Working During College - Some Part-time Jobs are Better than Others

Written by: Sharon Newkirk of Student Choice

Congratulations, you made it!  Are you ready to go off to school yet?  Run through the list:

  • Financial aid reviewed and accepted - check
  • Classes selected - check
  • Tuition covered - check
  • Living arrangements handled - check
  • Packed and repacked - check
  • You may also want to check out these handy checklists from the federal government’s Student Aid website

What’s next – oh yes – get a job! Have you already started the hunt? Lots of students are in the same spot you are and there are a few things to think about on your quest. Not all jobs are created equal and your prerequisites will change over time. Just to get the lay of the land let’s start at the beginning.


Federal Work Study

Many jobs on campus can be found through the financial aid office or online at your campus career center job posting board. If part of your financial aid award package included work-study funds, there are conditions to the jobs available. Typically the work-study jobs are on campus, through the school, a local governmental unit, or to a local non-profit organization. Major benefits to having a work-study job or campus job include:

  • First priority is always your education, so flexibility to your schedule is understood – you will appreciate that when finals start
  • Close proximity to classes allows you to squeeze in hours when your schedule is packed
  • Limitations to your work hours are set within the work-study program – you are not allowed to be scheduled or work over 19 hours a week

No work-study funding? That should not stop you from looking on campus. Look around and talk to others – it’s called networking.  Sometimes it just takes walking into a building and asking for a job.


Working On-Campus

One idea could be close to home – that is if you live in a Residence Hall. One of the major employers on campus is the Housing Department. After your first year, the Housing Department jobs can pay much more than hourly wages. For the typical Residence Assistant “RA” or Facility Assistant “FA”, Housing and Meals are included as a perk. No big deal right?

Actually, according to The College Board*, the average cost of Housing and Meals nationwide for 2012-2013 ranged between $7,419 and $12,189. In order to achieve the equivalent of the perk in wages, a part-time job (working 20 hours a week for 9 months) would have to pay an additional $9.25 to $15.50 an hour. As you can imagine, there is healthy competition for those jobs. Each campus will have different arrangements and your facilities may have some hidden nuggets worth investigating.


Internship Opportunities

As you progress through your studies, be aware of internship opportunities. Many courses allow for and encourage, the use of internships. Course credits are even available for approved internships. If you are at a place in your classwork to be able to qualify for these programs but do not know of any openings, begin asking your professors or the Career Center for any leads. They may be aware of organizations connected with the University who have offered internships in the past or even current openings available. Due to the cost-benefit of these positions, the same company may be open to continuing with the positions after graduation. This is a common first step into a post-graduation position. If the positions are held as only internships, you still have the experience to add to your resume upon graduation.

Some degrees come with their own unpaid internships built in. Two that pop to mind immediately involve nursing and teaching. You may not be paid, however, the experience you gain and the skill set acquired in the trainings and related coursework are necessary to be an effective professional.


Decide what kind of job is right for you and your schedule

While in school, in order to achieve my degree in accounting, I was a:

  • Typist
  • Tour Guide in a Museum
  • Gift Shop Attendant
  • Food Server at a National Park
  • Maid and
  • Bail Bondsman

Some of my colleagues had some interesting jobs too:

  • Jewelry salesman
  • Campus transportation driver
  • Retail stockroom attendant
  • Fireworks salesman (what a blast)
  • Waiters, waitresses bartenders and servers
  • Concert producer
  • Wedding DJ
  • Student Organizations Officer
  • Limo driver
  • Bridge repairman
  • And even the local credit union

Each and every job brought me to the success I have enjoyed today. None of the jobs paid much per hour and they had very little to do with my course of studies, but, I am the sum total of my experiences.

Sometimes it’s about more than just the pay!


If you need advice from financial aid experts or additional information about any of the information you see on this blog, contact us using our FREE ScholarHelp tool!


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*Trends in College Pricing – 2012- The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center – Authored by College Board independent policy analysts Sandy Baum and Jennifer Ma, with invaluable assistance from Charles Kurose.


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