Life in NDT After Retirement

There is a new pool of talent out there that employers in the NDT and quality inspection industry are tapping at an increasing rate – retirees.

We’ve seen this trend in action here at PQNDT, with an influx of retirees joining our contract division and then going to work as contractors, primarily for their former employers. We’ve been able to facilitate the transition from full-time work to contract consulting, assisting with the details and requirements that go along with self-employment. Here’s what we have found…

As the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age in increasing numbers, many experienced NDT professionals find that they want to continue to work after retirement. In some cases, they must work to supplement diminished retirement income. Others simply want to remain active and involved in the industry to which they have devoted so many years.

Whatever their reason, retirees have much to offer potential employers. According to the 2012 Transamerica Retirement Survey, “the majority of workers in their Fifties and Sixties plan to work after they retire, with 52% reporting that they plan to work part-time and about 9% reporting that they plan to work full-time. Fewer than one in five workers (19 percent) do not plan to work after they retire.” This represents a significant number of workers with valuable experience.

The most common way for a retiree to continue working in the NDT industry is by becoming a contractor. In many instances, the first contracting gig comes directly from the person’s former full-time employer. This allows the employer to retain the former employee’s knowledge, certifications and “institutional awareness” that had been built up over years of work, at a lower overall cost.

For the retiree, contracting work provides a chance to stay connected and active, while earning additional income. The income part is becoming increasing important, as pension plans are disappearing, retirement savings have been diminished, and out-of-pocket health care costs continue to rise.

However, there are cautions for both employer and the newly minted contractor. Employers must be careful not to treat a former employee as if he or she was still on the payroll. For one thing, the IRS and state tax authorities are ramping up scrutiny of the “employee vs. contractor” relationship in an effort to collect additional payroll taxes.

For the retiree, becoming a contractor requires more than just a willingness to continue to work. First, you need to determine how much time you are willing to devote to contracting work. Do you want to create a second career for yourself? Or simply pick up a few hours of work from time to time? Will you work only for your former employer?

Skills and experience in NDT can easily be transferred to other projects, opening up the possibility of expanding your contracting work with other companies. However, this may require you to travel to job sites, which is something not all “semi-retirees” are eager to do. If you do want to expand your horizons, you’ll need to put some effort into finding contracting work. Resources like PQNDT’s on-line job search can be very helpful, as can connections within the industry.

No matter how many hours you devote to contracting, you will need to become the manager of your new career. This includes activities like invoicing the company hiring you to do the work, filing a Schedule C with your tax returns, and paying quarterly estimated taxes to the IRS. Plan on spending some additional non-paid hours “taking care of business.” This is where the resources and guidance of a contract management company (like PQNDT) can be invaluable.

The overall picture for retirees continuing to contribute to the NDT and quality inspection industry as independent contractors is very positive. As the economy continues to recover and the labor market tightens, filling open positions with experienced, skilled older workers is an attractive alternative for both employers and retirees.

Michael Serabian is president of PQNDT, Inc., the NDT and Quality Inspection industry’s leading personnel recruitment and placement agency. For additional information, please contact him at (800) 736-3841, or visit our web site at