Working While Studying

Learning Outcomes

  • Recognize the pros and cons of working while studying
A black person with a short haircut sits at a computer looking through their email inbox.

According to research conducted by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce in 2015, about 14 million college students are working. The study further reveals that over the past 25 years, more than 70% of college students have worked while attending college.[1]

Other studies have shown that some students have to work longer hours than others in order to pay living expenses as well as tuition and supplies, and those students have a harder time keeping grades up. Even so, there are some immediate tangible benefits to working while you are in school—as well as some longer-term intangible benefits.

Benefits of Working in College

Reducing Debt

The most obvious benefit of working your way through college is that it can drastically reduce the amount of money in student loans you have to take out. The federal government offers subsidized loans that qualify for deferred interest and payments, as well as unsubsidized loans. In addition, there are private loans available for students who don’t qualify for the federal loans but still need money to pay for college. The good news is that many of the loans are easy to get. The bad news is that they can take a long time to pay off and can become a burden after you graduate. By working, you can avoid becoming one of those college graduates with a lifetime of debt to repay.

Employer Benefits

In addition, employers may offer health and retirement benefits, and some employers offer tuition assistance, especially if the degree you are pursuing is related to your current job. There are some tax advantages: employers are allowed to provide up to $5,250 in educational expenses as a tax-free fringe benefit to their employees for both undergraduate and graduate-level courses. For instance, UPS offers part-time employees up to $5,250 in tuition assistance per year, up to a lifetime maximum of $25,000. [2]

Time Management

An apple watch on a person's arm.Time management is a crucial professional skill, especially for business majors. You may find yourself in a fast-paced and hectic work environment. There is some anecdotal evidence that some students perform better when they have a job because they are forced to  plan their time more carefully. Additionally, you may come across certain tasks that are difficult to perform or find yourself up against tight deadlines, giving you the opportunity to develop good time-management and problem-solving skills.

Financial Management

There’s no better way to learn to manage your finances than to start earning money yourself. Having a job will allow you to take responsibility for your personal expenses, such as rent and utilities, cell phone, transportation, entertainment, and other items. You can start by creating a spending plan for your earnings, tracking how much you bring in versus how much you spend, and saving money for an emergency.

Work Experience

Working while studying is much like on-the-job training where you get paid to learn. The job experience that you get will add value to your resume. Even if the job isn’t directly related to your specific field of study, having prior job experience will work in your favor. For example, you could work as a tutor in the math or writing lab, or as a barista in a campus coffee shop, or as an intern in a campus health or women’s center. All of these types of experience make you more employable.


Two business associates meeting at a cafe.One of the crucial benefits of working while in college is that you become a part of professional networks that can open up a world of opportunities for you. After you graduate, these networks can help you land a good job. You never know who among your acquaintances can be the key to your dream job. Networking isn’t just a job search strategy; it is a critical career development enrichment strategy. It broadens your horizons beyond your college campus and can help guide your post-degree career.

Part-Time Work

You may be lucky enough to find a part-time job that fits around your school schedule or allows flexibility and still provides you with the income you need to balance your budget. Another good way to offset your tuition and to reduce your reliance on student loans is to pick up some flexible work that you can do from home, such as:

  • Freelance writer
  • Web designer
  • Tutor
  • Dog walker

Keep in mind as well that in addition to work-study jobs that are funded as part of your financial aid award, there are often jobs available on campus that are paid from state, local, or college funds.


Internships can boost your resume, help you network, lead to a job, provide valuable experience, and give you some cash. Internships can be paid, unpaid, for credit only, or combinations of those. Some internships are sponsored by or supported by your college, and others are completely independent. Watch for announcements in your classes, and check out bulletin boards and your college’s placement office. Good internships get snatched up quickly, so be diligent and persistent.

Practice Question

Working while going to school takes discipline and dedication. Above all, remember to keep your eyes on the prize: completing your college education and preparing yourself for the future. In addition, make sure you take care of yourself—exercise, eat right, get plenty of rest, and be sure to pay attention to your work/life/school balance. In particular, don’t take on more than is humanly possible.

  1. Learning While Earning: The New Normal, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (Accessed May 19, 2020)