The Average Contract Engineer Per Diem

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

A contract engineer is a professional who provides engineering services to an organization on a contractual basis. Per diem refers to a daily or hourly pay rate, rather than a yearly salary, when engineering services are provided. This term is commonly used in health-care industries such as hospitals, similar to PRN (pro re nata).

Per Diem Calculations

Per diem rates vary greatly by employer, the contract engineer’s discipline and type of work performed. Per diem rates are negotiated or administered by the employer and are often higher than an average hourly wage or yearly salary. Per diem pay does not include benefits compensation or overtime, and is typically at least 20 percent higher than the average annual salary. Most contract engineers are stationary engineers or referred to as maintenance engineers.


Most states require a license to practice professionally as a stationary engineer. Requirements vary by state and locality, but most states require passing an exam administered by the Department of Housing. Many stationary engineers obtain the skills to pass the licensing exam through apprenticeships and vocational training. For per diem jobs, the employer often requires one or several current licenses or certifications.

Average Per Diem

Most employers pay higher rates for contract engineers because the work is temporary and on an “as needed” basis, unlike a full-time engineer. Most employers calculate per diem rates 20 percent higher than the average hourly wage or yearly salary. The average salary is $25.30 per hour or $52,620 per year, for a full-time stationary engineer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2010. Calculating compensation for engineers on a contractual per diem basis, the average salary is approximately $30 per hour or $240 per day.

Job Types

Employers who hire per diem engineers often work with the engineers directly and pay the engineers like other full-time employees based on the hours worked on a weekly basis. Because a contract per diem engineer is a temporary employee, some employers hire consulting agencies, who charge a fee over the per diem engineer’s hourly or daily wage. Most employers related to health care hire contract engineers directly, which allows for higher per diem rates.