Should Students Get Jobs During College?

Depending on the college student, Friday night can be dedicated to partying or a part-time job. Saturday can be for sleeping in or setting off to an eight-hour shift.

Whether to get a job in college or not is one of the toughest decisions a full-time student may have to make, and it’s a decision many parents have mixed feelings about. There are definitely benefits beyond the modest paychecks, like covering extra expenses, getting involved in the community, and networking. But for some students, holding down a job can also lead to stress and lower grades.

For parents and students alike, think about the pros and cons of working part time while also considering the many job options.

Earning More Than Money

Beyond just getting a paycheck to help budget for daily college life, students can gain valuable experience through a part-time job.

Work experience can set a student apart from the rest of the stack of resumes when it’s time to search for a job after graduation. To help get the most long-term value from a college job, it may be beneficial to focus on finding work that might be relevant to a student’s career path. But if a student is unsure of their future career field, holding any job for an extended period while maintaining grades can show future employers commitment, work ethic, and an ability to balance various workloads.

“There are merits to having a job,” says Tamsen Butler, Author of The Complete Guide to Personal Finance for Teenagers. “If they can find something in the field they are studying, it can help with their resume.”

Butler points out that students can also get paid to do things they love, like teaching swimming or aerobics. It can serve as a nice break from a heavy school load while also providing some extra cash.

Schedule flexibility is another important consideration for any student weighing job options. Some of the best choices in this respect can be found on campus, where university departments frequently hire students and plan around their courses. The pay can be less than off-campus opportunities, but campus jobs can also help students network with professors and administrators who could help them find jobs after college.

Recent research has shown that working 20 hours or less each week during college actually has several benefits, including increased leadership and time management skills. The same research, based on findings from the National Survey of Student Engagement, found that grades earned by students working 20 hours or less were consistent with the grades of full-time students not working at all.

Learning Is a Full-Time Job

Despite the short- and long-term benefits of working during college, it’s definitely a choice that requires time and commitment. And some parents, especially those helping pay for their children to get an education, are understandably concerned that a job might detract from study time.

Time spent working isn’t just time that could be spent studying. It’s also time that could be spent enjoying college experiences like football games, participating in student activities, learning professional skills, volunteering, or networking with peers and professors.

Keep the Conversation Going

The discussion between parents and students about how to balance work and school doesn’t have to end once a job begins.

At the end of each grade period or semester, take time to re-assess the work situation and decide if it’s having a negative impact on the student’s grades or mental well-being.

Parents should let the child know it’s not a sign of failure to stop working, reduce workload during the school year, or pursue less-taxing work options, especially if the student is struggling with grades or adjusting to college life.

If a part-time job is right for your college student, learn about the best jobs for students.