Working

A barista behind the counter in a coffee shop.

Internships and work experience are a proven method of getting your foot in the door.

—Duane Strauss, TV presenter and producer

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify typical job categories for college students
  • Describe the pros and cons of working while in college
  • Identify employment resources on campus and in the community

Typical Student Jobs

College students can take on a range of jobs while in school, depending on their availability, experience, talents, and financial needs. For example, if a student is taking a lot of course credits in order to graduate early, he or she may not have time to work more than five hours a week. Let’s look at the types of jobs college students might have.

Work-Study Programs

Work study is part-time work that’s awarded to students as part of a financial aid package. Students can often find work study related to their areas of interest. For example, someone studying biology might have a work-study job taking inventory of lab supplies on campus. Because work-study jobs are a part of financial aid packages, students who simply want to earn extra money may not qualify.

Campus tour guide wearing a shirt reading 'HAHVAHD" gesturing in front of a group of people, in front of a campus buildingCampus Jobs

Not all campus jobs are work-study related. Students may be able to ask their institution’s human resource director or individual campus departments to see if other work is available. For example, the office of the registrar might need help filing papers. It may also be possible to apply to become a resident adviser (RA) and get free room and board in exchange for living on campus and serving as a role model for students. Some students may prefer to seek work off-campus, instead, since they may be able to work more hours and avoid competing with other students for on-campus jobs.

Off-Campus Jobs

Students can certainly explore job opportunities in their communities. Such work might be related to a student’s field of interest—for example, a student interested in journalism might get a job writing ads for a local publication. Or it might be worth seeking a job that’s unrelated to school simply because it offers the most hours and pay. On the other hand, some may prefer on-campus jobs because their work supervisors are more respectful of their academic commitments and the need for flexible hours.

Internships

Similar to work-study opportunities, internships are usually related to a student’s area of interest. For example, a marketing student may get an internship working with a marketing director and contributing to the company’s social media campaigns. While internships can provide invaluable work experience, it can be hard to find ones that are paid.

Summer Jobs

Students who are concerned about not having enough time to work during college may wait and find part-time or full-time work during summer break. Such opportunities can be found through one’s guidance counselor, financial aid department, community members, or even online. One disadvantage of summer jobs is that they don’t last very long—the work is typically seasonal.

Working During College

Finding a job as a college student can be both exciting and stressful, and it’s not for everyone. For example, students who have already received tuition assistance through scholarships and have full course loads may not have enough time for work. Let’s look more closely at the advantages and disadvantages of working during college:

Pros

  • Earning extra money: One of the most obvious benefits to working during college  is earning extra money for college expenses.
  • Enhanced budgeting skills: Students with the responsibility of working may learn to budget their money better since they have to earn it themselves.
  • Enhanced time-management skills: Students who have to juggle classes, work, and possibly other activities such as clubs or sports may actually excel in classes because they learn how to effectively management their time.
  • Networking: Students may not only get work experience in a field related to their interests, but they may also meet people who can help them later when they’re ready for a career. For example, a law student who gets a job as a file clerk with a law firm may be able to ask the lawyers at the firm for recommendations when she applies to law school.

Cons

  • Lack of time-management skills: Though working during college can help students build time-management skills, those who aren’t used to balancing activities may struggle. For example, a student who heads to college straight from high school without any prior job experience (or with few extracurricular activities during high school) may have trouble meeting multiple academic and job obligations and commitments.
  • Lack of free time: If students take on a lot of work hours while in college, they may not have time for other activities or opportunities, such as joining clubs related to their interests or finding volunteer work or internships that might help them discover career opportunities and connections. These “extras” are actually significant résumé items that can make students more employable after college.

Deciding whether or not to work while you’re in college is obviously personal decision that involves your own comfort level and situation. Some students may prefer to put off looking for a job until after the first semester of college, so they can better gauge their work load and schedule, while others may prefer to avoid working altogether. For some, the question isn’t “Should I or shouldn’t I get a job?” but “How much should I work?” In other words, the challenge is to strike the right balance between schoolwork, social activities, and earning money.

The following video shares one student’s experience with the pros and cons of working her way through college.


Employment Resources

We’ve identified some categories of work that are typically available to college students, but what about the actual process of finding a suitable job? You have a number of employment resources available to you on campus, online, and in the community:

  • Career centers: Most colleges have a career center where you can learn about job opportunities both on and off campus and also during the summer. Career center also have staff who can help you practice the interview process and write effective résumés and cover letters.
  • Career fairs: Many colleges organize on-campus career fairs (like the one shown in the photo, below). Local—and, in some cases, national—companies are invited to set up booths and share information with you about potential job and career opportunities.
  • Online job search: Web sites such as Careerbuilder, Snagajob, and even Craigslist post job listings for positions ranging from seasonal retail work to freelance writing opportunities. You should look for listings that include company and contact information, so you can confirm that the leads are legitimate and reputable.
  • Community businesses and places of worship: You may be surprised by the job opportunities they can find right in their own backyard. Don’t overlook community centers or bulletin boards in places like neighborhood coffee shops and grocery stores—someone always seems to need a dog walker, house sitter, or nanny. Churches, temples, and mosques are additional places that often have notice boards with “Help Wanted” listings.
Man sitting at a career fair booth for IBM, gesturing to a student in a suit standing in front of him

Check Your Understanding

Answer the question(s) below to see how well you understand the topics covered in the previous section. This short quiz does not count toward your grade in the class, and you can retake it an unlimited number of times.

Use this quiz to check your understanding and decide whether to (1) study the previous section further or (2) move on to the next section.