Should You Work While in College?

Nicolas Cesare  | 

Many college students have the opportunity to work while they’re earning their degree. However, if you’re considering getting a job while in college, make sure that you’re aware of the pros and cons that having a job as a college student comes with.

Pros and Cons of Working During College

Ultimately, your decision of whether or not to get a job while you’re in college comes down to measuring the individual pros and cons of working in college for your particular situation. For some people, working while in college can be a great way to augment the college experience — for others, it can derail your entire plan for your education. The key to making this decision is knowing how working in college will affect your experience. Here are some things to think about.

Working in College Can Help Reduce Student Debt

In 2019, student debt in the United States was about $1.4 trillion. Among recent graduates, there’s no doubt that the amount of student debt in the country is one of the biggest problems that this generation will face.

For this reason, current and prospective students are taking whatever actions they can to reduce student loan debt before they graduate — including working through college. With the price of tuition and textbooks alone, getting a job while you’re in college can seem like a no-brainer. However, it’s not that simple.

Often, jobs for students will pay close to minimum wage. This means that, depending on your state’s minimum wage, the impact on your student debt might not be as big as you’d like it to be. You should also consider whether working while in college is a necessity for you. If you’re receiving ample scholarships or support from a college savings account, then supplemental income from a job might not have to be a priority for you.

Working While in College Can Increase Stress

College curriculum demands a lot from students, and the workload can be rather heavy. Adding another commitment on top of your studies may cause more stress, which can affect your mood and even your health — stress have been proven to cause adverse symptoms, including but not limited to:

  • Insomnia;
  • Headaches;
  • Mood swings;
  • Weakened immune system;
  • Depression.

It’s important if you’re going to work through college to understand the symptoms of stress, and know the limit of what you can and can’t commit to.

Working While in College Provides Job Experience

Work experience can be very important when it’s time for you to start your career. However, not all experience is created equal. The most valuable kind of work experience will be from jobs in your field. If you can get an entry-level position or internship in your target field while you’re still in school, that can give you an edge on your future applications.

Working During College Forces You to Learn Time Management

Working while you’re in college can also help you to build some important life skills. One of those skills is time management. When you have to juggle your school and work schedule, you will learn very quickly how important it is to plan out your day in advance, and keep to a routine. If you aren’t able to manage your time well while working in college, you may find that your performance at school and work will suffer. These skills can stick with you for a lifetime, and be invaluable during your professional adult life.  

How to Find the Right College Job

If you decide that working while in college is a good idea, here are some tips for finding a college job that’s right for you:

  • Check your college’s job board or career office: Often, colleges will have student-only positions available all over campus. These are ideal opportunities for students, you won’t have to add another commute to your schedule, and these jobs are highly flexible toward class schedules.  
  • Look for part-time opportunities: There will be plenty of time to work a full-time job once you’ve graduated. Don’t forget that your schooling is basically its own part-time job, and demands its own dedicated amount of time.
  • Find a job with some downtime: Some jobs, like working in the library, will often afford you long stretches of inactivity. You can use this time to catch up on your schoolwork, or just unwind after a long day.
  • Find a boss who understands your needs: If you aren’t working on campus, make sure your boss can appreciate the fact that you’re a student and will need to prioritize school sometimes. It pays to keep your supervisors informed of school events, such as final exam week, well in advance to avoid scheduling conflicts.

Working while you’re in college can be a great way to reduce your student debt, get some job experience, and start learning good life skills. Make sure that you balance the pros and cons of working in college before you get a job.


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Nick Cesare is a writer from Boise, ID. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing and making avocado toast.