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Part-Time College Jobs: What to Look For & Avoid

You're enrolled in college, and you're preparing for the career of your dreams. Between attending classes, taking tests, and reading assignments, you’ve got a full schedule. But you might make time for work.

A part-time job could be just the thing you need to really succeed once you've achieved your diploma. You’ll need to choose the right position carefully, and there are quite a few pitfalls to avoid on your way to employment bliss.

Why Get a College Job?

It's not at all unusual for students to work, says the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2017, more than 80% of part-time students had a job, and more than 40% of full-time students also had workplace obligations.

There are plenty of exceptional reasons to augment your classes with work.

Holding down a job while you're in school could help you to:

  • Gain valuable job experience. When you graduate and sit down to write your first resume, will you have any job experience to describe? If all you do is study, your resume will be a bit blank. With work, everything changes.
  • Pay current expenses. You won't fully cover tuition and expenses with part-time work. Just 18% of students pay their way through school with part-time work, reporters say, but it can help to offset the overall bill.
  • Develop time management skills. When you graduate, you'll need to manage the demands of your job, your family, your friends, and more. You'll learn how to juggle competing demands while you work as a student.
  • Reduce your student debt load. Some loan programs allow you to borrow enough to cover both your tuition and your living expenses. If you work part-time, you might be able to borrow a little bit less.
woman working at animal shelter

Hot College Jobs to Consider

If you're looking for a job while you're in school, you are in luck. There are plenty of jobs that offer decent pay, flexible hours, and lots of real-life experience.

These are just a few examples of jobs that are popular with college students:

  • Nursing assistants: If you're planning to work in the health care industry after school, use this job to understand what patient care is really like. You'll provide care for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says you'll make more than $13 per hour.
    You'll need to take a class and get certified to get started, but many facilities offer those classes to new hired, and they will even pay you to take those classes.
  • Animal caretakers: Perhaps caring for animals suits you better than caring for humans. In this job, you'll clean cages, walk dogs, and otherwise help veterinarians or shelter managers handle their furry charges.
    BLS says you'll make close to $12 per hour, and you don't need an enhanced education to get started. This is a great job if you hope to work in veterinary medicine, animal welfare, agriculture, or a related field.
  • Waiters and waitresses: Become a shift manager, and you'll learn how to lead others. Every day, you'll develop exceptional customer service and sales skills.
    You'll make about $11 per hour, says the BLS, and you don't need a special education to get started.
  • Freelance professionals: If you have exceptional writing, graphic design, or web design skills, you can put them to work before you graduate.
    Among freelancers, 64% found their jobs online, experts say. Most freelancers choose the work because they need flexible schedules and decent pay. As a bonus, you'll develop a portfolio you can showcase when you start looking for permanent work.
  • Childcare workers: If you're hoping to work in pediatric medicine, in K-12 education, or in another field with kids, this job is for you. Take care of children from another family, and earn an estimated $11 per hour, says BLS.
    Be upfront with your class schedule, and you could find a family that's willing to accept your time when it's open and make other arrangements when it's not. You don't need a degree to be a babysitter or nanny.

There are many, many more jobs out there that could appeal to students, but these ideas should get your creative juices flowing.

College Job Pitfalls to Avoid

While there are plenty of jobs that could appeal to college students, you'll need to ensure that you don't make a mistake as you search. Getting your diploma is your most important goal. The wrong job could make that tough.

A bad college job choice will:

  • Demand too much of your time. College students do best when they work 15 hours per week or less. You'll be likely to maintain your grades, experts say, and you won't be at risk of dropping out. Work more than 15 hours, and you could jeopardize your academic success.
  • Not have flexibility. You'll need extra time to do your classwork, and sometimes, your schedule will shift. Meeting with your classmates for team projects, for example, could be tricky if your boss won't let you out of a shift.
  • Make you turn off your brain. The best college jobs are within your preferred field, experts say. The work you do can set the stage for your future career. If you're stuck in a dead-end job and you're not learning while on the clock, this isn't the best job for you.

You should also look for work that you love. Heading off to pick up a shift while you're studying can be taxing. It's easier to make the time when you're doing something you enjoy.

job search

Where to Find Your College Job

You're ready to work, and you know what to look for. Where should you start?

Finding the right college job can take a little persistence, and it's best to start early. When classes start, everyone else at your school will be searching too. But there are plenty of resources to help in your search.

Consider tapping into:

  • Your school's financial aid office. Administrators may have a list of local businesses ready and willing to hire students just like you. Ask for help there, and if nothing comes up, press staff members to look on behalf of students like you.
  • Your local newspaper. There are more than 7,000 non-daily newspapers in the United States, experts say. Most have a section devoted to employment. Read through the listings, and you might find something you love.
  • Your community. Fewer than half of all college students have a car, reporters say. If you're relying on your feet to move you around, use them to help you find a job. Walk through the business section of your town, knock on doors, and even physically drop off your resume.
  • LinkedIn. This social media site is made for job hunters and employers to connect. Build a profile that describes who you are and the work you want, and this site can also suggest jobs you might like.
  • Use online job aggregators. Websites like ours help you look for jobs that are just right for you, and you don't have to live in the town to get started. If you're hoping to find a job from far away, long before class starts, this could be ideal.

Don't give up! The right job is out there. Just start digging to find it.

References

The Condition of Education 2019. (May 2019). National Center for Education Statistics.

Most College Students Work Part-Time, but Few Pay Their Way Through School. (December 2017). The Huffington Post.

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies. (April 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Animal Care and Service Workers. (June 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Waiters and Waitresses. (April 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Freelance Statistics: The Freelance Economy in Numbers. (March 2019). Free Train.

Childcare Workers. (June 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Balancing Work and Learning: Implications for Low-Income Students. (2018). Georgetown University.

Quantifying the Risks of Working While in College. (August 2018). The Hechinger Report.

Community Newspaper Facts and Figures. National Newspaper Association.

11 Universities Where Students Rarely Bring Cars. (March 2018). U.S. News and World Report.

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