Part-Time Job, Work-Study or Side Hustle: What Type of Job is For You?

Renee Layberry
May 4, 2021

Everyone knows college is expensive. It’s not just tuition; there’s also fees, textbooks, and room and board to consider. While most students can easily get some form of financial aid to help offset the costs, the end result is a long-term loan to repay with interest.   That's why the majority of college students work. It helps with the costs and gives them a little cash for living expenses.    Let’s look at how to get part-time work during college, and the pros and cons that come with each type of job.  

How to find a part-time job as a college student

Finding a job during college can be tough. You'll need one with some flexibility to work around your schedule, but may have little to no experience. If you're having trouble finding a part-time job, here are a few tips to get you started.  

Check out employment resources at your school

Most colleges and universities have plenty of resources to help students find employment. Look on your school’s website for Career Services or a Career Center.  

Ask around

Check with some other students that are currently working and find out if their workplace is hiring. Students can be a great resource as they likely have jobs that are flexible to fit in with your class and study schedule.  

Consider seasonal work

Around the holidays, many retail stores and shipping companies need extra personnel to help them handle the busy holiday workload. For summer jobs, check out CoolWorks. They list seasonal jobs in places like national parks and ranches.  

Look into paid internships or work-study programs

See if your school offers options for paid internships or work-study programs. Both can be a great way to make some extra money, and although internships don’t usually pay much, they can provide you with valuable work experience and references.  

Search online

You can always find a range of part-time job postings online. Since so many companies use online forums for hiring, you are likely to find one that has the right amount of hours and flexibility you need while attending school. In addition to the usual sites like Indeed, you can try in-demand platforms like Wonolo.   Photo by LuckyLife11

Pros of part-time jobs

Local part-time jobs are one of the most traditional job choices for students who are working while they attend college. As with any work option, there are advantages and disadvantages. First, let’s look at the pros.  

They can provide a stable income

The best part-time job is one with hours that not only fit into your school schedule, but that you can depend on. With a set schedule, you'll have a reliable source of income on which you can budget and plan.  

You get experience

While your college education is obviously the most important component in terms of your future career, some job experience certainly doesn't hurt. A part-time job will not only provide you with that experience for your resume but can also give you professional references and skills you may need to land an entry-level job after graduation.  

There are networking possibilities

Getting to know your colleagues and supervisors in a part-time job can be key in obtaining employment after graduation. Even clients or customers you serve might be important in terms of networking. You never know when you may meet someone who could be valuable to your future.  

Cons of part-time jobs

While many benefits come with securing a part-time job during college, there are drawbacks that can make it less than the ideal option.  

They can be difficult for foreign students to get

International students who want to work may find it difficult to obtain a part-time job. For example, academic students with an F-1 Visa are not allowed to work off-campus during the first academic year (but can accept some on-campus employment).  

The work schedules can be exhausting

Maintaining a part-time job while attending college full-time can be exhausting. This is especially true if you're working nights or lots of overtime. Great time management skills can help, but you may still find that school and work become too much, and you could end up suffering from a drop in your grades.  

Less time for fun

Even if you're able to get enough sleep and keep your grades up, you won't have much time left after work and school. Juggling a part-time job with the requirements of being a full-time student means you'll likely miss out on many college activities and events and hanging out with friends.   Photo by StockSnap

Pros of work-study programs

Another option for students looking for employment while attending college is a work-study program offered at the school. Below are some of the benefits that can come from opting for a work-study program job.  

Your financial aid won’t be adversely affected

Any income you make is taken into consideration when you're applying for financial aid. While the income from your work-study program job must be included on your FAFSA application, it won’t count against you when your financial aid amount is calculated.  

They're usually conveniently close by

Most work-study jobs are located on or close to the campus. Also, the employer (sometimes the school itself) understands that you are working while attending school and are typically more flexible with scheduling than other employers might be.  

There may be less competition

If you are vying for a traditional part-time job, you may find that several candidates are applying for the same position, especially if you are in a smaller center. With work-study programs being limited to students with financial need, the pool of possible contenders may be smaller.   However, not all schools participate in work-study programs, so before counting on that job, check with your school's financial aid office to confirm that your school does participate. Also note that the availability of work-study jobs varies by school.  

Cons of work-study jobs

Even though the work-study program is designed to be a good part-time job choice for students, there are a few cons that you should consider.  

You are not guaranteed a position

The work-study program is only available to students with financial need. Also, when you apply for a college or university, they may offer a work-study program during admission, but that does not mean they will necessarily have an opening in the program you want. You may have to start in a different program and transfer to the one you want when a position becomes available.  

Wages can be lower than with private employers

You will earn at least the current federal minimum wage for your work-study program job. While you might earn more, it does mean you could be making less than someone performing similar tasks at a job outside of the program.  

They usually offer fewer hours

You will be given a set amount of hours that you can work at your work-study job. The number of hours assigned depends on your class schedule and is also linked to your academic progress. This may mean that you won’t get enough hours to cover the costs for the semester.   Photo by Markus Winkler

Pros of a side hustle

For some people, a side hustle works best to meet their financial needs. Side hustles can be anything from having a YouTube channel or selling items on Ebay, and from walking dogs or tutoring to selling design logos online. Side hustles have many advantages over traditional part-time jobs and work-study program jobs.  

Lots of flexibility

With a side gig, you will likely enjoy greater flexibility. Most side jobs allow you to work when you want to and take off when you want. This can be ideal for a college student's hectic schedule of classwork, studying, and social events. The flexibility of a side hustle also allows you to have better control of how much money you make. By putting in more hours when you can, you will likely earn more.  

Improves your skillset

Depending on the side hustle you choose, you are a lot more likely to use a different skill set than you would with a traditional job. This can allow you to better hone new skills, which you can include on your resume.  

Teaches you valuable time management skills

When you work a side hustle, you're in charge of your own schedule. This means you will have to manage your time to fit everything in: the actual work of your side hustle, studying, classes, and your other daily activities. You will need to be the one to take the initiative since you set the hours yourself, instead of having to report to work at a specific time.  

Cons of a side hustle

While the pros of a side hustle can make it a tempting venture, it’s important to look at the drawbacks as well.  

You can end up working harder than you anticipated

Certain side hustles can have the potential for growing bigger than you anticipated, which can result in less free time than you expected, especially if it is a type of business that needs to be nurtured to grow. When a side hustle becomes too demanding, it can take time away from your schoolwork and you'll end up burning out a lot quicker.  

The added stress can be ridiculous

Side hustles can take up more of your day-to-day life. Unlike a regular part-time job, you won't have set hours. You may find yourself tending to things throughout the day, such as answering urgent emails, taking phone calls, and dealing with customer complaints. The constant interruptions can be extremely stressful and have a negative effect on your college work.   By looking at the pros and cons of each type of work option, you can better determine which part-time job will fit your needs and school schedule.