What is an Engineering Contractor?

An engineering contractor is a self-employed individual who provides consultancy or specialised skills to clients on a project-by-project basis. They are usually contracted in for the services they can deliver for a defined period of time to work on a specific project.

They are responsible for their own tax and national insurance and are not required to accept or to be offered work.

What Qualifications Does an Engineering Contractor Need?

The qualifications you need as an engineering contractor will depend on the field you specialise in – a contractor whose expertise lie in civil engineering is likely to have different qualifications to that of an electrical engineer, for example.

If you’re wanting to become an engineering contractor, having A Levels in both maths and science is a good starting point. From here you should look to obtain a degree in a related engineering subject. You may also want to consider studying for a Masters of PhD, particularly if you’re aspiring to become a Chartered Engineer (CEng). Some contractors also join a professional body to help further support their career progression.

An alternative route to becoming an engineering contractor is to start with an apprenticeship. This path will enable you to not only earn while you learn, but also provide you with invaluable on the job experience.

Benefits of Working as an Engineering Contractor

You are Your Own Boss

As an engineering contractor, you are your own boss. So unlike permanent employees whose employers dictate holiday, you have the freedom and flexibility to take days off when you like and attend appointments during working hours without having to ask for permission first.

Earn More

An engineering contractor’s earnings will largely depend on the type of contracts they work on, but generally, they take home considerably more than an employee with the same experience and skill set in a similar permanent role. This is because they are paid more per hour than an equivalent employee and because their tax status enables them to take home more net pay.

Claim Expenses

There’s an opportunity as a contractor to claim back on expenses. This can include things like travel, lunch and work-related equipment.

Disadvantages of Working as an Engineering Contractor

Finding Contracts

It is up to you to find and secure work. There is no guaranteed stream of contracts, so you need to ensure you earn enough to make a living. You may be required to engage with recruitment agencies or even invest in sales and marketing.

If You Don’t Work You Don’t Earn

As you don’t have the safety net of an employer, you will only be paid when you work. So you won’t be paid if you are ill nor will you receive paid holidays.

Benefits of Working with Contractors

Less HR Admin

Contractors are responsible for themselves, meaning you don’t have to contribute to National Insurance. They also don’t benefit from sick pay or holiday, which means you avoid the accompanying HR admin.

Responsive to Urgent Demands

If, as an employer, you have a project that needs completing urgently, it can be of significant value to hire someone who is immediately ready to help. Unlike a new employee, they won’t require an induction nor training, and will be able to get started straight away.


If you hire a contractor for a particular project but quickly come to the conclusion that they don’t have the required skills to do the job, there’s more flexibility around issuing notice and terminating the relationship. It’s much easier to replace a contractor with someone more suitable than an employee.

Disadvantages of Working with Contractors

Lack of Loyalty

Unlike an employee, a contractor is unlikely to be completely loyal to your company and is most probably also working on other projects for other engineering firms. They may even be working for a competitor.

Less Control and Uncertainty

You have far less control over a contractor than you do an employee. They can refuse to accept additional work, they may request a higher rate of pay and can stop working for you, often with little notice.

Get Started with BMR Solutions

Here at BMR Solutions, we have over 30 years’ combined experience in recruitment for the engineering and manufacturing industries. We are experts in our field, working closely with our candidates and clients to find the ideal person for the right job role.

For an informal discussion on openings we have for engineers, please get in touch with our team today.

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