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The tech industry has thousands of different individualized career paths to choose from. These career paths fall into overarching categories, specifically technical vs. functional and contractor vs. consultant.

Technical vs. Functional

Technical career paths focus on the development side of things, whereas functional career paths focus largely on finalized products. Salary-wise, both paths net roughly the same amount. Each role has a salary cap, but there is always opportunity to improve your position and salary.

Typical technical paths are:

  • Production Support
  • Developer
  • Senior Developer (this is a common level to path swap)
  • Technical Project Manager (this is typically when you start having direct reports)
  • Solution Architect
  • Enterprise Architect

Typical functional paths are:

  • Technical Support
  • Business Analyst (this is a common level to path swap)
  • Business Manager (this is typically when you start having direct reports)
  • Delivery Manager
  • Subject Matter Expert / Center of Excellence

Contractor vs. Consultant

Once you choose the technical side, the functional side, or some combination of the two, you need to figure out where you stand on the contractor vs. consultant spectrum.

Contractors move from company to company throughout their careers and are expected to come in fully trained and ready to work. Companies will typically not invest in training contractors, so they need to seek further training on their own. They have few guaranteed resources or support at the company because they are expected to be self-sufficient.

Contractors are paid a higher hourly rate than consultants, which often translates to higher salary. However, contractors are not guaranteed steady work throughout the year, so they must be prepared to face dry spells in employment.

Consultants, in contrast, typically stay with the same company for years. They spend most of their time working on-site with company clients, sometimes for months at a time. They get full training in their company’s software, tools, and processes, and have full access to their company’s Center of Excellence and the resources for additional information or support that it provides.

Most consultants work for large consulting organizations like Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, IBM, and so forth. They have a guaranteed salary, but generally make less money overall than contractors.

Remember: Your Career Isn’t Either Or

When you make decisions about your career path, remember that you are not stuck in one category or the other. Plenty of technically focused individuals also do work on the functional side of things, and vice versa. Most consultants take some contract work on the side, and contractors will often find themselves working as consultants at some point in their careers. Ultimately, your decision should come down to what work you prefer most.

Whatever paths you choose to take with your career, you need a strong advocate on your side to help you find openings that will be a good fit for you. Our JDC Group recruiters are here to learn about your career path and help you to work towards your goals. Talk to a recruiter today.


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