Transitioning from Contract to Full Time

The most dramatic trend emerging from the results of our recently completed 2013 NDT Salary & Benefits survey is the surge in hiring for full-time positions. After several years in which cautious employers hedged their bets by doling out work to contractors, the steadily improving economy has given companies the confidence to once again start filling positions with full-time employees.

This presents two kinds of challenges for NDT contractors. One: How do you make a smooth transition from contractor to full-time employee? Two: How do you survive a dwindling pool of assignments if you wish to remain an independent contractor?

Right now the easier option may be to make the switch to full-time. The benefits of full-time are obvious, including a steady income stream, health care, vacation time, educational assistance, and the opportunity to work in a team environment. You know what to expect from day to day.

While it is far from a “seller’s market,” the growing need to fill NDT positions does provide ample opportunity for an experienced and certified NDT professional to seek out and find a full-time job in the industry or geographic area of choice. The key is to make sure you are able to demonstrate the skills and experience that employers are seeking.

The economy has not progressed to the point where companies are eager to hire entry-level inspectors who then have to be trained. Instead employers are looking for qualified NDT technicians with established credentials who can step in and start producing right away. Many companies are willing to pay higher compensation for a proven performer.

Where does this full-time hiring trend leave NDT and quality inspectors who prefer the “nomadic” life of contract work? A strong 68% of respondents to our survey who identified themselves as contractors are still “very confident” about finding assignments this year. Yet 25% reported they are “not totally confident,” with the rest being “very worried about finding assignments” (6%), or say “finding assignments is almost impossible” (1%).

NDT pros who have experience in contract work know that they have to always be looking for the next job while they are working on their current assignment. That rule applies even more strongly now that hiring managers are shifting back to bringing full-time workers on board. Keeping your name afloat as “available” is essential to lining up work and filling up your calendar.

Still, there are industries in which contractors are still in demand, particularly for outdoor inspection work that is affected by the weather, such as construction. Keeping certifications up to date and your name in circulation will help keep the dance card filled.

We are seeing these trends play out in real time on our PQNDT job boards ( A glance at available openings will show the growing demand for full-time workers. But we also have a number of contract opportunities available for workers with the right expertise and experience. Overall, the NDT industry continues to regain the strength and vitality lost during the protracted recession.

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