What Is the Average Vacation Time? (Plus Other FAQs)

Updated February 3, 2023

Many employers offer comprehensive benefits packages to attract and retain talented employees. When looking for a job, the number of vacation days you receive per year can influence which job offers you accept. Learning about the average vacation time can ensure you choose the right career path and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

In this article, we discuss the average vacation time for an employee, list industries that typically offer the most and answer other related FAQs.

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What is the average vacation time?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average vacation time is 10-14 days per year after one year of service. Once an employee has accumulated 10 years of service, the average increases to about 15-19 days per year. Employees can use these days to request time off work outside of the regular weekend. Paid vacation time, in particular, means you can expect regular wages during your leave. Note that these averages consider data relating to private industry workers.

Related: What Is Mandatory Vacation? Definition and Benefits

Which industries provide the most vacation time?

The financial and manufacturing industries tend to offer the most vacation time, with the BLS reporting that 95% of employees in this sector have access to the benefit. Around 80% of trade, business, construction, education and health professionals also have access to vacation time. The benefit is available to only about 43% of leisure and hospitality employees, possibly due to the large number of part-time positions in this sector that don't offer vacation time.

Related: How To Negotiate Extra Vacation Time

Do employers have to provide vacation time?

Federal law doesn't mandate employee vacation time, but many companies offer paid or unpaid vacation as an employee benefit. Your employer decides whether you receive vacation time, how much you receive and other various stipulations. For example, a company might only offer vacation time if you're a full-time employee.

A company might also choose to lump your vacation time with your sick time. Most employers have policies designating how you can accrue vacation time and requiring you to use your vacation days by a specific time. Regardless, you and your employer agree upon your vacation time allotment—and whether you receive it—through their company policy, a collective bargaining agreement or an employment contract.

Related: Time-Off Request: How To Ask for a Day Off (With Examples)

How does vacation time accrue?

Vacation time accrual refers to the number of vacation days you earn over a certain period and at a specific rate. How you accrue vacation time depends on your company's policy. Typically, you can accrue vacation based on a certain period, length of service with the company and your position level. To better understand accrual, it's important to consider these common accrual methods:

By a period

Many companies let employees accrue vacation over time. For example, you might receive one day of vacation per month or earn a certain number of hours off every pay period. This amount would then accrue so you can take a prolonged break. Employers may also let your vacation days roll over to the next year or require you to use them by a specific date.

Related: 3 Things To Know About Unlimited Vacation and Paid Time Off Policies

By years of service or position level

The amount of vacation time you receive can vary based on how long you've worked for your employer or your specific position. For example, an employer may let you earn a week's vacation for every year you've worked there according to preset limits. This can entice you to stay at the company longer to earn more vacation time. Similarly, you may earn a higher accrual rate based on your level within the company.

Related: Q&A: What Is Vacation Pay?

Benefits of vacation time

As an employee, it's important to take time off work to maintain optimal physical, emotional and mental health. Outside of a healthy work-life balance, vacation time can provide you with several benefits, including:

  • Increased productivity: When you spend time off work, it can help you return refreshed and energized. This can help you improve your work output and help you become a better employee.

  • Relaxed mindset: Taking timing off can help you ease your mind and give you time to release work-related stress. When you return to work from vacation, you typically return with more peace of mind and a renewed mindset.

  • Innovative thinking: Often, leaving your desk and returning later can give you the clarity you need to continue on a project. Similarly, your renewed mindset can help boost your creativity and innovative thinking when you have vacation time.

  • Improved engagement: When you return to work after having some time off, it can help you become more involved and engaged at work. This is because you gave your brain time to rest, which can help improve your energy and attention span.

Related: Base Salary and Your Benefits Package

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How does vacation time differ from PTO?

Vacation time differs from paid time off (PTO) in that PTO is a broader term, encompassing any time you're receiving wages while away from work. Examples of PTO separate from vacation time include jury duty, parental leave, sick leave, disability leave and holiday pay.

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