Are you considering a job as a government employee or a contractor position? You may be surprised to learn that clearance checks can take between 6 months and a year depending on the level of security clearance. 

So the first thing you should be prepared for is a wait. This will give you plenty of time to consider your options as an employee or a contractor.

What are the questions you should be asking to help you make the right decision? Is money the bottom line or are there other important considerations? Get the answers you are looking for in this article.

Show Me the Money

These are not only the words of Jerry Maguire but represent everyone’s basic concern when it comes to employment choices.

So what kind of salary can you expect as a software engineer in a government employee position or in a contractor position? As a general rule, you will see that contractors are paid more when you compare the hourly rates. Check out this salary guide for new graduates.

That said, the exact salary you can expect in a government position will depend on your qualifications, starting position and also the city you are employed. Salaries can be adjusted, to a great extent, depending on the cost of living in your city. A salary between $96K and $171K is a good indication of what you will earn as a government IT manager. 

What Type of Contractor Position?

It is reasonable to expect a higher salary as a contractor when compared with an employed position. This is for all sorts of reasons. One key reason is that in a contractor position you will have to care for many financial obligations that are ordinarily managed by an employee.

Taxation, healthcare, and work associated expenses may all need to be managed by you. In addition, there will be a proportion of your time that is not directly invoiced to the contracting organization. All of this means, your hourly rate will need to be higher to meet these expenses.

With these thoughts in mind, it is helpful to ask yourself what type of contractor you are prepared to be. For example, you could choose to be an agency worker whereby you are hired by the agency and outsourced to government departments.

If you choose a working relationship like this, know that the hourly rate you receive could be a lot less than the agency is billing for. Other options could be as an independent contractor or freelancer.

Ultimately as a freelancer, you are operating as your own business and this gives you the most flexibility and freedom to command the hourly rate you want. Of course, it comes with the most pressure and responsibility. So think carefully about what you really want from your working life before you set off down a particular path.

Things to Think About

Here are some other questions you should ask yourself to help clarify what you really want:

  • Are work flexibility and work-life balance the most important factor?
  • What are my long term plans?
  • Do I want to be part of a team long term and develop a shared goal with others?
  • What do I want on my CV for future opportunities?
  • How much do I care about promotion and upward mobility?

Your Choice

In this article, you have considered some factors that may lead you to choose employment as a salaried government worker or in a contractor position.

It is clear that everyone is different and it is not simply a question of money. The most important thing is to fully evaluate what you want from your working life first and then go from there.

Either way, you will still need to land the job. Check out this article on how to find the best software engineering jobs.


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