The Difference Between a Part-Time and a Full-Time Employee

ByDanica Jovic
November 12,2021

Full-Time Employment

Traditionally, full-time employment consists of 40 working hours per week. However, companies have some wiggle room to organize things differently and change the distinction between full- and part-time employees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a full-time job is any position with 35 or more working hours per week. However, this is not a law and serves solely for statistical purposes. Most companies require full-time employees to work from 32 to 40 hours a week.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - the primary US employment law - does not specify full-time employment requirements, either, and leaves the exact parameters to employer discretion. Still, there is a statutory difference between a full-time and a part-time employee. First, we’ll look into what a part-time job is and what its benefits are.

What Is a Part-Time Job?

A part-time job is one with fewer working hours than a full-time position. It typically takes below 35 hours a week, sometimes taking just five or 10 hours. Part-timers usually need to keep a record of their working hours using time tracking software.

The best thing about this type of job is its flexibility and the fact that the part-time workers do not necessarily have the same number of shifts or hours each week. Having a flexible schedule is probably the most advantageous difference between a part-time employee and a full-time employee for the former.

Exempt and Nonexempt Employees

If you were going through the ads on some job posting sites or filling out a job application recently, you probably came across these two terms. All employers are obliged to classify the positions they offer as exempt or nonexempt by the FLSA. Nonexempt employees are covered by FLSA rules, but those exempt aren't.

Exempt Employees

Employees working in positions excluded from minimum wage or overtime regulations are exempt. They must be given a salary, not an hourly wage. These positions are usually reserved for supervisory and executive staff, so if you’re asking, “What is the difference between a part-time employee and a full-time employee?” maybe ask if the job you’re applying for makes you exempt, too.

Nonexempt Employees

Nonexempt workers must be paid at least the minimum wage for each hour worked and at least 150% of their hourly rate for overtime hours. Thankfully, the right pay can easily be calculated with the help of the various payroll software.

Both categories are taxed the same way, however.

Why Is the Full-Time Employee Status Preferred?

As we have previously mentioned, there is a legal difference between a full- and a part-time employee, and there are some benefits to the full-time status. Unlike the part-time employees, full-time workers have:

  • Paid time off, including holidays and sick days
  • An employer retirement plan
  • Health insurance (life insurance, dental, vision)

In terms of income, full-time workers are often paid better than part-time ones, especially if they have advanced skills. Full-time roles often come with more responsibility, but they also offer the employee lots of new opportunities and a chance to get an upgraded role or a promotion.

Some full-time employees also have more access to further training or educational stipends, as well as employee discounts. Generally speaking, working conditions are more favorable for a full-time vs. a part-time employee.

Job Security

Job security is not the biggest distinction between a part-time and a full-time role. Some people might think of part-time employees as more expendable since they’re often earning less money and don’t have the same benefits as full-time employees. Also, full-time workers are more experienced and harder to replace, but job security is much more dependent on your company’s policies, as well as your personal efforts.

Final Words

We hope that we were able to untangle the classification of full-time and part-time workers and all of their divergences. It’s up to you to see which option suits you better. If you are still in school and need to attend classes, part-time hours are probably a better choice. If, on the other hand, you want a higher salary, advanced benefits, and a long-term career, you should apply for a full-time job for the opportunities it presents.

Frequently Asked Questions
Is 32 hours a week full-time or part-time?

When someone asks, “What's the difference between a full-time and a part-time employee?” the flexibility of the working hours is probably the first thing you think of. The Affordable Care Act considers any position with less than 30 hours a week a part-time job, even though most companies define a full-time role as anything between 32 and 40 hours a week. By either classification, 32 working hours per week constitute a full-time job.

Do full-time employees get paid more than part-time?

This depends on the job itself, but, in most cases, full-time employees have a higher income, along with some other benefits part-time workers cannot obtain.

How long can a part-time employee work full-time hours?

The difference between a full-time and a part-time employee is essentially the difference between their working hours. However, sometimes part-time employees work full-time hours consistently. In these cases, employers need to re-evaluate the worker’s status; otherwise, they could end up paying penalties.

About the author

Danica’s greatest passion is writing. From small businesses, tech, and digital marketing, to academic folklore analysis, movie reviews, and anthropology — she’s done it all. A literature major with a passion for business, software, and fun new gadgets, she has turned her writing craft into a profitable blogging business. When she’s not writing for SmallBizGenius, Danica enjoys hiking, trying to perfect her burger-making skills, and dreaming about vacations in Greece.

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