Your Guide to Engineering Contractor Rates

Your Guide to Engineering Contractor Rates

Your Guide to Engineering Contractor Rates

Engineering contractor rates, like engineer salaries, can vary significantly depending on the specific role. An engineering consultant working with NASA can charge hundreds of dollars an hour, while an entry-level software engineer might not even make that in a day.

Unlike the salary of full-time engineering positions, which is fairly uniform in its scope, engineering contractor rates can also vary depending on the specific type of contract being offered.

A contract-to-hire position, for example, might pay lower per hour than a 6-month contract with a definitive end-date, even if the work required is the same and the engineers are similarly skilled. This is because the latter example asks only for 6 months of the engineer’s time regardless of job performance, while the former provides a clear opportunity for future employment if all tasks are completed successfully.

In this regard, the contract position is more of a training wage.

The length of the contract can also make a huge difference in the engineer’s hourly rate. If you are paying an industry-leading specialist to come to talk to your team for a day or train them for a week, this will cost substantially more per hour than hiring a contract engineer for a 6-month or 1-year contract. Again, this is because the one-day or one-week position offers no stability or room for growth.

Whatever the case, engineering contractor rates are typically higher per hour than their salaried counterparts, as temporary workers usually don’t receive benefits, paid vacation, and other perks associated with full-time employment.

When looking at the big picture, contract engineers can be an efficient and cost-effective way to complete projects, but per-hour you pay for this convenience.

Of course, this comparison assumes that the two engineers are of equal or similar skill and are serving the same role within the company. A high-level aerodynamics engineer is going to earn more than an entry-level civil engineer regardless of the terms of his or her employment.

The cliff notes summary of engineering contractor rates is…it depends. When hiring a contract engineer you can expect to pay anywhere between [$20] to upwards of [$200] an hour depending on the complexity of the project and the terms of the contract.

Need help determining what to pay your contract engineers? Schedule a consultation with Expect Contract Engineering today.


  1. I have 25+ years of real-time systems and software engineering and projects management experience supporting major aerospace defense corporations as systems engineer (Level 5 & 6), Scientist/Engineer (Level 7) and Engineering Multi-skills Leader (Level L).

    Recently, I supported a major aerospace corporation as a 100% Remote W2 systems engineer (Level 5) at $108/hour with holiday and sick pay. The job shop company had a 51% mark-up rate.

    Current direct employees at the same aerospace defense corporations that I worked at level (Systems Engineer 5) working on a salary range of $212000 to $253,000 per year plus all big Corporation benefits (401k, Vac, SL, Holiday, Medical, etc.). This compensation translates in to $165/hour to $198/hour.

    I hope this helps!

    1. Thank you for this valuable information. I was a contract recruiter for United Launch Alliance here in Colorado, and I’ve also seen those kinds of salary ranges. Our markup is usually in the 40% to 45% range (depending on the length of contract), but our overhead is very low, so we pass the savings to our clients. Please connect with me on LinkedIn:

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