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Six High-Paying Contract Jobs

Six High-Paying Contract Jobs

The bad news: In this sluggish economy many companies are still reluctant to hire full-time employees (FTEs). The good news: Many of those same companies are actively recruiting independent contractors. And while contract jobs are temporary, an independent contractor is often first in line when a full-time position opens up.   

The best news, at least if benefits aren’t important to you: Many contract jobs pay better -- some more than 20 percent better -- than full-time jobs. Online salary database PayScale crunched some numbers and found six jobs where the freelance rate is significantly higher than the full-time salary.

Registered Nurse

Median annual FTE pay: $54,800
Median annual contractor income: $67,100
Increase over full-time pay: +22.4 percent
Typical degree: Associate's degree in nursing

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) projects 711,900 new nursing jobs will be added between 2010 and 2020, the highest numerical increase of all occupations. That puts potential employees -- and contractors -- in a strong position to bargain salary or hourly pay.

Find nurse jobs.

Database Administrator

Median annual FTE pay: $64,100
Median annual contractor income: $77,300
Increase over full-time pay: +20.6 percent
Typical degree: Bachelor's in computer science

Database administrator jobs can be found in government, banking, data processing, healthcare and especially the computer industry. An MBA is an advantage in landing the highest-paying contract jobs.

Find database administrator jobs.

Physical Therapist

Median annual FTE salary: $68,000
Median annual contractor income: $80,700
Increase over full-time pay: +18.7 percent
Typical degree: Master’s in physical therapy

Like many healthcare professionals, physical therapists are expected to be in high demand through 2020, according to the BLS. The growing number of elderly adults needing physical therapy will drive much of that increase.

Find physical therapist jobs.

Systems Administrator

Median annual FTE salary: $51,000
Median annual contractor income: $58,300
Increase over full-time pay: +14.3 percent
Typical degree: Bachelor's in computer science

According to the BLS, system administrator jobs are forecasted to grow 28 percent between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average compared with other occupations.

Find systems administrator jobs.

Web Developer

Median annual FTE salary: $52,600
Median annual contractor income: $59,700
Increase over full-time pay: 13.5 percent
Typical degree: Bachelor’s in computer science

Although competition for these jobs has increased, demand is strong. The BLS classifies Web developers with network systems and data communications analysts, which it listed as one of the 30 fastest-growing occupations through 2018.

Find Web developer jobs.

Heavy Equipment Operator

Median annual FTE salary: $37,100
Median annual contractor income: $40,900
Increase over full-time pay: +10.2 percent
Typical degree: High school, vocational school

Unlike the other jobs here, only a small percentage of heavy equipment operators are self-employed, according to the BLS. Jobs can be found in highway, bridge and railroad construction, as well as civil engineering and local government projects.

Find heavy equipment operator jobs.

Before you start searching for high-paying contractor jobs, remember that as a contractor, you’ll be paying self-employment taxes. On the other hand, you’ll be able to write off business-related expenses, so be sure to save every receipt.

All salary information is from PayScale. The median annual pay is based on an average 50-week work year for workers with five years of experience. Job projections are from the BLS and the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

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