From B2B to a backpack full of homework or from waiting tables to writing papers— this is the new college experience for students who work their way through school. More and more, both traditional and adult learners are balancing their studies with full- or part-time work. In fact, it’s been reported that about 70 to 80 percent of college students are active in the labor market while enrolled in college.
While some students work part-time jobs during college, many take on a larger workload. In fact, about 40 percent of undergraduates work at least 30 hours a week. Unsurprisingly, that number is even higher for adult learners, many of whom balance full-time work, families and their studies.
Working while in college is no easy feat, but it boasts some undeniable rewards at the same time. If you’re on the fence about whether you’ll be able to handle working while in college, do note that it comes with its shares of pros and cons to consider.
To help enlighten you, we spoke with The College of St. Scholastica’s (CSS) Virtual Campus Director, Craig Bridges, as well as a handful of professionals who got their start while working in college. Read on to learn from their expansive cumulative experiences.
The pros of working while in college
As you’ll learn, the benefits of working while you earn your degree are numerous. From the obvious pros like earning money to some of the less obvious ones like mastering important soft skills that you’ll need in your future career, it’s worth considering the following positive takeaways.
Pro: Earning an income
Whether a student works full-time or just a few hours each week, there’s no denying the perk of bringing in a steady income, which can be used to stow away in savings, pay rent or purchase any necessary school supplies.
“I’ve always had an independent spirit, and working in college allowed me to pay for my own rent, textbooks, clothing, food and whatever else I needed,” offers financial coach, Megan Robinson. “This was a huge weight lifted from my parents, and it made the transition from college to full-time work much easier.”
For nontraditional students, working may be more of a necessity. Leaving work to go back to school can be a tremendous hurdle for adults returning to their studies a bit later in life, which is why many opt to continue working while earning a degree.
“Non-traditional students are often already employed when starting college or are returning back to school after stopping for a number of years. They still need to work to support their families and pay for living expenses,” Bridges explains.
Pro: Mastering time management
No matter the industry you hope to work in after college, working while in college can strengthen one important soft skill that will help you as you progress through your career: time management. Working college students have no choice but to master this skill as they balance their studies with work.
“Working while in college teaches you how to prioritize your time,” iterates content associate, Andrew Rombach. “If you have to work part-time on top of managing a semester’s course load, it’s an absolute necessity to manage your time effectively. If you can pull this off, you’re not only working harder, but smarter, too. This is invaluable experience for the future.”
“Students need to plan ahead,” Bridges agrees. “At the beginning of each course, use the syllabus and deadlines in the course to plot out when you are going to work on the readings and assignments. This should be planned out for each day so you don’t get behind.”
Pro: Graduating with less student debt
Another perk of working while in college is the ability to chip away at tuition bills and student loans as you go. Working students can put small amounts of money toward their schooling to help ease the burden of student loan debt and accumulated interest later on.
“One of my big regrets was not working while in college,” laments James Finn, who spent the past few years paying off his debts before becoming a travel vlogger. “I graduated with $34,000 in student loans, and $8,000 of that was interest accumulated during those four years.” He wishes he had worked while in college in order to reduce the amount he owed. Had he even worked part-time, he estimates he could have cut his debt down significantly.
Pro: Gaining professional experience
Students working while in college gain the benefit of expanding their professional experience. This is especially true for traditional students who may have limited work experience otherwise.
“Working while in school gave me the hands-on experience I used to get my first real job, far ahead of other college graduates with only classroom learning. There’s no substitute for experience,” says CMO of Community Health Charities, Amanda J. Ponzar.
Whether or not the job is directly related to their major or desired career path, just about any job can provide students with transferable skills. These skills and experiences can be highlighted on resumes and in interviews to demonstrate to future employers the breadth of your experience.
“Working while in college really put my education and my career into perspective,” offers Meghan Brumbley, who worked as a full time wedding coordinator while going to school. “I found the skills and knowledge that I was drawing from work to be more important than a perfect GPA. Those skills are what propel me forward today.” Since graduating, she launched her own wedding planning business.
Pro: Expanding your circle
Another undeniable benefit of working while in college is the opportunity to expand your circle, both professionally and socially. In addition to offering professional networking opportunities, traditional students may find that on-campus or other part-time jobs can be a great way to meet friends and other classmates.
“You get to meet some really amazing people, including coworkers and guests. Some of my best friends today were my coworkers in college,” Robinson says.
And when it comes to the professional networking aspects, you never know how the connections you make can help you down the line or throughout your career. “Working while in college is great for networking. You never know what kind of people you’ll meet, or what opportunities you may find,” she adds.
The cons of working while in college
According to our experienced professionals, there are fewer cons than pros when it comes to working in college. But they’re certainly worth considering if you’re wondering if you’ll truly be able to balance a job alongside your studies.
Con: Forfeiting time to devote to your studies
A potential downfall of working while in college is stretching yourself too thin— in some cases at the cost of your grades. “One con of working while in college is that your grades may take a hit, depending on your major and level of self-discipline,” Robinson admits, though she maintains that this isn’t always the case. “A lot of people work in college, so this one really depends on your ability to manage your time.”
Students need to prioritize and efficiently manage their time so that their grades aren’t negatively affected by work. The key is to find the right balance and develop good habits to ensure your studies get the attention they need.
Con: De-prioritizing free time and extracurricular activities
College is a busy time in anyone’s life, but adding work into the mix can fill up your schedule even faster. And when you’re prioritizing what’s important to you— school and work— your once prized free time will begin to dwindle.
“You may find that your social life suffers. Your work life and school life take up a lot of time. If you’re prioritizing work and school, then you’re most likely going to miss out on the social,” Rombach says.
It’s not all bad, though. Being devoted to your studies and work help to keep you free from other distractions. It’s all about keeping your eye on the prize— completing your education— and it can be helpful to remember that this is simply one short phase of your life that will pave the way for future success.
Supporting working students
As more and more students work while in college, it’s becoming a necessity for institutions to find ways to support them. “Higher education will adapt to the needs of working students, recognizing that working students still have a need for resources,” Bridges maintains.
Students who work while in college may need more resources along their educational journey, such as IT support for technical issues while learning remotely. They may also need advisement support to ensure they’re scheduling themselves efficiently and academic support if they’ve been out of school for a while, he adds. “Colleges need to meet them where they are.”
As our professionals have revealed, working while in college has its perks and its drawbacks. But with the right amount of support, access to resources and level of commitment, working students can find success in the classroom.
One way institutions are already supporting working students is through online education. Take for instance CSS’ flexible learning options. Students can learn online and in virtual classrooms, fitting their studies in around work, family and other obligations. These learning formats can reduce the barriers that keep potential students out of the classroom and thriving in a number of online programs.
If you’ve toyed with the idea of learning in an online classroom, be sure to check out our article, “How do online classes work? 6 things to expect from the virtual classroom.”
Should college students work while in college? ›
Working a part-time job while in college can help students pay for personal expenses, supplement financial aid and gain valuable work experience. On top of that, recent research shows those who do work have higher earnings later in their careers.What are two disadvantages of working while you are a college student? ›
Reasons Against Working While Studying
You may have trouble getting enough sleep. Exercising and self-care can end up low on your priority list. You may neglect your health and end up with mono.
Fifty-nine percent of low-income students who work 15 hours or more, leaving them with less time to study and complete assignments, had a C average or lower. You could be worse off in the long run if your job is so overwhelming that you fail classes or quit the academic program all together.Is it bad to work full-time while in college? ›
Keeping your full-time job not only saves you money by helping you avoid taking out large loans and interest on those loans, but it can also provide peace of mind, allowing you to study with less pressure of a five-figure debt hanging over your head.How many hours should a full-time college student work? ›
Many colleges recommend that full-time students should work no more than 20 hours/week at a job if they want to do well in their classes and this calculation shows why.Do colleges care if you work? ›
Each student should do something extracurricular they genuinely enjoy. They need to be invested, curious and contributing. However, there is one thing all colleges like to see applicants doing, and that is working.Do colleges like when students work? ›
Yes! Having a job in high school can definitely look good on your college application. As long as it doesn't end up negatively impacting other key areas such as academic performance and extracurricular participation, working in high school is an excellent way to increase the strength of your application.How many days a week should you work while in college? ›
Research shows that about 10 to 20 hours per week is the sweet spot when it comes to working in college.What are three 3 struggles commonly faced by college students? ›
- Social anxiety, general anxiety, test anxiety, or panic attacks.
- Family expectations or problems.
- Depression, lack of energy or motivation, hopelessness, being overwhelmed, low self-esteem, homesickness, loneliness.
In addition to offering a paycheck, some independence, and satisfaction, a part-time job can provide both training and experience. Employment teaches students about responsibility and can also reinforce what they are learning in school.
How many hours is part-time? ›
Part-time work means a person works a set number of hours each week, which can range from a few to around 30 hours.How many hours should I work as a student? ›
Just don't take on too many hours of employment – it's not worth feeling too tired or under pressure while you're studying. Most course providers recommend less than 15 hours a week, so make sure it's flexible and can be scheduled around your lecture timetable.How many hours a week should a college student work? ›
The amount of hours a student should work during college is close to 15-20 hours per week. This will help students to stay afloat with payments such as housing, tuition, food, clothing, transportation, among other necessities. They may even earn some extra money just for fun.How many hours is full-time? ›
Full Time in California
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, working 40 hours per week qualifies employees as full-time workers.
During the academic year, all students may work a maximum of 20 hours per week. This rule stands true for Federal Work-Study eligible students, non-work-study students, international students, and U.S. resident students.How many hours can you work while in full-time education? ›
Young people can't work more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours a week. Unlike adults, there is no opt out for this. If you work for two different employers on the same day, you still can't work more than a total of eight hours. In England you must be in part-time education or training until your 18th ...How many hours does the average college student work? ›
Based on a study from 2017, 80% of college students work part or full-time jobs. ¹ Further research shows that the average hours per week ranged from 24.3 – to 33.1¹ , depending on if the student was full or part-time. And most working students work upwards of 20 hours per week, guaranteed.How do you balance work and college? ›
- Keep a detailed schedule. ...
- Embrace alternative learning formats. ...
- Rely on your existing support network. ...
- Ask for help when you need it. ...
- Maintain clear boundaries. ...
- Excel as a working student.
How many hours do most students work each week? Most research indicates that working between 10 and 15 hours weekly during college is ideal if students are also enrolled full-time.How many hours a week is a full-time college student in class? ›
Even as a full-time student, there is less time spent in the classroom compared to high school. A student will spend, on average, 15-20 hours per week compared to 25-30 hours. Fewer hours spent inside the classroom allow students to arrange more time to study and work on a variety of college-level projects or research.
What are the benefits of working at a college? ›
On-campus facilities at universities can include child care, an athletic center and restaurants. You can also take advantage of college housing, which can include off-campus apartments. Many universities also offer to help employees with a down payment on their house if they're trying to live near campus.Do colleges check your room? ›
College or university staff may have the right to enter your dorm to inspect the room, perform maintenance, etc. If the police have arrested you, they may be able to search the room without a warrant. Another exception is when officers reasonably believe that evidence of a crime is being destroyed in the room.Does working in college look good on a resume? ›
You should definitely describe internships and college practicum on your resume. These experiences show prospective employers that you understand both the theory learned from your college studies and the practical application of your studies in the work world.Where is the best place to work for college students? ›
- Virtual assistant. Average hourly rate: $20.92. ...
- Data entry clerk. Average hourly rate: $19.80. ...
- Freelance writer. Average hourly rate: $33.02. ...
- Audio transcriptionist. Average hourly rate: $16.24. ...
- Online tutor. Average hourly rate: $24.75. ...
- Social media manager. ...
- Blogger. ...
- Resident assistant.
There are lots of different reasons why being a working student can help you in both your university life and later career, some of them including gaining experience and networking, as well as making some extra money.Do college students who work get better grades? ›
And there is one bonus—data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that students who work 10 to 15 hours per week while taking a full class load have stronger grades than those who don't work at all. Students who have jobs are forced to develop better self-discipline and life skills.What are the advantages of working while in college? ›
Working a part-time job while in college can help students pay for personal expenses, supplement financial aid and gain valuable work experience. On top of that, recent research shows those who do work have higher earnings later in their careers.What are the advantages of having a job while in college? ›
- Earning extra money. ...
- Seeking networking opportunities. ...
- Gaining professional experience. ...
- Developing transferable skills. ...
- Highlighting your ambition. ...
- Learning money management. ...
- Improving your grades. ...
- Applying classroom learning and receiving paid training.
- Lack of sleep. Working college students don't get enough sleep. ...
- No time for extra activities in school. ...
- Little time for your family and friends. ...
- Dealing with stress. ...
- Earning money. ...
- Early experience. ...
- Create connections. ...
- Being smart on money.