For many students these days, working at least part time is an inevitable part of the college experience.
The cost of tuition has risen so dramatically over the last several decades and the recent economic crisis has wiped out the savings of so many families that any financial help is vital.
But how do you successfully balance work and education?
Assuming that you have any choice in what kind of job to accept, let’s consider how to hold a job with the least negative impact on your studies.
First, professionals in the education and career development fields strongly discourage trying to combine full-time work with full-time studies.
At Oxford University, "term-time employment is not permitted except under exceptional circumstances."
And similarly, Cambridge University "does not allow students to undertake paid work" while they are studying full time.
Allocating no more than 20 hours a week for work is a good target if you are carrying a full load of courses.
If you overload yourself, your coursework will suffer.
If you must work full time to survive, then understand and accept that your degree or certificate will likely take longer to earn because you’ll need to dial back on your credit hours each semester. To keep on track, you may have to study through summers as well.
Unless you spent your high school years acquiring a valuable trade such as plumbing, machine tooling, or foreign language translation, you are probably going to be making something close to minimum wage.
For us unqualified folks, the best jobs are those that require the least commuting, offer the greatest flexibility, allow studying on the job, and provide some sort of benefit above and beyond the modest paycheck.
Clearly, the plum jobs (except of course in terms of pay) are those with the college or university.
Jobs on campus are not only convenient, but they may provide social or academic contacts that can be useful later on.
Of course, the competition for such slots is fierce.
However, someone has to check student IDs at the dorms and the library—why not you?
If on-campus jobs are unavailable, look for options as close to campus as possible.
Commuting wastes time, even if you can study while traveling.
Plus, businesses in and around campus neighborhoods are more likely to be cognizant of the rhythm of the academic year than other employers.
They may be more empathetic to your academic needs, especially around midterms and finals.
Top 10 jobs for college students
You know where to look, but what kind of jobs should you look for as a college student? These 10 jobs rank highly in terms of those key traits we mentioned above: low commute time, flexibility, ability to study, and extra incentives. Some even pay well too!
- Massage therapist
Massage therapists make about $20/hour. Though this job requires professional training and licensing, this basic investment is 100% worth it. The flexible schedule and decent pay are the obvious advantages you will enjoy.
- Manicure specialist
This job provides many work opportunities. Of course, it requires training, a keen eye for detail, and a certain type of attitude. Remember that manicures can have serious health consequences for your client, so take care of the tools you use.
- Office clerk
Working as an office clerk will show you what office work really looks like. Even better, you may be able to find something related to your studies or professional field.
While not very creative, this job can offer a flexible schedule and potential for career growth.
- Customer service rep
These positions often provide opportunities to work from home, which is ideal for a student.
- Delivery driver
With a flexible schedule, this job is particularly great if you know the surroundings or if you’re ready to use the map a lot.
This job doesn’t require many qualifications. In most cases, your good taste and personal experience are enough.
- Graphic designer
If you’re artsy and have some Photoshop skills under your belt, you can always find gigs on platforms like Fiverr.
- Social media marketer
This is a great option if you spend a lot of time online. The good news is that now it’s called social media marketing. You can get paid for posting funny images and adding friends from a target audience.
- Freelance writer
If you have a knack for writing, this is the perfect way to make money with only a computer and some free time.
Traditional student jobs
Look for desk clerk positions at apartment buildings near school.
The residents will likely be students and faculty, and the work is intellectually undemanding and often flexible.
However, avoid desk clerk jobs in which you also act as security and might be required to physically confront or subdue an interloper.
If you can get a front-desk job in your own building, this is a bonus. You will meet people you would never otherwise have known.
Check with stores near campus for retail positions.
Ringing up groceries is a mindless task, but it is not incompatible with a successful college career, as long as the commute is not too time-consuming.
At some stores, retail clerks can even join unions and obtain long-term membership benefits.
Campus town retail shops often prefer employing students.
If possible, pick a business that sells something that you yourself use. After all, an employee discount on a product you will never buy is useless.
Bookstores are a particularly excellent place for students to work, as they offer comfortable study spots and books that you may need for class—at a discount.
Another possibility for students is to work in retail sales. It’s not rocket science, nor does it pay very well.
However, retail sales jobs are seldom a full 40-hour week, and some scheduling flexibility is possible.
Stop by local coffee shops, restaurants, and bars to ask about work.
Waitressing, bussing tables, and bartending at campus watering holes all offer flexible non-classroom hours.
However, they seldom allow studying on the job.
Inquire about jobs at the local public library.
Library jobs may be unionized municipal positions in some communities, posing a potential barrier to entry. But if you can manage to find one of these positions, definitely consider it. Re-shelving books in a local public library can help you with your own research during quiet moments and expose you to tips from professional librarians.
Hours could be flexible as well.
Whatever job you go for, keep the following criteria in mind:
- Short commutes
- Modest intellectual demands
- Scheduling flexibility
- Additional opportunities (e.g., discounts, contacts, knowledge)
Consider paid online surveys to make a little extra money.
We live in the era of advanced technology and Internet communication. If you want to make money in college, consider taking paid online surveys.
The first and most obvious question that may cross your mind is whether these surveys are legit.
That’s why we’ve put together the following list of 10 trusted websites for you:
- Swagbucks offers rewards for watching videos and playing games. An average survey takes about 10 minutes to complete.
- The OpinionPanel Community gives students $15 just for registering. You can select simple online projects like surveys, which pay $1.50 - $3 each, or online focus groups, which pay $45 - $100 each.
- Vivatic helps you make money in college by not only taking surveys, but also writing reviews and/or typing data.
- MySurvey offers lots of surveys daily. Importantly, this service matches your interests with the surveys they send you. Most surveys take up to 15 minutes.
- Ipsos is one of the biggest and most trusted panels for online surveys. Your rewards primarily come as Amazon vouchers, but they’re worth it too.
- Valued opinions is a site where you can earn up to $15 per hour. The name of this platform speaks for itself—your opinion is really valued, and your effort in taking online surveys is highly appreciated.
- iPoll is compatible with mobile devices, so you can do the job lying on the sofa with your smartphone in hand. The only disadvantage is that the rewards are relatively low (about $2.50 per survey).
- Hiving is one of a few sites that offer you points even if you are declined for a survey. You can also earn points by simply inviting friends.
- Pinecone Research promises huge rewards for surveys that usually do not take too long to complete. However, this platform is not always open for registration. You may want to check it from time to time so you do not miss an opportunity to sign up and make money in college.
- Springboard is one of the easiest way to make money in college. Unlike many other platforms offering vouchers, this one pays in cash.