Networking and Career Advice

Why College Students Should Work While in College?

Natasha Serafimovska

Career Coach, Professional Resume Writer, Freelance Writer

College is a special part of our lives. It’s a time when we prepare for our dream job while creating some of the most memorable moments in life. That said, college life can also be stressful. Not only do we have to spend long hours studying, writing and researching, but we also have to deal with increased tuition fees and living expenses.

It’s no surprise, then, that working while in college is quite common. The US Department of Education has found that in 2017, 43% of all full-time students and 81% of part-time students have had a job. While this is common, it still begs the question

How many hours should you work while in college?

How do you make this decision without sacrificing your education or your health? Here we look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of working while in college and how to determine the number of hours you should work without jeopardizing other aspects of your life.

Can I Work a Job While in College?

How Do Students Manage the Workload?

If this is the first time you’re getting a job, the experience of managing schoolwork and a job can be very stressful. It’s best if you invest some time upfront to prepare yourself so that you avoid feeling overwhelmed later on. 

Accurate Plan

Having an overview of all the school responsibilities and assignments you have for each semester can help you plan how much time you can dedicate to work. At the beginning of each semester, take a look at your syllabus and the requirements for each course. Then, jot down the number of hours you think you’d need to complete coursework and the number of hours you could potentially work.

Proper Sleep Management

Sleep can feel like a luxury when you’re a student. Between going to classes, completing projects, work and hanging out with friends, there may be very little time left for rest.

However, don’t fall into this trap. Sleep is the biggest productivity booster you can give yourself. If you’re determined to work while in college, then setting aside seven or eight hours for sleep is key to keep your momentum going. 

Start Saving

Working while in college can be a missed opportunity if all the money goes down the drain in the form of drinks and entertainment. While having fun is a big part of college life, think about your long-term future and how the money you make today could improve the quality of your life four or five years later. Consider putting aside 20% or more of your earnings into a savings account each time you get paid.

Take Breaks When Necessary

Taking a break is scientifically proven to boost our productivity, creativity and morale. So, why are we so bad at doing it? When you work against a hard deadline and have so much to do, those 15-20 minutes for a break can feel like a waste of time. 

However, breaks can give our mind the downtime it needs to sort through information, events and emotions. Start practicing this on a daily basis and you’d be surprised at how much more productive you become.

How Many Hours Should You Work While in College?

How many hours you choose to work while in college will depend solely on you and your academic commitments. 

Full Time Students Work Schedule

A full-time student is considered anyone who takes at least 12 course credits per semester. Most colleges recommend taking about 15 credits if you want to finish college in four years. Depending on the number and types of courses you take, you can calculate how many hours per week would go towards studying and attending classes.

For instance, a standard course that meets twice a week would take about 2.5 hours per week. Depending on the number of courses you take, you could be investing about 10-12 hours per week in attending classes. Then each course would have some reading assignments and homework to complete at home. Factor in the commute time (if you’re living off campus or the faculty building isn’t nearby) and you could be looking at about 30-40 hours spent on college. 

Do the math for your own personal circumstances and then allocate how much time you could dedicate to work. For instance, if you spend 30-40 hours on your studies, then you may be able to work for about 10-20 hours each week.

Part-Time Students Work Schedule

A part-time student is anyone who’s taking fewer than 12 credits per semester. Fewer courses means more time for other activities, including work

If you’re taking 6-11 credits each semester, you could potentially work up to 40 hours, provided you don’t have too many big course assignments. If your courses are demanding and you find yourself needing more time to complete the work, then committing to 30 hours of work per week might be more realistic. 

The Benefits of Working in College

Working while in college has many more benefits than a bump to your personal budget. Getting a job while also studying can also teach you discipline, time management and help you practice the very skills you’re looking to develop at school.

For instance, just because you’re a student doesn’t mean that you should work as a cashier or a waiter (although those jobs have their own merits). Depending on your degree, you could get a job at a nursing home, the research department at your faculty or the local media agency. This experience can grow your network and serve as a stepping stone towards a full-time job once you graduate. 

The Drawbacks of Working in College

The flipside is that working in college could detract from your primary focus—studying! Depending on your job, you may find yourself skipping class in order to take an extra shift at work. Another challenge is the added stress that is inevitable when you have to juggle work and school. This can lead to poor sleep, reduced productivity and poor academic performance. 

Finally, let’s not forget the impact your extra cash can have on your scholarship or financial aid. Many financial aid programs have limitations on how much students could earn before they qualify for help, so making more could actually cost you more.

How to Balance Between Study and Work in College

You have to be honest with yourself about how many hours of work you can handle on top of your coursework each week. Even if you need the money, it might be better to cut back on some non-essential expenses and focus on your studies rather than take on more work and risk poor grades. 

Here, try to think about all your college responsibilities upfront. Some questions to ask yourself are

  • How much does my coursework change from one semester to another?
  • Is my job flexible enough to accommodate changes in my study workload?
  • Will I work for a manager who is sympathetic to the fact that I have a life outside of this job?

All of these things will help you strike a balance without sacrificing your studies or your health. 

Frequently Asked Questions on Working in College

Is 20 hours a week a lot for a student?

It depends on how much time you spend in college. If you’re a full-time student taking 15 credits each semester, then you may be able to work for 20 hours per week max. However, if your courses have many assignments, then working 10-15h might be more reasonable.

How many hours should I work as a student?

If you’re a full-time student, it’s recommended that you work 10-15h per week. This would be enough to help you cover some of your monthly expenses without sacrificing your studying. If, however, you’re a part-time student then working 30 or 40 hours per week is possible.

Should I work full-time while in college?

It’s not recommended to work full-time while in college. There are several reasons for this. First, a full-time job can put a lot of unnecessary stress on you and impact your studies. Second, if you’re receiving financial aid, an income from a full-time job may disqualify you from some scholarships. Finally, college is a time when, aside from studying, you should enjoy some time to make friends and have fun. A full-time job will leave you no time for any of that.


There are many perks to having a job while you’re in college. Aside from the obvious benefit of having more money, a job will also help you hone your skills in terms of discipline, responsibility and time management, all of which are key for success on the labor market. However, don’t let the appeal of increased financial freedom distract you from your main goal—to learn as much as possible and get away with a degree that will pave your way to a successful future!

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