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Full-time equivalent (FTE) or whole time equivalent (WTE) is a unit that indicates the workload of an employed person (or student) in a way that makes workloads or class loads comparable[1] across various contexts. FTE is often used to measure a worker's or student's involvement in a project, or to track cost reductions in an organization. An FTE of 1.0 is equivalent to a full-time worker or student, while an FTE of 0.5 signals half of a full work or school load.[2]


U.S. Federal GovernmentEdit

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 full-time schedule as defined by law.[3] For example, if the normal schedule for a quarter is defined as 411.25 hours ( [35 hours per week * (52 weeks per year – 5 weeks regulatory vacation)] / 4), then someone working 100 hours during that quarter represents 100/411.25 = 0.24 FTE. Two employees working in total 400 hours during that same quarterly period represent 0.97 FTE.

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".[4] The term WYE is often used instead of FTE when describing the contractor work. WYE stands for work year equivalent.[5]

In educationEdit

Full-time equivalent students[6] is one of the key metrics for measuring enrollment in colleges and universities. The measure is often annualized to cover the average annual full-time equivalent students and is designated by the acronym AAFTE.

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 1/10 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 professor's contribution is 29.4 FTEs:

Contribution FTEs allocated Class size Total FTEs
Course 1 0.1 100 10
Course 2 0.1 150 15
U/G Projects 0.2 2 0.4
Research thesis 1 4 4
Totals 256 29.4

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

In Australia, the equivalent to FTE for students is EFTSL (Equivalent Full-Time Student Load).


  1. ^ "Glossary:Full-time equivalent (FTE)". eurostat. Archived from the original on 2010-06-03. 
  2. ^ Zimmermann, Polly Gerber (2002). Nursing management secrets, Issue 974; Volume 13 of Secrets series. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 55. ISBN 1-56053-529-6. 
  3. ^ Orszag, Peter R. (June 22, 2009). "Implementing Guidance for the Reports on Use of Funds Pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" (PDF). Executive Office of the President of the United States of America. 
  4. ^ Martinez, Homero (Oct 22, 2008). Dictionary for Air Travel and Tourism Activities. Retrieved February 19, 2017. 
  5. ^ "PROPOSAL for FY2011: NASA OSMA SARP". Office of Safety and Mission Assurance. 
  6. ^ "Full-time equivalent student Definition". OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms. March 5, 2003. Definition: A full-time equivalent (FTE) measure attempts to standardise a student’s actual course load against the normal course load. Calculating the full-time/part-time status requires information on the time periods for actual and normal course loads.