How to Work While in College: 6 Key Tips to Get Ahead

How to Work While in College: 6 Key Tips to Get Ahead

7 minute read

Ready to go to college, but can’t afford to without a job? Want to get important professional experience before you graduate? You’re not alone. In fact, you might be surprised at how common (and how realistic) it is to be working while in college. With the average cost of a 4-year public college around $25,707 per year, more and more students are wondering if they should get a job while earning a degree. Let’s take a closer look at why you might consider working while in college and how to make it happen.

Can You Work While in College?

Short answer: yes, you can. And you won’t be alone. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 40% of full-time college students and 70% of part-time college students in 2020 were employed at least 3 hours (for full-time students) to 40 hours per week (for part-time students). Some students have to work to earn extra income. While working through college may not be optional for you, it may be a necessity. Or, you may want to work to build professional experience. Whatever your reasons for working while in college, you’ll need strong time management skills. It can be done. We’ll dive into the pros and cons of working as you study, along with the types of jobs to consider and how to juggle it all at once.

Types of Jobs You Can Get as a College Student

Full-time? Part-time? Remote? What do these all mean, and what’s the best choice for you during your college years?

Part-Time Jobs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines part-time work as 34 hours or fewer per week. This makes a part-time job great for full-time students who don’t have many free hours outside of school obligations. These jobs usually offer flexible hours that allow you to work around your class schedule. However, part-time jobs generally don’t come with benefits like health insurance and are usually paid hourly. The top part-time jobs for college students include:

  • Animal care, particularly dog walkers
  • Babysitting/nannying
  • Barista

Full-Time Jobs

Full-time jobs are those where you work for 35 hours or more per week. Because of the time commitment, they’re usually taken on by part-time college students. Full-time jobs often – but not always – provide an annual salary, rather than an hourly wage, and may come with benefits like health insurance and paid time off (PTO). An entry-level full-time job can also be a way to work in your chosen field while you study. However, full-time jobs tend to be less flexible than part-time jobs, which is something to keep in mind if your class schedule changes every semester. Some great full-time jobs for college students include:

  • Medical receptionist
  • Bookkeeper
  • Bank teller

Work Study Jobs

Some schools offer a federal work-study program. This allows students to find jobs through their schools, usually as part of a financial aid package. You might work directly for the school on campus, or a partner business off campus. You’ll need to apply for a work-study program before the start of the school year, and not everyone will get a work-study job. You’re paid hourly and directly – the money isn’t considered part of your tuition payment. Common work-study jobs include:

  • Resident/community assistant
  • Campus ambassador
  • Teaching assistant

Remote Jobs

Remote jobs allow you to work from home – or your dorm room, apartment, or favorite coffee shop. No going into an office, no commuting. Depending on what you’re hired to do (and your availability), remote jobs can be either part-time or full-time.  Popular remote jobs for college students include:

  • Tech support
  • Content editor
  • Tutor

Summer Jobs

Just because you need a job to help you through college doesn’t mean you have time during the school year – even for a part-time remote job. That’s where summer jobs come in.  Summer jobs can be fun and flexible. But they’re also competitive, so make sure you apply early. Common summer jobs for college students:

  • Lifeguard
  • Camp counselor
  • Pet sitter

Pros and Cons of Working While in College

While there are many advantages to working while in college, there are also a few drawbacks. As you consider the world of employment while in college, here are a few important points to keep in mind.

Pros of Working While in College

  • Earning money
  • Mastering time management
  • Graduating with less student debt
  • Gaining professional experience and meeting networking contacts in your field
  • Your job may seamlessly transition to your after-college career

Cons of Working While in College

  • Less study time
  • Less time for social or extracurricular activities
  • Your job may not pay enough to make a real dent in your expenses
  • Work can be sporadic and unpredictable
  • Your income may affect your financial aid

How to Work While in College

Getting a job in college may be necessary. With a little planning and organization, you can maximize the benefits of working while in college and minimize the drawbacks.

1. Plan Your Time Carefully

Time management is a crucial skill you need in college and beyond. Learn to prioritize your tasks to meet deadlines. Arrange your schedule so you are always on time for work. Eliminate distractions as much as possible – this may mean investing in a set of noise-canceling headphones or turning off your phone (yes, really). Focus on your “must-dos” before your “want-to-dos.”

2. Prioritize Organization

Learn how to organize your life. This means taking advantage of calendars and alarms on your phone to remind you what needs to be done when, and where you need to be at any given time. Write it all down somewhere so you don’t forget deadlines or work schedules. Don’t depend on your memory to keep you focused and on task.

3. Communicate Your Availability

Now is not the time to be shy. Let your professors, bosses, study groups, and friends know where you need to be and when. Don’t overcommit yourself and try to avoid ghosting anyone (especially employers!). You might be surprised at how understanding everyone can be – as long as you don’t take advantage.

4. Plan Ahead

Part of time management is planning ahead. Not everything can be planned for – emergencies and unscheduled events come up all the time. But the things you know are coming should be planned for in advance. For example, you know when your school’s holiday breaks will be and can discuss time off with your boss well in advance. If you know a paper is due soon but you have to pick up an extra shift at work, you can discuss it with your professor ahead of the due date.

5. Try to Work in a Field Related to Your Major

Working in a field related to your major is a double bonus: not only do you reap all the regular benefits of a college job, but you’re helping your future, post-college self. You’ll gain important professional experience that will help your resume stand out to employers. You’ll make contacts who can help you find jobs in your field. And you may find that the job is a good fit for you even after you graduate.

6. Consider Online Classes

Online classes can help you get ahead in college by working around your schedule and saving you money on college tuition, books, and fees. StraighterLine offers asynchronous, self-paced classes that can be done on your own time so you can work as many hours as you need without sacrificing your academics. Many online college courses are more affordable than traditional colleges, helping you save even more money in the long run.

Work and Study Simultaneously with StraighterLine

StraighterLine can be a great option for earning college credit while working your way through school. We offer over 60 courses and guarantee transfer of credit at over 150 schools. Taking courses with StraighterLine can help you focus on your major, achieve greater professional development, and knock out those gen ed requirements before you ever step foot on campus. Our affordable classes include eTextbooks, student support, and tutoring so you can achieve your college dreams.

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