So in summary, would I be able to start a roth ira independently, contribute as much as i can, and then roll whatever employer contributions i have in a 401k into the roth whenever i switch jobs?
so at the end of each job, i roll whatever they contributed to the 401k into my roth (where i've been contributing my side), and move on?
Pretty much, yeah. Although, right now you have to roll to a rollover IRA and then convert to a Roth but that's changing. Also, keep in mind that when you do this you have to pay taxes so it may not always make sense. It may be better to move it to a Rollover IRA and then convert in smaller amounts so you can control the tax hit.