If you’re a college student, you may be considering whether it’s worth it to have a part-time or full-time job while you’re going to school. According to reports from the U.S. Department of Education, over 75% of undergraduate students have a job while going to college. Surprisingly, 25% of full-time students work full time too. The most common jobs for students are in retail and food service. Let there be no doubt – there are tradeoffs. You will need to decide what is most important to you. You may also want to consider ways to shore up areas that are problematic based on our list of pro’s and con’s of working while in college.
PRO’s of Working while in College
Financial Gain FTW
Do you need extra spending money or want to minimize your student loans? Having a job in college can help in either case. With rising tuition and living expenses, it can help to have a stream of income to offset them. Studies also indicate that those who work in college have increased medium-term earnings – a faster path to higher income.
Having a job while attending college requires self-discipline. Time management is a true life skill.
Building Your Resume
If you can find the right kind of work, you can fortify your resume. Finding an internship during the summer, especially paid, helps fast track your career after graduation. Working in your field throughout school helps even more. For example, you can build computer skills in fields like marketing, accounting and engineering. Having fluency with the concepts of your chosen field will become apparent in job interviews later.
You’ll also find yourself understanding responsibility better.
Brodie Childers, a full-time student at Cal State University at Dominguez Hills, works part-time as a website developer between classes and as a food server on weekends. “The biggest advantage I get from working while in college is being able to get a taste of “real life” before I graduate,” he said. “You can make sense of the true reason why you are attending college in the first place. I’m confident that working while going to college has made me a more humble and mindful student.”
Exploring Your Career Path
If you’re not certain whether you’ll like your career path, you can “try before you buy” with a part-time job. You may find that you loathe your chosen occupation, in which case, you may want to change your field of study! You can also develop skills you may need after graduation. Consider the impact of working on an employer’s Facebook page during school, and then later running social media marketing for your post-graduation employer.
The other aspect of self-discipline is efficiency. Not only must working students manage time more effectively, but the time allocation must be more focused. In fact, research shows that students who work often have higher concentration when studying.
CON’s of Working while in College
The Stress of Managing Deadlines
As we’ve written about before, stress is not a good thing for students. The pressure of studying in limited time can lead to panic, especially if you’re tired from work. What happens if you have a long work shift the night before your term paper is due? Hint: you probably freak out.
Being Busy & Staying Disciplined
Student Brodie Childers said, “The hardest thing about working while in college is finding balance. If I don’t work, then it becomes easier to pass my exams, but I won’t have money for living expenses. Going to school full time and trying to work as many hours in the week to pay rent takes balance and organizational skills. It’s difficult, but the obstacles will make you stronger as an individual.”
SQUIRREL! We’re all overly distracted as it is, but a college student with a job has even more opportunity to become distracted. Your friends from work want to hang out after hours. Your boss wants you to attend a company function. Your project at work isn’t quite done and needs some after-hours time. Any activity that pulls you away from school can have an impact on your studies (and distractions are addicting anyway).
Divvying up time between work and school can also reduce the amount of time you have for social activities. “I can’t tonight because I have to work”, “Not this time, I have a test” and “Why didn’t you call me?” (you’re never available, so friends stop asking!) can lead to missing out on fun activities.
Being so busy, you may be tempted to cut back on sleep. Hint: that’s not good, because sleep is critical for learning and high performance. Sleep is rarely overrated.
In the end, what happens? Perhaps your grades slip because you didn’t study enough or you missed an assignment. Your grades are one of the “results” of going to school that post-graduate employers consider. Do you want to “just get by” or do you want high marks? Grades may make a difference to a future recruiter.
The Pro’s and Con’s of Working while in College
Your needs and desires may be different from others. Carefully consider what your long-term goals and short-term benefits are to whether you work while going to school. Do your best to find work that mitigates the downside and maximizes the upside. Fitting work into your schedule shows maturity, but it also demands that you make adjustments. Hopefully you can navigate the waters and master the challenges of working while in college.