Most professionals don’t think twice about what type of employee they are. Traditionally, you’re either part-time or full-time. But a less popular third category is gaining momentum. Employers in all industries are hiring a mix of permanent and contract workers. In fact, an April survey of HR decision makers conducted by Field Nation and Workplace Trends found that 93 percent said they have a blended workforce in which freelance workers and full-time employees team up and complete projects together.

It’s a newer concept, but professionals are moving toward contract work, even in health IT. Among health IT professionals surveyed in our our 2016 Healthcare Information Technology Salary Report, 82 percent are traditional, permanent employees, while 17 percent work as contractors. What’s more, the report found that independent contractors typically earn more than permanent employees.

While the pay is great, contract work isn’t for everyone. There are pros and cons to being a permanent employee and an independent contractor, and the decision comes down to what’s most important to you and your career. Here’s a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks to help you determine which option is best for you:

Permanent work

Pros:  Permanent work is what most professionals are used to. It’s comfortable and provides a secure job and consistent work schedule. It’s your typical 9 to 5 job. Of course employers can offer some flexibility, but you’re working for the same employer on a continuous basis.

This consistent work and ongoing relationship with employers allows professionals the opportunity to become experts in one area. You can specialize your skills and grow along with the organization.

Permanent work also comes with employee benefits and perks such as health insurance, paid time off, retirement savings, and newer perks like wellness programs.

Cons: While permanent work is secure, it can also be stressful. After all, our  2016 Health IT Stress Report found that 38 percent of professionals rate their stress intensity as high or extremely high, while 45 percent said their stress occurs on a frequent or chronic basis.

As a permanent employee, work is more structured. You’re given assignments and projects to work on, have little control over deadlines, and may be required to work more stressful hours.

Contractor work

Pros: As our salary survey found, it pays to work as an independent contractor in health IT. Particularly project management, healthcare informatics, training, and interface jobs pay significantly better when professionals work by the hour over a fixed salary.

But money isn’t the only thing that makes contract work attractive. There’s also a lot more flexibility. Contract workers pick and choose which clients and projects they want to work on. They make their own schedules, and can decide to only take on as much work as they can handle.

What’s more, the nature of their work typically allows them to work from home more frequently than permanent employees, and that’s a huge plus for health IT professionals. Among those surveyed in our salary report, 15 percent said that having the option to work from home could convince them to switch jobs.

The freedom of contract work also allows professionals to work on a variety of projects and learn new skills. You aren’t limited to one type of work and can stay on top of new tech and trends. At the same time, you work with a variety of different people and organizations, which can help to improve your communication skills while growing your professional network. Working with different types of organizations and networking with a variety of clients can also help to accelerate your career growth.

When you’re hired by an employer to complete a specific project, results are the most important thing. So the hours you put in and office politics don’t matter. You’re primarily judged on the quality of your work.

Cons: While contract work allows more freedom in health IT, there are downsides as well. The biggest one being a lack of job security. You’re working on a project to project basis, and that means you won’t have a consistent salary. There’s always a chance that you won’t have steady work, and your pay can vary from month to month.

What’s more, you aren’t offered the same benefits and perks as permanent employees. Employers don’t have the same responsibility to their contract workers, and most don’t offer health insurance and other benefits to these professionals.

Contractors also have the added responsibility of deducting their taxes from their earnings. While taxes are automatically withheld for permanent employees, independent contractors have to do the leg-work to withhold and submit taxes.

Making the best choice

When deciding between contract work and a traditional full-time position, think about what’s the most important to you — security or flexibility.

Gaining experience as a full-time employee is a great option for professionals new to the field. After all, our salary report found that experience is one of the top factors affecting pay. So gaining experience as a full-time employee will make you more valuable if you do eventually decided to go down the contracting path.

On the other hand, contract work may be a great option if you already have experience in the field, are confident in your skills, and are looking for more control and flexibility in your career.

Both permanent and contract work are great options in health IT that offer high pay and growth opportunities. No matter which path you choose, know any work in health IT has the potential to impact the lives of patients and providers, and that’s what really matters.

Do you have experience with contract work? Share your stories in the comments below!

Is Contract Work The Best Choice for Your Career? by