Full-time equivalent

Full-time equivalent

Full-time equivalent (FTE) is a way to measure a worker's involvement in a project, or a student's enrollment at an educational institution. An FTE of 1.0 means that the person is equivalent to a full-time worker, while an FTE of 0.5 signals that the worker is only half-time. Typically, different scales are used to calibrate this number, depending on the type of institution (schools, industry, research) and scope of the report (personnel cost, productivity). In Australia, the equivalent to FTE for students is EFTSU (Equivalent Full-Time Student Unit).

In the U.S. Federal government, FTE is defined by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as the number of total hours worked divided by the maximum number of compensable hours in a work year as defined by law. For example, if the work year is defined as 2,080 hours, then one worker occupying a paid full time job all year would consume one FTE. Two employees working for 1,040 hours each would consume one FTE between the two of them.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, the President's budget office, will often place upper limits on the total number of FTE that a given agency may utilize each year. In the past, if agencies were given a ceiling on the actual number of employed workers, which was reported on a given day of the year, the agency could employ more than this number for much of the year. Then, as the reporting deadline approached, employees could be let go to reduce the total number to the authorized ceiling on the reporting date. Providing agencies with an FTE ceiling, which is calculated based on the total number of hours worked by all employees throughout the year, irrespective of the total numbers employed at any point in time, prevents agencies from using such a strategy.

Although the generally accepted human-resources meaning for the "E" in FTE is "equivalent", the term is often overloaded in colloquial usage to indicate a "direct", as opposed to contract, full-time employee". As in "Jane is an FTE, whereas Ralph is a contractor". So Jane is a regular employee, and Ralph works only under contract, perhaps only with irregularity.

FTEs in Education

FTEs are one of the key metrics for measuring the contribution of academics in third level education. Academics in some Universities are nominally expected to contribute 20FTEs in any one year. This is typically achieved through a combination of teaching and research supervision.

Academics can increase contribution by adopting a number of strategies:(a) increase class size;(b) teach new classes;(c) supervise more projects;(d) supervise more researchers.The latter strategy has the advantage of contributing to another key metric in Universities - creating new knowledge and in particular publishing papers in highly ranked academic journals. It's also linked to another key metric - research funding that is often required to attract researchers.


A professor teaches two undergraduate courses, supervises two undergraduate projects and supervises four researchers by thesis only (i.e. researchers do not take any courses). Each undergraduate course is worth 1/10th of all credits for the undergraduate programme (i.e. 0.1 FTE). An undergraduate project is worth 2/10ths of all credits for the undergraduate programme (i.e. 0.2 FTE). A research thesis is worth all of the credits for the graduate programme (i.e. 1 FTE). The Professors contribution is 29.4 FTEs:

To encourage more research some universities offer 2 FTEs or even 3 FTEs for each fulltime researcher.


* [http://home.nps.gov/applications/budget2/glossary.htm National Parks Service Budget Glossary]

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