Are you looking for a new job? We're now in an age of choice, with opportunities coming at you from each direction. Maybe a friend has a vacancy at their workplace. Or could it be that you're headhunted on LinkedIn? There's always the tried and tested route of actively seeking out roles yourself too. No matter which option proves fruitful, it's understandable you still have questions. And one of them is contract vs permanent vs temporary jobs – which one should you choose?

We know each type of job comes with its own benefits. The pros will depend on what's right for you. They can also vary from role to role. But there are some negatives too. And these will help you work out which is right for you – giving you the confidence to select one type over another.


contract vs permanent vs temporary work: what's the difference

The search for a new job is an exciting time – but it can be daunting too. After all, you want to make the right choice and find a role that's a great fit for your skills and personality. As part of your search, you might have a choice between contract, permanent and temporary work.

Even if you aren't sure of the route to go down, remember – you're in a strong position. 

In this guide, you'll get the information you need to make the ideal choice. We'll explain what a permanent contract is, how long a temporary job can be and the meaning of a contract job. An obvious starting point is the main difference between the types.

Contract and temporary can often be the same thing. Sometimes, though, different language is used to describe how long that employment will last. But they both differ from a permanent job in terms of your own work 'employment status' with the employer. 

If you're contracting, you'll be working for an organisation for a fixed period. You might be put on their payroll while you're 'in contract'. Otherwise, an agency like Randstad will sort it all out. If so, we pay you directly – and you'll be subject to National Insurance and income tax.

In a permanent position, however, you'll likely be on the payroll. This is because there is no end date to your role. So, it makes sense to be integrated into the company's processes.


what is a temporary job

The meaning of temporary work vacancies is as the name suggests. The job will be short-term and can include event or seasonal work. Of course, this can be a really good thing if you're not looking to tie yourself down – or are a student looking to earn money during the holidays.

how long is a temporary job

This is a question with no set answer. A temporary role could last for a few hours or as long as a few years with the same employer. One feature you can be sure of, however, is that you'll have an end date for your period of employment. 

benefits of a temporary job

  • Do you have other commitments and need to manage your schedule in your own way? The temporary working lifestyle can give you that flexibility.
  • You can find a better work-life balance because you tend to have more control over the hours you work.
  • Try different roles in different settings without having to commit to one. This could be a particularly useful benefit if you're unsure of which career path you want to go down. It can also help you build your experience.
  • Sample life at various organisations and meet a wide range of new people. By making a range of contacts in different jobs, you could open the door to your next job.


what is a permanent contract

A typical permanent contract is a full-time, salaried position. You'll sign a contract that sets out the terms and conditions of your job – such as your salary and working hours. It's normal for a contract to state that you'd be required to work a minimum of 36 hours weekly.

benefits of a permanent job

  • Financial stability with a steady income and the ability to budget more accurately. Some permanent positions also pay bonuses, which some temporary ones aren't entitled to.
  • It could provide greater job satisfaction. You can build long-term relationships with your colleagues, as well as see the progress and results of the work you put in.
  • A permanent contract can mean better access to company benefits – such as training or continuous professional development (CPD) opportunities. With this, there may be more opportunities to progress to a senior role.

The lines between permanent and temporary work are increasingly blurring. Now, it's possible to find roles that may have the benefits of both. One example is how employers are more aware of workers' desire to have flexible working conditions

Don't forget – you don't have to accept a permanent role if you're yet to find the right one. A temp job could be the perfect route for you to find that dream opportunity in the long term. Many of the temps we place go on to join the company as a permanent member of staff. 


what is a contract job

The meaning of a contract job can be confusing sometimes. After all, you'll sign a contract when you get a permanent position. So, what exactly is a 'contract' job. Well, contracting is when you're hired for a fixed amount of time (usually between three months and a year). In many cases, you'll be added to that company's payroll too. 

As a contractor, you're going to either be self-employed or an employee – working for a client yet employed by an agency. Contract positions mostly arise when companies are working on a specific project or are experiencing busy times.

Just because you're under contract with a client, you won't be seen as a permanent member of staff. So, the chances are you wouldn't be eligible for company benefits. But that's not to say there aren't other pros of taking up a contract position.

benefits of contracting

  • Pay can be up to three times higher than a permanent employee due to the flexible nature of the role. There can be tax benefits too.
  • Sample many employers, roles, teams and individuals – much like a temporary job.
  • Shape your future career by selecting assignments relevant to your intentions.
  • Plan commitments around your job. Once the contract comes to an end, it's usually simple enough to start another quickly.


salary – contract vs permanent vs temporary jobs

benefits and conditions

When it comes to how much you'll get paid, there can be some subtle differences between the various types of roles. So, here's an overview of what to expect:


A contract role can offer attractive daily rates. But in many ways, that greater earning potential is down to your flexibility. It can also come at the cost of your job security. 

Working as a contractor means you'll need to invest time and energy to gain a steady workflow, update your skills and build a reputation. 


Permanent jobs may offer less when it comes to your annual salary. But you will enjoy a range of benefits that aren't offered to contractors. Such benefits will include holiday and sick pay, as well as company cars and more. 

One other positive for permanent positions is job security. Hopefully you won't be looking for a new job every six months! Permanent roles provide more stability and allow you to think about your long-term goals outside of work – as well as professionally. 

salary expectations

Using the IT sector as an example, it's not unusual for a software developer to earn around £500 a day. In comparison, the same full-time position can pay up to £80,000 per year. 

Both are well paid – but there are other factors to consider apart from that headline figure.

A permanent employee could expect £80,000 annual salary including bonus, 20+ days holidays and allowing one-week sickness. Take home after tax = £4,517.97 a month.

For a contractor, you could get £500 per day and seven weeks off – or two weeks off between contracts, 20+ days holiday, and one week off sick. There are also £1,200 accountancy fees p.a. and a 5% pension. Take home after tax = £5,766.35 a month.