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.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Concepts and Definitions," Accessed June 20, 2020.

  2. U.S. Department of Labor. "Full-Time Employment," June 20, 2020.

  3. IRS. Affordable Care Act. "Identifying Full-time Employees," Accessed June 20, 2020.

  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey." Accessed June 20, 2020.