Gainful employment is a legal term that was created to given meaning to various types of training, especially training provided by institutes of higher learning. The government needed a way of tracking the success and purpose of their programs, which helped schools and other training organisations qualify for government funding and clarified what tax categories they belonged to.
Gainful employment is a general term referring to a job, especially a job that a student takes after graduation. In the most basic sense, gainful employment is any type of employment that leads to profit for the employee. Gainful employment is often assumed to be a source of consistent revenue for the worker, with the classical connotations associated with a steady job.
Gainful employment most often refers to jobs that students take after completing internships or training programs. Colleges create these programs with gainful employment as the goal - in other words, the program prepares students for jobs in a particular industry, making it easier for them to find employment than those without the same type of training.
Gainful employment is often considered affected by loans. Students often graduate with student loans, which they owe to the government or other entities. This poses a problem with the legal definition of gainful employment. If the students have to spend most of their income on paying back loans, is their employment truly gainful? As a result, students must make a certain amount in salary or wages to be considered in gainful employment, with enough income left over after paying loans to live on.
The term gainful employment can be vague and is subject to some controversy. Some want stricter definitions to help create a more defined structured for vocational programs. Others believe that the term gainful employment should be kept purposefully vague to allow for flexible programs. The loan caveats of gainful employment are also to be examined, and may be subject to changes that do not require students to make as much money to qualify as "under gainful employment."