We evaluated employment after temporal lobectomy for refractory epilepsy in 86 patients (3.5 to 8 years of follow-up). Seventy-three patients qualified for the work force before and after surgery. Unemployment rates declined after surgery (18 patients [25%] unemployed before surgery, eight patients [11%] unemployed after surgery), and underemployment also tended to diminish. Improvement in occupational status related strongly to the degree of postoperative seizure relief. Seizure-free patients fared better (no unemployment, little underemployment) than patients with some seizure-free years and some years with seizures after surgery, whose high underemployment level persisted. Patients with seizures in each year after surgery fared worst (despite reduced seizure frequency), with increased unemployment after surgery. Age at surgery also influenced vocational outcome in patients who were unemployed before surgery. Historical, educational, cognitive, and behavioral measures did not correlate with vocational outcome. Employment gains came slowly; unemployed patients took up to 6 years to obtain work after surgery. Of 13 students at the time of surgery, 11 have graduated and nine are now employed. We conclude that seizures play a large role in limiting employment, and that by alleviating seizures, temporal lobectomy improves employability in people with refractory epilepsy. Surgery thereby provides benefit to individuals with epilepsy by increasing financial independence and to society by reducing unemployment.