The United States has the reputation of being the Western country where workers receive the least amount of paid vacation days. On average, U.S. workers that have been with the same employer for five years are allowed 15 paid vacation days and eight paid holidays, for a total of 23 days. This actually doesn't sound too bad until one learns that companies in countries such as Brazil tend to offer more than 30 paid days off. In many European countries, including France, workers get over a month of paid vacation time annually.
Clearly, heading overseas could offer American workers the potential for many more vacation days. That is also going to be impractical for the vast majority of workers. Below are three careers that offer a compelling combination of days off and decent pay prospects in the U.S.
The teaching profession is often cited as the career with the most vacation days. The general academic calendar will run for a couple of semesters and include a spring break and summer vacation, as well as an extended end-of-year holiday. This could average nearly five months off for post-secondary, with a school session then running the other seven months, on average.
Of course, teachers have a very hectic schedule while classes are in session and often work when classes aren't running. Additionally, pay rates for educators not working for colleges or universities are traditionally low. Professor positions usually pay better. Professors can make more money with consulting work during other parts of the year. This can add up to a compelling combination of high pay, schedule flexibility and actual vacation days.
A popular saying in the stock market is to sell in May and go away. This is meant to imply that much of Wall Street takes the summer off for vacation. It is generally true that the months of June, July and August, which run between Memorial Day and Labor Day, tend to have slower financial market activity. It may not be official time off, as it is with many in the teaching profession, but it can lead to more vacation time. In the financial services industry, banks generally offer generous vacation packages.
Government jobs, be it at the federal, state, or local level, used to have a reputation for low pay. In recent years, generous retirement and healthcare packages have advanced total compensation potential and, in some respects, pushed it well ahead of the private sector. These pay benefits may not last forever, but a 40-hour work week and generous vacation benefits are likely here to stay.
The federal holiday schedule includes 10 standard holidays: New Year's Day, President's Day, Indigenous People’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Most workers across the nation also get these days off, but it is more or less guaranteed as a federal worker. In addition to the holiday schedule, federal employees with at least three years of service earn 20 vacation days.
The Bottom Line
In addition to having one of the stingiest holiday schedules in the world, it is often frowned upon for workers in the U.S. to take a lot of vacation days. A study performed by Harris Interactive for JetBlue showed that roughly 57% of U.S. workers don't actually use all of their vacation days. As such, gravitating towards one of the professions above could be a moot point if the respective institution or company guilts its workers about being out of the office, or asks them to work while technically on vacation. However, the above careers at least offer a greater chance of taking some needed rest and relaxation.