How to Earn Income and Work Experience as a Student

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Working while you’re in school has many benefits personally, professionally and financially. It gives you the chance to network, stay productive and build your skill sets. Most importantly, you can earn some money and pay off your student loan debt early.

Students should pick the work they pursue as carefully as they choose their major in school. You don’t want to sell yourself short taking any job just for a convenient paycheck, especially if it won’t give you the experience you need. Some of your options for the upcoming fall semester could include:

  • A work-study position on campus related to your field of study
  • An off-campus part-time job
  • An internship or externship which may offer paid compensation

You’ll want to pick an employment opportunity that works with your schedule and won’t affect class attendance, study time or homework. Consider some of the pros and cons of each opportunity below.

Work-study pros

Positions are usually on-campus

Work-study positions are easy to find right on campus through your school’s career center. Some may be based off-campus as well.

A work-study job can save you money on gas, travel expenses or commute time since you’ll likely be on-campus or nearby. You can use that time instead attending class and earning academic credits.

Tuition assistance (and sometimes pay)

Unlike an outside part-time job, a work-study position is a school-sponsored position. It is a form of financial aid that may reimburse some of your tuition costs in lieu of loans.

Work-study positions may also offer a small hourly rate you can earn. During my time as an undergrad journalism major, the work-study position I held was writing and editing for a local arts newsletter. The position provided tuition assistance and part-time pay at the same time.

They provide some career experience

Work-study is essentially like an internship. I was lucky to find one that was related to my major, gave me relevant experience, and paid modestly all at once.

Find a work-study that complements what you’re studying in school and it becomes more than a job; it enhances your curriculum.

Work-study cons

Positions may be competitive or scarce

Unlike part-time job opportunities which are numerous, there may be a shortage of options for the work-study program you’re interested in.

If you’re attending a smaller college, there may also be less work-study opportunities. On a larger campus, competition from other students may mean the position you want gets filled and won’t be available until the next academic semester or quarter.

Compensation may be low

Work-study isn’t like a job where you can request a desired wage or salary. Depending on the award, your financial aid assistance (or pay) is set by the school.

If the pay is low, your work-study program may feel like volunteer work at times.

Part-time job pros

Greater variety of opportunities

An off-campus job isn’t tied to a school in any way, so you’re free to look for any type of work you like, wherever you choose. Ultimately, there are more job opportunities available to you.

Additionally, you’re not limited in a number of hours you seek or how much money you can potentially earn. Unlike work-study, which is restricted to financial aid and school budget requirements, you may find an off-campus job that pays far higher than you’d expect.

It places you in a real-world environment

Finding a part-time position off campus may open the door to social and professional networking opportunities with people outside of the college community.

If you’re seeking a more professional position, it also gives you the chance to hone your resume, cover letter, and interviewing skills. A part-time job will offer you real-world, career experience that could serve you well after graduation when you hit the job market.

Part-time job cons

Wage/work inflexibility

Unless your part-time job is under the table, your pay is taxable income. The amount you earn with your job could affect the amount you receive in financial aid, whereas a work-study job is financial aid.

Although a work-study position on campus may establish specific hours for you to work, a part-time job places your employment at the discretion of your employer. They’re free to increase or decrease your pay or hours as they wish, which may interfere with your class schedule.

Outside employment is also at-will in most states, so your job can be terminated at any time.

Commuting costs

Gas, bus or train fare to commute off campus to a part-time job can cut into the wages you earn. If you’re only able to work a few hours a week, these expenses can drastically minimize what you may earn.

Internship pros

Internships give you vital career exposure

An internship in your chosen career field can give you the hands-on experience and exposure you need to land your first job post-graduation.

Internships also allow students to learn more about the workings of their job industry, meet future colleagues, and build skills. An internship on your resume and positive reference from your mentor/supervisor are key assets to getting hired in the future.

You might get hired

Make a positive impression, and the company or organization you intern with off-campus might just end up becoming your first full-time job after graduation. Many internships segue into part-time or full-time positions.

Your foot is already in the door with an internship, giving you a competitive edge over other job applicants who don’t have previous internship experience with the organization.

Internship cons

Most internships aren’t paid

The price many students pay for an internship slot is no pay at all. Internships are usually unpaid, volunteer opportunities designed to impart career experience as compensation.

If you have expenses and student loans to pay, you may find yourself struggling to pay your bills, attend classes and fulfill your internship.

You may not like it

Your internship may teach you that you don’t like working in the career path you’ve picked. Or worse, you’ve been delegated to menial job tasks that nobody else will take.

While an internship can be a great opportunity for you to discover your strengths and weaknesses, it can also mean that you might need to change majors, or reassess your educational or career goals.

Aim for a mixture of experiences

Your class schedule permitting, look for a mixture of opportunities that impart the experience and income you need while still in school.

Instead of choosing between an internship or an off-campus job, think about splitting time between a part-time, unpaid internship and a paid, part-time position. This could be a good compromise that will earn you some money and give you some resume-building skills.

If you’re limited to a work-study, check with your school about how much it will reimburse you for financial aid and if workers get paid. If the work-study program is only one semester long, you can search for a paid internship or part-time job for the following semester.

Most of all, assess your own personal and educational preferences. Everyone’s situation — academic, financial and otherwise — is different.

At the end of the day, pursuing paid employment of any kind as a student will help you pay off your student loans and college costs in the long-run.

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1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount.  The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.

Information advertised valid as of 9/3/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.


2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

3 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  2. View Auto Reward Debit Reward Terms and Conditions at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/AutoDebitReward.
  3. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  4. Lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest interest rate offered on the Discover Undergraduate Loan and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate, Graduate, Health Professions, Law and MBA Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable Margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 2.50% as of July 1, 2019. Discover Student Loans will adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Please visit discover.com/student-loans/interest-rates for more information about interest rates.
Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

  1.  Rates are as of July 1, 2019 and include auto-pay discount. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.

Citizens Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of October 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.05%. Variable interest rates range from 3.15% – 11.41% (3.15% – 11.26% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.72% – 12.19% (4.72% – 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

Citizens Bank Student Loan Eligibility: Borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or an international borrower/eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For borrowers who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank- participating school. 

Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.

3.70%
11.98%
1
Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents

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3.25% – 10.65%*,2Undergraduate and Graduate

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3.37%
11.87%
3
Undergraduate and Graduate

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3.52% – 9.50%4Undergraduate and Graduate

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3.15% – 11.41%5Undergraduate and Graduate

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

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