The Benefits of Working While Enrolled in College

A part-time job, whether on-campus or off-campus, can help the student become a better student and get a jump on his/her career track.

Nearly 40% of undergraduates nationwide hold part-time jobs while attending college, and nearly half of these students work on-campus.

Part-time work allows students to:

  • Perfect time-management skills necessary for academic success
  • Reduce reliance on student loans
  • Gain career-related experience as they clarify goals, acquire skills and self-confidence, and build a network of contacts

Most college students take a job for the financial benefits associated with it. For some, work is absolutely necessary to help them pay for education-related expenses. For others, employment provides some basic spending money for incidentals and for treating themselves to the occasional eating out and entertainment.

Improving Academic Performance

Though many students work while in school, some educators believe that working during the academic year serves as a distraction from what should be a student’s top priority: their academics. But the 2008 National Survey of Student Engagement demonstrated that working while in school was positively correlated with student engagement. Similarly, the 2009 follow-up to the 2003-04 Beginning Postsecondary Students longitudinal study (BPS:04/09) demonstrated that students who worked 1-12 hours a week had higher Bachelor’s degree attainment rates than students who did not work, but that working more than 12 hours a week caused declines in graduation rates.

Studies show that students who work up to 12 hours a week do just as well or even better academically than those who don’t. Working only 10-12 hours a week shouldn’t affect academic grades or performance.

Similarly, a part-time job can enrich the college experience. Far from being a distraction for students, working during college has proven to be one of the places where students develop two critical employment and life-related skills: teamwork and time management.

Even working in the college dining hall or at a fast-food eatery can help students develop fundamental work habits. But, securing employment with a specific on-or off-campus employer related to the student’s field of study can provide students with the potential to deepen and enrich what they are learning in the classroom. Most importantly, working students find that part-time work experience helps them clarify their career aspirations and provides them with an advantage when seeking a full-time job after graduation.

Give Careful Consideration

Clearly, students can benefit significantly from working part-time while in college. Everything from reducing the amount of money they borrow to rounding out the college experience makes working while in school an important aspect of a student’s college career.

Such experiences can be gained in an on-campus or off-campus setting. Real-world experience with the right employer is worth considering. But, students interested in working part-time on-campus will generally find a wealth of options on campus where flexibility reigns and transportation is not an issue.

Getting the Most from College

Most students regard college as a full-time commitment. Yet, when pressed, those same students acknowledge that there is always time for other activities.

The question always comes down to what students do with their time. Certainly, spending time socializing with peers is one of the preferred activities, both for its pure enjoyment as well as for taking one’s mind off the stresses associated with papers, projects, problem sets and tests. Informal learning from one’s peers is perhaps as important as seat-time in classroom lectures.

College graduates consistently report that part-time employment was their most common and valued source of career-related experience, and they often attribute post-graduation success to their work experience. In addition, that work can provide a wealth of additional learning opportunities as well as an interesting set of new acquaintances.

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