As a student, you may be responsible for all or the majority of the cost of attending college, or maybe you just need some extra cash to spend around campus.
If you’re needing some extra cash now, you’re going to need a job. There are a few ways you can earn money by working during college. Before jumping in to a job, do some research about the types of jobs you can do, how much they pay, and the pros and cons of taking time away from studying.
As a student, you’re still working toward earning your degree and being able to start working in the field of your choice. But while you’re still in undergrad, you can earn money a few different ways.
Work study jobs
Depending on your financial aid package, you may qualify for the federal work-study program. If your college participates, a work study job enables you to earn a pre-set amount of money each semester that you can use to help pay for education and living expenses. Note: you’ll still need to find and apply for those jobs - they aren’t guaranteed. But when you do identify the right fit, the funding will be stable.
Having a work study job can be very convenient because it’s on campus and you likely do not need to worry about transportation. You’ll also know exactly how much money you’re able to earn through the job. Work study jobs will typically be between six and 12 hours a week, which means there is still plenty of time for your school work.
Note: this money is meant to be allocated toward your living expenses; it does not get applied directly to your tuition, so you’ll need to manage it responsibly.
Regular on-and-off campus jobs
If you’re looking to earn money and want more flexibility, a “regular’ job could be right for you. This can range from an on-campus job -- look into food services or the book store -- or an off-campus job.
How much you’ll earn will be determined by the hourly rate the establishment pays. Before applying, research minimum wage in the city and state you’re in, so you know the bottom line.
If you get a job in the food industry, you will likely be paid less than the minimum wage, but have the opportunity to earn tips. This can be a pro or a con, meaning during busy times, if you provide good service, you have the chance to earn more. But if it’s slow, or patrons don’t like your service, you can earn less.
If your job is off campus, you’ll also want to factor in the cost of commuting to the job and the time you’ll spend getting there. You’ll also want to ask your employer if they’re flexible to student’s schedules, especially if your class schedule changes next semester.
If you’re looking for work experience that is more applicable to your future career, apply for an internship.
An internship is a position for a student or trainee to work within an organization, sometimes without pay, to gain work experience.
When applying to internships, you’ll want to look into if they pay or award college credits toward earning your degree. While working for no pay, and just credits may seem crazy, it will help you lower the total cost of your tuition, because you won’t have to pay for those credits later on.
If the internship does pay, ensure it’s above minimum wage for the total hours you’re working. If you receive an offer from more than one organization, be sure to compare rates.
Cooperative Education programs, or coops, vary school to school. Usually, when a student participates in a coop, they stop taking classes to gain on-the-job experience and work full time.
Coops are usually paid and give students more extensive work experience, which can help give them an advantage when applying for jobs post-college.
Depending on your college, you may not be charged for tuition while you’re participating in the coop. So, you’ll be earning money, gaining work experience and not paying for college. The downside: if you’re not earning credits (or as many credits), it may extend your time until graduation.
A coop is great for students who prefer a more hands-on learning experience and are antsy to get out of the classroom.
So, should I work during college?
This is ultimately a personal decision for you based on your schedule and financial situation.
Depending on your goals, different jobs may be right for you. If you’re looking to pad your resume with work experience, internships or a coop will be your best choice. If you’re looking for a flexible schedule and cash to spend, a regular job would be your best bet.