Rope Access Work: Contract or Full time?

Looking for rope access work can at times be a challenging choice. Which job do you take? Which company has the most to offer? Do I want to go full time or be a contract employee?

In a recent phone call in which I was seeking information on Rope Access work, the first question I was asked was “Are you looking for full time or contract work”? My response was that I would prefer full time but I am open to contract work as well.

The reason for this is there are advantages to full time work that suit me right now, but contract work can be very lucrative.

Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Full Time Employment

If, like me, you’re married with children, full time employment has the most to offer. I’m enjoying a 401k, life and health insurance coverage for myself and my family, as paid holidays and vacation time. How could I refuse?

Well for starters, full time rope access work usually consists of permanent residency and regular 40 hour work weeks with a daily commute.

If I want more hours, it’s not likely to happen except for special projects. Most of which equate to a few hours a month. Some positions, in petrochemical plants for instance, have scheduled maintenance periods they call shut downs or turn-around. It’s usually the full time plant workers that are guaranteed a spot on the schedule. A turnaround schedule is most always 12 hours a day 7 days a week, around the clock and can be a saving grace for those living paycheck to paycheck the rest of the year.

Time Off

Some companies who provide other rope access work such as Wind Energy or Structural Maintenance can offer full time positions and travel opportunities but one drawback to this is that situations could arise that leave you with some unwanted time off.

Before my foray into permanent employment I was traveling to chemical plants. I was working away from home for long periods and time off to re-charge wasn’t always possible. If I wanted to work for the next month or two, I had to go forgo my time off to get the next job or miss out.

It can be pretty daunting for those of us who want to spend time away from work and with our families or to those who just need time to clear their head. All in all, it comes down to the type of person you are and the situation you’re in. This all holds true throughout your levels as a rope access worker.

Contract Employment

Contract rope access work can be a very lucrative for those that are young, adventurous, travel minded and enjoy their time off.

A contract employee will not generally get the benefits package a full time employee enjoys, but are earn a higher hourly wage than to compensate. Sometimes as much as twice the going rate for a full time equivalent.

This can help the problem of going without pay between jobs. But don’t expect any time off too soon. It’s likely that until you have made a name for yourself within a company or an industry, you’ll be asked to go on jobs without the option of declining them. Expect to work consistently for a year before declining work. Declining work could spell disaster for future work opportunities.


You could always look to another company although they may not have rope access work for you. It all depends on what skills you have and what they’re looking for.

You usually wont be included in a company training scheme if you’re a contract employee. It’s likely that if you are in need of training you’ll be paying for it yourself. The money comes out of that higher hourly wage you negotiated.

Nearly all the contract employees I know in rope access are outdoorsy, adventurous types who value time off more than making a buck. They use their abilities in climbing, rigging and mechanical inclination to do very well and afford themselves the time off to travel and adventure.

It’s possible to make a very good salary in this industry and have more time off than work but don’t expect it in the first couple of years. It requires a lot of dedication and ability to reach the upper echelons of pay that would afford that lifestyle.

The Payoff


It all comes down to what type of person you are and what your priorities are.

If you enjoy time off but don’t mind a year or so of building a reputation. Working with various employers, scheduling work and time off and the occasional situation beyond your control. Then contracting might work for you.

If you have family and want to spend your afternoons and weekends at home, a full time position may be for you.

We work in an exciting and growing field and job opportunities are on the rise. We’re lucky in that rope access can be as fun as it is and as financially rewarding.

How it pays off to you in both respects just depends on how you view the world. And in rope access, it’s usually from above.

Good luck!

Author: Trey Green – Guest contributor

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Comments (4)

  • Selfius hendra

    I am as rope access welder with 800 hours looking for job

    June 30, 2015 at 3:45 pm
  • rausa

    Keep checking our Jobs page Selfius, for the latest job postings!

    July 9, 2015 at 1:12 am
  • Adam

    I have been a L3 SPRAT for over a year and a L2 NDT tech for 6 years. i have been trying to find some detailed first hand information on how the “contracting yourself out” to a project works. Or even to a company who has a contract willing to reach out to self contractors. i have met people who have claimed they were contract before, but couldnt get any real solid info on how they go about it. I have been at refineries when major jobs came up and knowledgeable manpower was in short supply, but the existing companies just steadily brought in new hires. and neither the plant nor the company brought in self contract employees.
    I am aware that it does happen, but have no info on how it happens so i can at least get a heading and general idea. any help would be greatly appreciated.

    April 20, 2017 at 7:07 pm

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