Part-Time Work


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You may decide to pay for some of your college expenses by taking a part-time job. Retail shops and restaurants, which often abound next to campus and cater to the local college population, often hire students as part-time workers.

While a part-time job may only pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (as of July 24, 2009), the extra income makes a difference. For students who rely on student loans to help pay for college, the extra income means having to borrow less.

At the current minimum wage, working 10 hours a week for 30 weeks a year (the estimated length of a school year) adds up to about $2,175 before taxes. As a result, a student who relies on student loans may be able to borrow that much less if they stick to a personal budget. If the student works through the summer, they are easily able to earn another $1,000 with perhaps a slight increase in weekly work hours.

This $3,175 in annual loan savings adds up to $12,700 over a four-year period -- a significant reduction in college-funding expenses.

Of course, most student part-time jobs offer no health insurance or other benefits. However, if you can find the right job with a mutually beneficial work schedule, you may find that a part-time job offers sufficient financial rewards.

Work-Study, which is a form of federal financial aid, provides eligible students with campus- or community-based work. Students ineligible for Work-Study (or who do not submit a FAFSA) can turn to the retail stores and restaurants that are often located near campus.

When seeking a part-time job as a college student, you may wish to keep in mind:

  • Number of weekly work hours. You don't want to work so many hours that you jeopardize your studying or attendance. In particular, late work nights may result in oversleeping and missing too many classes. If delivering those pizzas an extra night each week crimps the hours you need to study for physics, you may wish to limit the number of hours you work weekly.
  • Flexibility of work and school schedules. You may not wish to miss a course that is vital to graduating or of academic interest for the sake of a part-time job. At the same time, you have to offer some flexibility in the hours you can work to fit your employer's needs. Finding the right work schedule is a bit of a balancing act. It's no surprise that -- once a part-time student's and employer's schedules work out -- a student is likely to remain at a part-time job until they graduate.
  • Applying for financial aid. If you receive federal financial aid as a college student, you may have to limit the number of hours you work per week. Similarly, if maintaining a scholarship or grant requires you to maintain a certain grade point average, you should check with the financial aid office or scholarship donor to ensure that there is no conflict with a part-time job.
  • Additional opportunities to work. You may have an opportunity to work extra hours or weeks of the year, such as when school is not in session. Once employed and established as a reliable employee, you may easily be able to ramp up the number of available hours when school is out of session. On the other hand, some retailing businesses rely on students for business to such a degree that they cut back staff when school is not in session. In that case, you may be better off enjoying your own vacation!

In addition to earning extra income, working part-time as a college student teaches financial responsibility, self-discipline and other good habits. It's important, however, that a part-time job doesn't conflict with your primary objective of completing your college education.

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