What Does Working Per Diem Mean?

Substitute teachers work on a per diem basis.
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If you want to be paid well for the work you do but you're not ready to commit to a full-time gig, working per diem could be perfect for you. "Per diem" is Latin for "for each day," and it means you agree to work a shift for a specified pay rate, with no long-term commitment.

Per Diem Positions

    Per diem work is available in occupations where shifts are predefined, and temporary shift workers may be needed on short notice. Education, health care, technology and energy organizations are among the industries that hire per diem workers to fill in for full-time employees or to help meet an urgent need for temporary workers. Per diem contractors receive a flat rate for a shift, whether the day's work was easy or hard. They usually earn more per shift than full-time employees earn.


    Probably the best thing about working per diem is the flexibility. If you want to work this week and take next week off, no problem. You let a scheduling service know which shifts you want, and those are the only times you have to work. Shift work can be more interesting than permanent full-time work, because you can work in a variety of different workplaces. Working per diem can be a fulfilling way to make extra money to save for a vacation, new car or special remodeling project.


    Lack of stability is a serious disadvantage of per diem work. Don't count on fringe benefits, because your shift pay is all you get. There's no such thing as a paid holiday or vacation day for a per diem worker. If you don't work, you don't get paid. You may be raking in the dough when work is plentiful, but you're competing with other per diem workers for available jobs. If the work dries up, you'll have to reconsider your decision to work per diem.

Working Per Diem

    Successful per diem workers combine the flexibility of a freelance schedule with a disciplined financial approach. Staffing agencies can help by providing a single point of contact for your scheduling and pay. A financial adviser can help you stay on top of your quarterly tax payments, track your deductible expenses, and set up insurance and retirement programs to take the place of employer-sponsored benefits that permanent, full-time workers receive. Setting up a support team can help you have a fulfilling career as a per diem worker.

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