What Is a Part-Time Job?

Definition & Examples of Part-Time Jobs

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A part-time job is one that usually requires a person to work fewer hours per workweek than their employer deems full-time employment. However, there isn't a set number of hours per week that's legally considered full-time or part-time employment, so it's up to the employer to decide which positions are classified either way.

If you're considering a part-time job, it's important to know about the hours and benefits involved, as well as the types of jobs that are available

What Is a Part-Time Job?

Determining whether a job is considered part-time depends on the company's policy and practice of defining employees and the hours required to be considered full-time. For example, an employer might classify a worker as part-time if they work less than 35 hours per week.

Traditionally, the standard number of hours per week for full-time employment in the U.S. has been 40. However, many employers consider employees as working part-time based on a different schedule, e.g. under 30 hours or 35 hours a week.

There are no legal guidelines that determine whether or not an employee is a part-time or full-time employee. The Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets legal requirements in the U.S. for wages, hours, and overtime, doesn’t specify how many hours per week is considered full-time employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) regards workers who work 35 hours a week as full-time, but that definition is for statistical purposes only.  

How Does a Part-Time Job Work?

Part-time employees typically include students, moms and dads, retirees, and other workers who don't want or need the time commitment of a full-time position. Some workers may also hold two or more part-time jobs instead of working full-time at one organization.

Part-time positions can sometimes work their way into full-time work, depending on the structure of the company. If you are looking for full-time employment, sometimes taking a part-time position is a good way to get your foot in the door. It can be a way to gain the experience necessary for full-time employment, and also a way to show an employer your commitment in the workplace.

Part-Time Employees

Part-time employees typically include students, moms and dads, retirees, and other workers who don't want or need the time commitment of a full-time position. Some workers may also hold two or more part-time jobs instead of working full-time at one organization.

When applying for part-time jobs, inquire about what benefits are available and which employees qualify for benefits coverage. Don’t assume that because you’re working part-time, you won’t have access to benefits. The Affordable Care Act requires employers with 50 or more workers to offer insurance to 95% or more of employees who work an average of 30 hours per week.

Types of Part-Time Jobs

Part-time jobs are available in a variety of industry and career fields. Part-time retail and hospitality positions are common, but most industries use some part-time workers to supplement their full-time staff.

Some part-time jobs can be low-paying, high-stress occupations like those in the foodservice industry. Others pay enough to live comfortably while pursuing other things.

part time work infographic
The Balance

Some people prefer to work part-time for a variety of reasons, including having more time to attend to parenting responsibilities, working on their own business ventures, or complete schooling. Working less can also help reduce stress and offer a better work-life balance.

In a lagging economy, part-time jobs may be filled by workers who would prefer full-time employment, but can't find a full-time job. The BLS refers to these employees as “involuntary part-time workers.”

Key Takeaways

  • Employers determine which roles are considered part-time jobs because there are no legal guidelines for a required number of hours per week.
  • It's possible to receive health benefits through a part-time job.
  • Most industries hire part-time workers in some capacity.
  • There can be benefits to working part-time, including freeing up time to pursue other work or personal responsibilities.