69 per hour, according to the annual Dice Salary Survey. In Silicon Valley, that rate jumps to $78 on average.

“There’s been a real shift over time among employers to provide a more flexible environment to full-time workers, including the ability to work remotely, and alter schedules based on traffic in congested cities around Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C. and New York. Now, employers are becoming more flexible in the talent they hire too, relying more frequently on contractors to deploy necessary projects,” says Bob Melk, president of Dice.

Read full article here.

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