Part-time vs. full-time: everything you need to know | snagajob

Amy Culver |
Amy is our Lead Copywriter at Snagajob, where she loves to use her word nerd powers to help workers and employers connect. Her first hourly job was as a cashier at Chick-fil-a.

When you’re on the job hunt, one of the first questions you’ll likely need to ask yourself is whether you want to find a part-time job or a full-time job. Or perhaps you’ve been working part-time for a while, and your employer has asked if you would be interested in a full-time role. 

What are some of the differences between part-time work and full-time work? More specifically, what should you expect about pay, hours, schedule and benefits? This guide will share some of the main things you should know when deciding between full-time and part-time jobs, and how to determine which would be best for you.

What is a full-time job?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is the major employment law in the US, doesn’t provide a clear definition for part-time or full-time jobs. This means that depending on the company you work for, the line between part-time and full-time employment can be different. 

Most companies will require full-time employees to work somewhere between 32 and 40 hours per week. This number is important, because it tells you how many hours you're guaranteed on a weekly basis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics sets the benchmark for full-time employees a little higher, at 35 hours a week, but this isn’t law. 

What is a part-time job?

As the name suggests, part-time workers have fewer hours than a full-time employee. Part-time jobs typically require no more than 35 hours per week, and may be as few as 5-10 hours. Unlike full-time employees, part-time employees are not guaranteed the same number of hours or shifts each week. For example, a part-time cashier at a grocery store may only work 15 hours one week, and then 20 hours the following week. Part-time workers sometimes have the option of picking up additional shifts to cover for coworkers who call in sick, or for working extra hours during a particularly busy time of the year.

What is the typical schedule for a full-time vs. part-time job?

Part-time jobs are known for having a lot of flexibility, such as the option to work during the weekday, weekend or night shifts. This is why many students and parents choose to work part-time jobs, so they can focus more on other things like their studies or their families. Part-time jobs may also be available seasonally, especially during peak periods like summer vacation or the holidays. 

But if you like having a flexible schedule that revolves around your life, you can kiss that goodbye with a full-time job. As a full-time employee, most employers will require you to be available most, if not all, of the week. This is why full-time jobs are often referred to as a “9-to-5,” referring to the time frame between 9:00am and 5:00pm. Trying to fit 40 hours into night and weekend shifts is difficult. However, if you prefer working defined hours during the day every week, then a full-time job might be a better option for you. Keep in mind that most full-time jobs are also year-round, rather than seasonal.

How are part-time employees and full-time employees paid?

Part-time employees are always paid by the hour. That’s why they are usually responsible for “clocking in” and “clocking out” at the beginning and end of their shifts. They may also be asked to submit a timesheet at the end of every week to make sure they are paid for all the time that they work. 

Full-time employees may get paid by the hour just like part-time employees, or they may receive a flat salary. This is not usually something that can be negotiated with an employer. A full-time employee who is paid by the hour is referred to as “nonexempt,” while those who are salaried are referred to as “exempt.” The difference between nonexempt and exempt employees is that nonexempt employees are paid overtime (1.5 times their hourly wage) for any time worked over 40 hours per week. Exempt employees, on the other hand, always earn the same salary no matter how many extra hours they work.

In terms of earnings, you'll find that many full-time employees are paid a little more than their part-time counterparts, especially if they have specialized skills. It wouldn't be unusual to see a pay increase if you change from a part-time role to a full-time role; you may even see your compensation restructured entirely, if you are paid a flat salary rather than hourly. Compared to part-time employees, full-time employees may also have more job responsibilities and opportunities for career progression, such as getting a promotion to a managerial role. However, there are still plenty of high-paying part-time jobs, such as nannies and customer service representatives. 

What benefits do full-time workers and part-time workers receive?

Benefits might be the most confusing, and certainly the most paperwork-heavy, points of difference between full-time and part-time employees. “Benefits” is the catchall term used to describe parts of a compensation package that you receive from an employer, in addition to a regular paycheck.

Full-time employees are usually eligible for benefits. The most common benefits include health insurance, as well as dental, vision, and life insurance. Employers that offer insurance will usually pay for some (or even all!) of the monthly cost of the policy. Most full-time employees will also be eligible for paid time off (PTO) through federal holidays, vacation days, and sick days. Some employers offer their full-time employee's retirement options such as a 401(k) plan (sometimes with a company match), as well as other company-specific perks such as reimbursements for childcare, a fitness membership, an education stipend and stock options. 

On the other hand, part-time employees are usually not eligible for company-sponsored benefits such as health insurance or retirement plans. However, this is also dependent on the employer. Some may offer education or training stipends, certain holidays off or employee discounts, especially for jobs in retail and food service. 

Benefits vary from employer to employer. When accepting a new job, whether it’s part-time or full-time, it's important for you to understand exactly what you're being offered as part of your benefits package. Don't feel embarrassed about admitting you don't know what something is. The person at your company who handles human resources will be happy to help.

Do part-time or full-time workers have better job security?

Job security really could go either way. Some people see part-time employees as less expendable, because they often make less money, and they usually don't receive benefits like full-time employees do. Others say that full-time employees are more highly trained, have more experience and aren't as easy to replace as part-time workers. What is safe to say is that neither offers significantly more job security than the other. 

What are the educational or training requirements for full-time and part-time jobs?

This is highly dependent on the industry and the job duties, rather than whether the job is categorized as full-time or part-time. For example, delivery workers (whether full-time or part-time) usually need a driver’s license, and truck drivers will need a CDL. Cashiers, babysitters, nannies and customer service representatives do not require any formal educational credential. By contrast, most healthcare jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree and/or a license in order to practice. College students can also find part-time jobs that are aligned with their major, but do not require them to have their degree in hand. It’s important to look closely at the job description to make sure you meet the educational requirements (if any) before applying.

Is a part-time or full-time job best for you?

That ultimately depends on your priorities. If you’re in school and need to be available for classes during the day, a part-time job might be a better choice for you. If you have childcare responsibilities or you are caring for an elderly parent, then part-time jobs can also be a great way to stay in the workforce while taking care of your family. If you would rather work multiple part-time jobs rather than a full-time job, that’s also a viable option.

By contrast, if you want a higher salary or better benefits, and if you can dedicate most of your daytime hours during the week to a job, then full-time might be your best bet. A full-time job may also be the preferred choice if you hold a college degree or want a longer-term career with more opportunities for advancement. 

Snagajob posts new positions every day, including online part-time jobs, part-time jobs for students, and part-time jobs from home. Check out our job postings to find a position that suits your situation.