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Part-time vs. full-time: Which has better benefits?

October 18, 2022 - 13 min read

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Breaking down full-time vs. part-time

What are the differences between full-time and part-time workers?

From the employer's perspective, what are the benefits of hiring a full-time worker vs. a part-time worker?

Debating between part-time versus full-time hours?

Whether you’re considering a career change or you’re an employer deciding your staffing strategy, you might be debating between hiring or being full-time vs. part-time. 

Both are reasonable, popular options. In 2021, 127.2 million Americans worked full-time, while 25.9 million were part-time employees

But did you know that the difference between part-time and full-time work is much greater than just the amount of time worked?

Depending on employment status, employees have a different work-life balance, access to employee benefits like health insurance and retirement plans, sick leave, and vacation time. Let’s dive into the difference between full-time vs. part-time benefits to determine which fits your professional goals or your company’s needs.


Breaking down full-time vs. part-time

The most obvious difference between full-time and part-time positions is the number of hours worked in a week. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Before we dive into benefits and more, let’s define these two employment statuses.

Part-time workers

Regarding full-time vs. part-time, employment laws like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) specify part-time workers as individuals who work fewer than 30 hours per week. But part-time employment isn’t defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which establishes minimum wage, child labor standards, overtime pay, and more for employees in the private sector.

Part-time workers generally work fewer hours than full-time employees. And though that number isn’t specified, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says it’s usually less than 35 hours a week, while full-time employees usually exceed that number.

Their work schedules may have either fixed or flexible hours. It’s up to each employer to determine the hours of part-time and full-time positions and to stipulate this in their policy.

While part-timers may have some benefits, like paid time off, they generally have fewer responsibilities and benefits compared to their full-time counterparts.

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Full-time workers

While the ACA defines full-time workers as individuals who work more than 30 hours per week, full-timers generally work at least 40 hours a week. It’s up to individual employers to determine work hour expectations for each full-time role.

Full-time employment generally means more benefits and permanent contracts for employees than their part-time counterparts. They might have access to vacation time, paid time off, employer-sponsored healthcare benefits, and employer matching for retirement plans.

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What are the differences between full-time and part-time workers?

Some of these differences between part-time vs. full-time benefits are quantifiable, like employer-sponsored benefits, while other perks are more subjective. Let’s look at these differences from an employee’s perspective below.

Part-time benefits

  • Have increased flexibility and personal time. Though part-time work doesn’t come with the stability and job security of full-time work, part-timers experience a more flexible work schedule they can fit around their other commitments. Part-time hours may fit better into your full-time parenting schedule or let you return to school part-time.
  • Be your own boss. Part-timers have more of an opportunity to be their own boss, whether as freelancers or by devoting their time to side hustles. This means you can take on multiple part-time projects and design a career or determine a workload that fits your needs. 
  • Secure different retirement benefits. While part-time roles don’t usually come with employer-sponsored retirement plans, it means you’re free to create a retirement plan that fits your goals instead of being stuck in an employer-specified plan. Of course, this also means it’s easier to pursue non-traditional retirement plans, like the FIRE or COAST FIRE movements.
  • Work only as much as you need. While the downside to part-time work means your income might fluctuate each month, the upside is that you can choose to take on the amount of work you need to meet your income expectation that month.
    Let’s say you have a lot going on in your personal life this month, and you want a lighter workload that lets you make ends meet while having more free time. This is something you can arrange more easily as a part-timer.
  • Enjoy a wide breadth of experience. Part-time jobs usually offer more opportunities to try out different roles within a given field or industry.
  • Stay somewhere for a good time, not a long time. Part-time positions generally require short-term commitments, letting you reassess your work commitments at regular intervals.

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Full-time benefits

  • Experience job security and increased stability. As a full-time employee, you rely upon your employer to guarantee a certain number of hours each month, along with a certain number in your bank account. This means you don’t have to worry about hustling to line up hours each month — all you have to do is focus on doing your job.
  • Reap those employer-sponsored benefits. As we mentioned above, full-time gigs often come with employer-sponsored benefits, like paid time off, sick leave, social security, vacation time, health insurance, and retirement plans.
  • Enjoy a fixed income. It’s easier to plan ahead when you know you can expect a steady paycheck each month with specific hours each week. Knowing what to expect in your bank account each month also makes setting financial goals easier. With a steady, full-time role, you can plan out monthly down payments on mortgages or bank loans.
  • Enjoy a depth of experience. Full-time roles usually offer more opportunities for career advancement.
  • You’re in it for the long haul. With increased stability and job security comes a longer commitment. When you sign up for a full-time role, you’re signaling you’re in it for the long haul.

From the employer's perspective, what are the benefits of hiring a full-time worker vs. a part-time worker?

If you’re an employer, you’re probably wondering what the benefits are of hiring a part-timer vs. a full-timer. The short answer is: it comes down to your company’s goals and needs. Every situation is different. With that in mind, here are some benefits to hiring part-time and full-time employees.

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Benefits of hiring part-time employees

  • Part-time employees cost less. Since you’re paying for fewer hours, you can employ part-time employees at a reduced cost. But keep in mind that part-timers are generally non-exempt employees. This means they’re paid on an hourly rather than a salaried basis.

    By federal law, you’re required to pay at least the hourly minimum wage. In addition, part-time positions don’t usually come with as many employer-sponsored benefits, saving you those costs. 
  • You can easily fill employment gaps. Part-time positions are rarely permanent roles. This means you can quickly fill roles without committing to something for the long term. If you’re a small business owner, you might only need to hire an accountant for tax season, saving you on a full-time employee through the year.  
  • You’re in it for a short time, not a long time. Just like part-timers are likely looking for a short-term position, your company may only need to fill a short-term role. For example, one of your full-time employees may need to work reduced hours or go on maternity leave. You might want to consider hiring a part-time worker to fill that temporary gap.

Benefits of hiring full-time employees

  • Full-time employees are there for the long term. Since there’s less turnover with full-time workers than with part-timers, your company will experience increased stability as employees are more integrated into the work ecosystem.
  • Enjoy higher productivity and stability. Even though part-timers are cheaper and easier to hire, you’ll spend a lot of time onboarding new employees. With full-time hires, you’re onboard once and then hit the ground running. Ultimately, this saves your company time and maintains productivity.
  • You’re not on the hook for overtime. Many full-time employees are exempt, meaning they’re salaried instead of paid on an hourly basis. By federal law, you’re not required to pay overtime for salaried employees. Be sure to stipulate non-exempt vs. exempt policies in your employee handbook

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Debating between part-time versus full-time hours?

Stuck between these full-time versus part-time benefits? Ask yourself these questions to get a better idea of what you need or want from your next job:

  • What are my professional goals?
  • What’s my desired income?
  • How much I’m willing to commit?
  • Do you want an in-person or remote role?

If you have other commitments, like being a parent, you might prefer the flexibility or work-from-home options of a part-time role. And if you’re trying to make a certain salary to make debt payments on a monthly basis, you might prefer a full-time role.

Start with an honest conversation with yourself about your professional desires and goals and what you need out of a job. From there, you can decide if full-time versus part-time benefits are better for you. 

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Published October 18, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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