Guide to Working Part-Time: How Many Hours Is Part-Time?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time or want to transition to part-time work, knowing what part-time means is helpful. The answer isn’t standard. Review these common terms and maximize your professional plans.

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Although most people consider full-time work to be between 37.5 and 40 hours a week, Canada does not have a legal definition of how many hours a week is considered part or full-time. In short, “How many hours is part-time?” is a question you’ll have to ask your hiring manager. 

The legal definition that Canada does offer states that part-time employment falls into two categories: 

  • Less than a normal full-time week of work but more than one-third

  • More than one-third but less than a full workweek. 

In both cases, you are bound to follow the terms and conditions of your collective agreement, such as union dues. 

Since Canada does not define a full workweek in terms of hours worked, the concrete answer is, “It depends.” How many hours a part-time employee works will depend entirely on what’s considered a normal work week for that company. 

It’s also worth noting that “overtime” is defined as being employed for more than 44 hours a week, the threshold beyond which an employer must pay a rate of one-and-a-half times the regular rate. Also, federal full-time employees work 40 hours a week. Because of these two facts, most people think of full-time work as about 40 hours. 

How many hours is part-time?

No minimum or maximum number of hours in Canada constitutes “part-time.” Employers have the right to define part-time employment based on their labour needs.

According to Statistics Canada [1], the average full-time worker in Canada worked 40.0 hours in 2022. That figure is down from 40.2 hours worked per week in 2018 but up from 2020 and 2021, when the average full-time Canadian worker spent 39.9 hours at work. 

Regarding part-time employment, the average Canadian worked 18.5 hours per week in 2022, following a similar trend to full-time employment. Part-time workers in Canada averaged 18.6 hours a week in 2018 and 18.3 in 2020 and 2021. 

It’s worth understanding what constitutes work hours so you can ensure your employer pays you fairly for the time you do work. Canadian employers are required to grant their employees one 30-minute break for every five hours of consecutive work. This break should be unpaid, but employees should be free to leave their workspace. If an employee is required to stay at their desk or continue to be available in some way, the break must be a paid break. 

Canadian employers are also required to give their employees eight hours off between shifts, except in emergency situations, either actual emergencies or those that would affect the business’s normal operation. The eight-hour break is not granted to managers or some professionals. 

Differences between part-time and full-time work

Full-time work is usually between 37.5 and 40 hours, but each professional environment differs. For example, if you’re required to work from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. five days a week, that adds up to 42.5 hours after subtracting your 30-minute unpaid break.

When interviewing for a role at a company where the number of hours isn’t clearly defined, ask what the employer expects of top-performing employees. You’ll need to decide if you’re willing to dedicate those hours of your week in exchange for the financial benefits.

Often, employers use the term “full-time” to determine which employees earn added benefits, such as health care, retirement savings, or paid vacation days. However, some companies have policies that provide benefits for part-time work. These details should be arranged in your collective agreement. Part-time employees are responsible for abiding by the terms of the collective agreement, even though employers are not required to provide all of the same benefits to full-time and part-time workers. 

Benefits of part-time work 

There are many benefits to being employed on a part-time basis, including:

  • Control over your schedule: If situations in your personal life make it challenging or impossible to spend the entire day at work, part-time work can allow you to earn an income without sacrificing too much of your time.


  • An ability to diversify your income stream: Some people enjoy working in more than one industry. Others want to spend part of the week focused on entrepreneurial interests while still collecting a paycheck from an employer. Part-time work has its benefits if it makes sense to split up your time.


  • Opportunity in any industry: For those just breaking into a career or transitioning to a different industry, part-time work can sometimes provide a foot in the door. You could impress your employer and gain additional hours or leverage the experience for a better role in another company.

Things to consider when working part-time

If you consider a job working less than 35 hours a week, you may presume it isn’t a full-time job. When deciding whether to take the position, you must consider what priorities or parameters make an excellent fit for part-time work. This is a personal decision, as the answer has everything to do with your circumstances.

Some things to consider when deciding whether a part-time job is a good fit for you include:

  • Are you making enough money for your lifestyle? You’re working to afford to live your life as you designed it. Part-time work may or may not cover your expenses. Of course, it may be possible to reduce your expenses so you do not have to work more than 35 hours a week.

  • Is the required schedule clear at the start? You and your employer must understand and agree on the number of hours you will work. Make sure to ask and, even better, get the expectations in writing, either through a job description or a formal job offer.

  • Is this a temporary position for you? Consider if you want to work more hours before taking a part-time role. Let your employer know you would like to be considered for a full-time position, and discuss the likelihood of full-time employment to avoid future frustration.

Tips for launching or advancing your career

Part-time jobs are an excellent way to decide if you enjoy the industry or roles in a new career or company. Starting with a limited schedule can provide an opportunity to prove your value to a new employer, creating the possibility of earning promotions and better pay.

If you begin part-time and want to advance your career, ensure you always present yourself professionally. This includes showing up for the workday a few minutes before starting your activities, being a positive presence in the workplace by collaborating with your coworkers, and helping to solve problems whenever possible.

Ask your immediate supervisor for feedback regularly and document how you address proposed improvements. Notice why other employees are offered more hours and learn from them.

Build a better resume

Make an effort to learn new skills at your current job. Those skills can enhance your resume in case you want to apply for more attractive jobs at other companies.


Get a part-time job.

Part-time jobs may be easier to get than full-time roles. Follow these steps to begin your part-time job search. 

1. Search online job boards, social media platforms, and conversations with friends and associates. 

2. Strengthen networking connections you’ve developed in other personal and professional roles, especially within the industry you are interested in pursuing.

3. Determine if additional certifications and degrees are necessary. Further education often helps to demonstrate a level of proficiency. 

Now, you can polish your resume, write a targeted cover letter, and begin applying. It’s important to stay positive with each new professional experience; every interview is a valuable learning opportunity.

Know the keys to balancing work and personal life.

For some people, one of the most challenging parts of professional life is learning how to manage a healthy work-life balance. The foundation of balance is clearly understanding expectations between you and your employer. Follow these tips to avoid burnout and enjoy all facets of your day:

  • Schedule your set working hours and stick to them.

  • Block out personal time to enjoy the things you love.

  • Build healthy habits that enhance your happiness. 

  • Learn how to say “no” if necessary.

  • Create a routine that lets you leave work behind when you arrive home.

It’s your responsibility to create and maintain healthy boundaries between your personal and professional lives. By focusing on this, you can be a better employee in the long term.

Discover strengths of team relationships, even in part-time work.

Every employee wants to be a valuable part of the team. Full-time and part-time workers can develop habits that strengthen relationships at work. Even if you aren’t working 35 hours a week, you can still play an important role in your company.

Here are some quick tips for building a better professional network, starting with your interpersonal skills:

  • Be an active listener and communicate effectively with your coworkers to avoid misunderstanding. 

  • Be respectful and offer help whenever possible. 

  • Celebrate wins and support your coworkers.

Treating people well makes them more likely to return the favour.

Sharpen your professional communication skills with Coursera

Planning and communicating your career goals is an essential first step to professional development. Here are a few resources for building confidence and strategizing your next career move:

Learn negotiation strategies for free from the University of Michigan in the online course, Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills. You'll practice negotiation analysis and employ psychological tools to support your goals through hands-on experiments.

For a more comprehensive professional development program, the University of California Davis offers the Professional Skills for the Workplace Specialization. This beginner-friendly, self-paced online program focuses on emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and developing a growth mindset. By the end, you'll earn a shareable certificate for your resume.

If you want to sharpen your existing workplace skills, consider enrolling in Northwestern University's Organizational Leadership Specialization. This five-course, intermediate-level program includes core concepts like data analysis, high-performance collaboration, and leadership through social influence for a well-rounded introduction to business strategy.

Article sources

  1. Statistics Canada. “Average usual and actual hours worked in a reference week by type of work (full- and part-time), annual,” Accessed June 12, 2024. 

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