What Are Typical Third Shift Schedule Hours?

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 6, 2021
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If you’re wondering what people mean when they say the job hours are during the third shift, we’ve got the answer.

You know there are two other shifts. But what are the hours of all of those shifts, and when do you start and stop if you’re hired to work third shift? Well, if you’ve heard the terms “graveyard shift” or “midnight shift,” then you’re more familiar with the concept than you think. These are typically referring to the same shift, and if you haven’t guessed already, it’s usually a late one.

What Is the Third Shift?

The third shift is typically the last shift in a rotation of three. When businesses have three shifts, they’re almost always open for 24 hours a day.

  • The first shift begins in the morning and goes to midafternoon.

  • The second shift starts when the first one ends, sometime in the midafternoon, and runs until around midnight.

  • The third shift begins as the second shift is ending around midnight and runs until morning.

  • When the third shift is done, the first shift is filing in for another day of work.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the hours of a third shift job because it depends on the individual business. If it’s a Wal-Mart that runs a third shift, frequently they start at 10:00 p.m. and run until 7:00 a.m. But if you’re a disc jockey on a local radio station, you could start at 9:00 p.m., or you could begin at midnight – it depends on the station.

In general, it’s safe to assume that a third shift schedule will begin around midnight and run for eight to nine hours after the starting time. In third shift work, you still get a lunch break, even though you’re not actually working through the noon hour.

Jobs That Commonly Use Third Shift

There’s no reason to have a third shift in most businesses if you don’t have a second or a first – which means companies that have a third shift are typically open 24 hours a day. But that’s not always the case. Some businesses have more workers in their third shift than their first two because it’s more convenient to get the work done overnight.

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If you’re interested in trying the third shift, the following jobs are ones that you might want to look into. It’s by no means an all-inclusive list; you might be able to discover even more jobs that have this shift available:

  • Stocker. Just like it sounds, you’ll be stocking shelves during the third shift. Whether the store is open or closed, there will be fewer people, so it’s more convenient.

  • Nurse/doctor. Being in the healthcare field often means working long hours and late nights. Typically, this won’t be your permanent schedule, but you’ll definitely be working some nights at some point in your career – especially if you’re on call or work in the emergency room.

  • Disc jockey. This is where the great disc jockeys get their start. At least, it used to be. Today there’s a lot more automation in the entertainment field, so this shift is becoming more scarce.

  • Police officer/security. This can be the busiest shift of the three if you’re working security or as a police officer.

  • Taxi/rideshare driver. Whether you’re carting travelers to and from the airport or driving partiers home from the bar, the late-night shift can be a very lucrative and busy one for drivers.

  • Delivery drivers. Much like people, stuff needs to be transported during the night hours, too. This might actually be your favorite time to work if you’re a truck driver because the roads are less congested.

  • Hotel/resort desk clerk. So many travelers arrive late at night, and they need someone to check them in. This probably won’t be the busiest shift your employer has, but it might be the most interesting one.

  • Factory/line worker. Some of the best work gets done overnight for these businesses. The floor workers get to keep on working while the office staff goes home.

  • Waiter/waitress. Fast food or all-night diners need waitstaff to serve customers, just like they do in the daytime hours. This is one of the businesses where there might not be all three shifts. Many late-night restaurants close in the middle of the afternoon.

  • Customer service representative. With the global economy we have, it’s not uncommon for customer service reps to be needed on an overnight shift.

  • Residential staff/counselor. Whether you’re working in a dorm room, a substance abuse clinic, or at a sleep-away camp, these facilities run a 24/7 operation and need overnight staff.

Advantages of Working Third Shift

If you’re weighing whether you want to work a third shift job or not, it’s best to list out the pros and cons. It can help you make your decision. The following list has some of the pros that people really like about a third shift job:

  1. Higher pay. Often third shift hours come with a boost in pay to make it more appealing.

  2. Increased productivity. Fewer disruptions mean you can get more done.

  3. Days free. Of course, you’ll need to sleep, but now you can run errands when everyone else is working, and it can be easier to do things with your children.

  4. Less traffic. Whether you’re a driver or just sick of sitting in commuter traffic, the third shift lessens that problem.

  5. Less competition. There aren’t as many people who will work night jobs as those who work day jobs, meaning you’re more likely to find work.

  6. More peaceful/fewer people. Depending on the job and your personality, you might enjoy having fewer co-workers or customers during the night shift.

  7. Fewer meetings. Who doesn’t like the idea of having fewer meetings?

Disadvantages of Working Third Shift

That’s a pretty good list of benefits to working the night shift, but what about the disadvantages. I’m sure you can come up with one or two immediately. Again, it depends on your habits, personality, and priorities, but these downfalls to a night shift job might help you make up your mind:

  1. Interrupts natural sleep. Your circadian rhythm, or the natural sleep/wake cycle, can be hard to change. This can cause you to lose sleep and never quite feel rested.

  2. Prone to health issues. Interestingly, circadian-rhythm is crucial for more than just a restful sleep. Interrupting it can leave you more susceptible to some health issues.

  3. Fewer people/boring. If you thrive on interactions with people and excitement, the third shift can prove to be way too dull.

  4. Family disruption. Working the third shift when you have a family can cause some disruption. You won’t be home at night, and you’ll need people to be quiet when you’re sleeping during the day.

  5. Stuck with the hard work. The day shift has first access to tasks and often does the easier work, so you’re stuck doing the hard stuff.

  6. Depression. Whether it’s the decreased access to sunlight or the isolation, night shift workers tend to have a higher incidence of depression.

  7. Obesity. There are a lot of ideas on why night shift workers have more weight problems, from metabolism interruption to fewer options for healthy lunches. Whatever the cause, this could become an issue.

How to Make the Most of the Third Shift

If you’ve decided that the third shift life is for you, there are some things you can do to make the transition easier and more enjoyable. Unless you’re already a night owl, training yourself to sleep during the day and be awake all night can be very difficult.

  • Slowly adjust sleep. Before you start your new job, start slowly adjusting to the new schedule, an hour at a time.

  • Nap before work. Take a quick nap before you go into your job. This should help you stay awake during your shift.

  • Bright light. Having a bright light in your workspace can help you fool your body into thinking that it is daytime.

  • Rethink meals. Try to shift all of your meals, so you’re eating your lunch in the middle of your work shift. This can make you less apt to eat junk food or crave food when you’re not really hungry.

  • Caffeine. The old tried and true coffee or caffeinated soda can get you through the first part of your shift and help your body adjust to the change.

  • Dark glasses. Daylight naturally tells your body that it’s time to be awake. Wearing dark sunglasses during the daylight, or at least on your way home from work, can help.

  • Set a routine. Figure out your new shift routine and stick to it. You might even have to keep it up on the weekends to make it easier to manage.

  • Blackout curtains. These beauties do a wonderful job of keeping sunlight out of your bedroom while you’re sleeping.

  • Cooperation. Have everyone in your household do their best to help you. You need to have no interruptions during your sleep, just like they get at 3:00 am when they’re sleeping.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to get your foot in the door of a company or work your way up, starting at a third shift position might help.

You can find your way into management pretty easily by becoming a third shift supervisor. These are often jobs other people don’t want, and they can lead to promotions pretty quickly.

It might also reflect well on your work record if you volunteer to transfer to a third shift when your employer needs it. This can help you in the long run as you’ve proven that you know how to be a team player. Who knows, if there is a disruption in work in the future, you’re now more valuable.

Working the third shift also gives you a broader perspective on the entire company. This can help you move up the ladder quickly, make you a better boss or supervisor, or be something you use in your employee evaluations to get a bigger raise.

You might find that you’re one of those people who thrive in the nighttime and loves working the third shift. If this is the case, the odds of you being promoted to nightshift manager are pretty good, and you’ll be even happier with your new position and daytime freedom.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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