Many jobs include a travel requirement, which is often listed in the job description as one of the following percentages: 10%, 25%, 50%, and 75%. If you haven’t done much traveling for work, it can be difficult to know what you are comfortable with and what to expect from a job with a large travel requirement. Unlike a job that does not require travel, a job with a large travel component will greatly affect others in your life, such as a spouse or significant other, children, friends, and pets. You should weigh the pros and cons with those whose input is valuable to you, and then make the decision that works for your lives.
I have had jobs that were 10% and 25% travel, and I recently made the decision to take a new position that is 50-75% travel. Below are the main pros and cons based on my experience and my perspective.
Flexible schedule. If the job requires significant travel (50% or greater), there is a good chance that you will have an extremely flexible schedule. Because you may be departing or arriving at all hours of the day or night, you probably won’t have the standard schedule requiring a specific start time for the work day. You will likely have great flexibility to work when you want and break when you want, and you may even be able to work from home when you’re not traveling. This autonomy is a much-appreciated pro for me. It allows me to work when I am most productive and tailor my work day around my natural motivated/relaxed times.
Compensation. Most jobs that require significant travel also come with relatively higher salaries. There are often other benefits for those who do business on the road, including smart phones, laptops, iPads, and a car allowance if a personal car is used for business travel. In addition, points programs for flying, rental cars, and hotels add up quickly. These “perks” are not gifts from the company, because they are needed to enable work. However, they are also available for personal use, and the monetary value is not insignificant.
Travel. It may sound strange, but for some, the travel itself is a pro. Many people dream of traveling, and a job can offer the opportunity to see places you might not get to see otherwise. This can be particularly true for jobs that involve international travel. If you plan it just right, you can even piggy-back a personal vacation after business travel and have a spouse or friend join you on a trip.
Time goes fast. Compared to my previous jobs, which involved working in labs, offices, or cubicles, the time goes by much faster when I am traveling. There is never a dull moment or a chance to be bored. When I am on the road and I ask myself “would I rather be at my cubicle today?”, the answer has always been “no!”.
Long hours. Traveling, whether by plane or car, can consume the better part of the day. When you get to the hotel, you still have to catch up on emails, phone calls, or work on that presentation or report. The work day isn’t done just because you spent eight hours traveling. Thus, travel days can often be 16-hour days.
Working weekends. Many travel plans require that you leave home on Sunday and/or return home on Saturday in order to get where you need to be for the work week. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t work on the weekend. Sometimes it’s just a couple hours of emailing, and other times I’m gone the entire weekend.
Dynamic schedule. Travel plans are always being made and being changed. Thus, it is difficult to make personal plans, such as vacations or appointments that are scheduled months in advance. Many reservations and appointments will be canceled, rescheduled, and the cycle repeats.
Administrative tasks. Unless you are fortunate enough to have an administrative assistant, a significant portion of your time will be spent scheduling flights, hotels, meetings, etc. Then, all your expenses will need to be entered into expense reports. The time spent on these tasks adds up quickly.
If you are considering a job that requires travel, be sure you understand the details of the travel requirements and the compensation package. Discuss the options with those in your life who would be affected, and make the decision together. Nothing is set in stone – if you try something new and it’s not for you, there are other opportunities. Your career will likely be the sum of many experiences.
This article was written by Sherrie Elzey, Ph.D., a chemical engineer and freelance technical writer/editor. Sherrie has a background in nanoscience and nanotechnology research, with experience in academia, government, and industry positions.