Professional Resume Writer, Career Writer and Career Coach
Growing up you watched your parents shuffle to and from the office, held hostage to their 9 to 5. If jammed-packed schedules and deadlines sound frightening, you might consider pivoting your search to part-time jobs. In fact, even employers have shifted their preference, selecting more people open to the idea of flexible working hours.
So, how many hours is part-time? We’ll discuss what qualifies as a part-time job and whether one is right for you below.
What Is a Part-Time Job?
In broad terms, a part-time job is one that requires fewer working hours than a full-time job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics considers 35 hours per week full-time employment. But beyond that, things get kind of murky. The Internal Revenue Service will slap a full-time label on jobs requiring more than 30 hours per week or more than 130 hours a month. Plus, employees categorize full-time jobs differently across organizations and industries.
So, where does that leave us? Aside from legal boundaries, it is at the company’s discretion how they define part-time work. For example, some may define a role as part-time if they are flexible on the days employees work or the number of hours per day employees work.
How Many Hours is Part-Time?
Part-time employment generally refers to roles requiring 20 to 29 hours of work per week.
That said, there is no set number to how many hours part-time work is. Variables like where you live may sway how exactly a part-time role is structured. Canada, for example, marks part-time roles at 30 hours or less.
The nature of the job description also plays a large part in role categorizations. Seasonal jobs are typically part-time and show up as demand dictates (example: bookkeepers during tax season or lawn maintenance crews during the spring and summer months). You’ll need to pay attention to each job ad to discern exactly how many hours are required for the role in question.
Part-Time Job Work Schedules
Part-time work schedules can vary by season, shift, or day of the week. For example, a part-time administrative assistant might work for a small business on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays when help is needed most. Or, a waitress might work only night shifts while they teach third grade at the local elementary school.
Remote part-time jobs may allow you to make your own schedule as long as you complete the required job responsibilities. An inside sales representative role might require you to contact 100 qualified leads each week by email and record the data in a spreadsheet. If you can tackle that by working for one hour in the morning and four hours at night, then so be it.
The most common theme with part-time roles is that there is no structured theme. Again, employers are free to designate the role, the schedule, and the compensation package at will, so make sure you gather all these details during the interview stage so you know exactly what’s expected of you on day one.
Differences Between Part-Time and Full-Time Work
There are some main differences between part- and full-time work. For one, your access to employer-sponsored benefits varies. Most full-time employees have access to company-sponsored benefits like healthcare, workers comp, disability, unemployment, family and medical leave, and other employer matching programs. Whether U.S. agencies are required to provide health insurance to part-time workers varies from state to state. This means you’ll need to be extra diligent in discussing your benefits package for part-time opportunities.
Despite limited benefits on paper, many are still attracted to part-time work because of the flexibility and the freedom to learn new skills on your own schedule without a looming commitment. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of part-time work.
Advantages of Working Part-Time
If the idea of a monotonous 9 to 5 saddens your soul, part-time positions are a great option for earning a steady income without a rigid full-time schedule. Part-time jobs are typically more flexible than full-time positions. Some might allow you to create your own schedule, which draws students, busy parents, and gig workers to the application portal.
Plus, it’s easier to snag a part-time gig as supplemental income while you start a business, go to school, or save up for your kids’ college funds. This type of flexible schedule allows you to pursue other goals outside of your career without the added stress. Or, for the overachievers reading this article, learn new skills that could launch a career in a different industry later.
Disadvantages of Working Part-Time
Benefits aside, part-time workers are not often privy to the advantages awarded to full-time workers. If health insurance or employer-sponsored retirement contributions are important to you, part-time work might not be a fit.
While some employers offer benefits for part-time positions, many do not. This means you’re on the hook to source your health coverage. And that weeklong vacation slated for later this year? You may have to go unpaid while you’re “out of office.”
Also, no matter how you slice it, working fewer hours often equates to less pay. Companies may be willing to offer greater flexibility for the role, but at a cheaper salary or rate per hour. Crunch the numbers before accepting any part-time gig to ensure you can afford the dip in pay. Then, look a few years into the future. If securing a management position is one of your long-term goals, those roles are usually full-time. You may not be eligible for certain advancement opportunities if you can’t commit to full-time work.
Part-Time Job Examples
A bookkeeper maintains financial records for businesses, keeps payment records, completes bank reconciliations, and submits required tax and business documentation. Bookkeepers may be self-employed and offer their services to other companies or work for one organization.
Whether in-house or self-employed, writers produce content for blogs, websites, advertisements, books, more. Editors will plan, review, revise, and coordinate this content. Many part-time writers and editors are freelancers.
Many customer service representatives work part-time remotely or on-site, addressing customer concerns on behalf of the company and connecting them with the appropriate team for resolution.
Part-time delivery or personal drivers can work for large corporations and set their schedules. They deliver passengers to various locations or deliver goods and services to homes and businesses.
The rise of the remote freelance economy has paved the way for virtual assistants. Much like an administrative assistant, virtual assistants work with one (or several) clients to support customers, employees, and management teams, as well as other needs of the business.
Receptionists work in many settings, answering phone calls and emails, helping clients make appointments, welcoming customers, and performing data entry for key staff.
A licensed agent helps clients buy and sell homes or commercial properties. Though many agents are part-time, others consider real estate a full-time gig.
Which Job Type is Suitable for You?
Which role is best for you ultimately depends on your priorities. If you’re in school with an aggressive class schedule, go ahead and pick up a part-time job that will help you hone valuable professional skills while putting some money in your pocket. Part-time jobs can also be a viable option if you have childcare or eldercare responsibilities. In these instances, flexibility often reigns supreme.
That said, if you want a higher salary or better benefits, you should opt for a full-time job that you can dedicate most of your daytime hours during the week to. A full-time job may also be the preferred choice if you hold a college degree or want to build a long-term career with more opportunities for advancement.
Weigh your financial situation, your family needs, and your career goals to determine which job type is right for you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Part-Time Jobs
1. Is a 32-hour workload considered part-time?
No, a 32-hour workload is considered full-time. As defined by the IRS under the Affordable Care Act, a full-time role requires at least 30 hours of service per week or 130 hours of service per month.
2. How many hours is full-time?
The Internal Revenue Service deems jobs requiring more than 30 hours per week or more than 130 hours a month full-time. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics considers 35 hours per week full-time employment.
3. Can a part-time worker become a full-time employee?
If you’re hoping to climb the career ladder, good news. It’s easy, and fairly common, for employees to make the switch from part-time to full-time or vice versa, as their needs and skill levels change.
Your employer can also adjust your status from part-time to full-time (sometimes without warning) as long as wages and benefits are not lost. They’ll also need to provide documentation on what your new role entails and other employee expectations.
4. Are part-time workers entitled to vacation?
It’s up to employers to decide whether to offer paid vacation days to part-time employees (sadly, they are not obligated to provide time off to full-or part-time employees). Some may offer paid vacation (PTO) or unpaid vacation. Companies are usually pretty clear in how they define vacation needs. So, ask if time off is something you must accrue—and how much you get—before submitting any vacation requests.
5. Maximum hours for part-time?
Legally, part-time employees can work a maximum of 29 hours before being considered full-time. However, companies can define their own rules for part-time labels. For example, some may label a role as part-time if they work less than 35 hours per week and they are flexible in their schedule. Be sure to clarify your roles and responsibilities with the company HR department before accepting part-time work.
6. How many sick days do part-time employees get?
Just like vacation time, employers are not required by any national law to offer part-time employees sick days—paid at least. However, this varies by state. In California and New Jersey, part-time and temporary employees earn at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. Check your state labor laws to see what benefits part-time employees get.
Look, we get it. Wanting to work has never been the issue; it’s how you work that complicates things. Not every job needs to be a 40-hour commitment. If you’re looking for more flexibility and freedom, part-time work may be for you. Just make sure that, for every open role, you get clear, definitive answers on what is and is not included in your gig so you can find the best job for you.