Should You Work While Attending College?

For many students, working during college is a necessity rather than a choice. Even with scholarships and financial aid, it can still be difficult to pay all your bills and have some spending cash.

But even if you don’t need to work, there are plenty of reasons you should consider it. For one, it’s an easy way to meet new people and gain new skills. And secondly, a job can teach you valuable lessons about managing money and being responsible. The key is to know how much you can handle before it starts to jeopardize your studies.

Experts say that the ideal number of hours for students to work is 10-15 a week. In fact, there’s even some evidence that working a little bit while you’re in school can actually improve your chances of graduating.

But if you’re still on the fence about working, here are some things to consider.

Can you Handle It?

Everybody’s different in what they can handle. While there are definitely stories about people who supported a family and worked two jobs while in college, there are plenty of others about those who took on too much and suffered the consequences.

Only you know how organized you are and how well you can work under pressure. Before you apply for jobs, create a schedule that includes classes, study time and extracurricular activities to get a realistic idea of how much time you can allot. Keep in mind that there are always unforeseen circumstances that can also zap your time.

Don’t shortchange yourself. In order to incorporate a job successfully into your school life, you need to make sure that your studies are given the priority and that you aren’t feeling as if you’re missing out on college life.

In general, it’s best to wait a semester or preferably a year before looking for work. This will give you time to get settled into your new life.

Is it Worth It?

A job has many other attributes besides a paycheck. But you should have a good idea of why you’re doing it. Not all jobs are created equal. Some offer valuable work experience or college credits. Some even give you valuable contacts and exposure.

Ask yourself what you’re looking for in a college job. Is it a decent paycheck? A head start on your career? The convenience of working on campus? A chance to meet people outside of the academic environment?

If a job doesn’t meet any of your requirements or if the fiscal rewards are negligible, you might want to reconsider taking it. It’s easier to replace a job than a college record. Remember why you’re at school in the first place – to someday work in your field of choice and find the job of your dreams. Make sure that working part-time enhances your goals rather than hampers them.

Will It Interfere with Your College Experience?

Finally, it’s important to remember that you’re only a young, wide-eyed college student once (as opposed to an old, disgruntled one once you hit graduate school). Freedom is never going to feel as exciting and unhindered as it does now. There’s something to be said for putting off working and enjoying your college experience for as long as possible. Getting involved in clubs, organizations and social gatherings can often be just as beneficial for your future as a job.

That said, nothing helps to manage your newfound freedom and acquire a sense of responsibility like a job. Mastering a new skill and feeling as if you’re accountable and financially independent can be just as thrilling, if not more, than living alone on your parent’s dime.

Written by

Nicole Cavazos is a Los Angeles-based copywriter and blogger. As a former contributor to the ZipRecruiter blog, she covered the job market and wrote advice for job seekers.

More Articles by Nicole Cavazos