Niche Resources

A Student’s Guide To Work-Study

A man with brown skin stands at a desk behind a large monitor writing on a notepad.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Affording college can be challenging, but it is not impossible. For many students, working a job while attending school is one of the ways they can lower their cost of education and keep some extra money in their pockets.

One of many options is the Federal Work-Study program, and there are so many great opportunities that can come from it. 

Work-study is a unique financial award. It’s an open door to gather work experience, learn life long skills, and hone in on time and money management abilities.

As a part of the Federal Work-Study Program, students get access to career-boosting, part-time job opportunities that align with their goals.

My experience with work study has been nothing short of spectacular. I am a Student Athletic Communications Assistant, and my role encompasses quite a bit.

I support my school’s D1 Men’s & Women’s programs (Go Musketeers!). On game days, I’ll usually track individual player and overall team stats before they are sent to the NCAA database.

On off days, I conduct player interviews, which is an opportunity for me to open myself and the entire school community to the players at our school, who are our classmates too! It’s a great way for me to work on my people skills and a fun way to give the student-athletes a platform to express themselves in other ways outside of their sport.

What is work-study?

The Federal Work-Study Program provides part-time employment for both undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses.

The program encourages community service work and work related to the student’s course of study.

What jobs are offered?

There are many jobs that are available to students through the program. It is highly encouraged that individuals seek positions related to their course of study or that have elements of social/community engagement, but it can also be what fits best in your schedule.

Most will find a job already on campus, but an additional perk of the program is that students can also work off campus at businesses or organizations that have work-study agreements with the school. Some examples of work-study jobs include:

  • Student Recreation Staff/Physical Fitness Class Trainer
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Tour Guide/Student Ambassador
  • Athletic Team Manager
  • School Store Associate
  • Cafeteria Server/Busser
  • Tutor
  • Personal Care Assistant (For Students with Disabilities)

There are also some unique positions that can be offered depending on the school. At the University of Maryland, students can apply to be shuttle bus drivers through their campus student ride service, which provides on and off campus transportation for all students. Students can receive up to $18.50/hour (plus possible bonuses!).

Is Work-Study Better Than A Part-Time Job?

How can I check my eligibility?

As needed for any form of financial aid, you need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Be sure to indicate you would like to be considered for work-study.

Some types of aid are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so filling out the FAFSA as soon as possible in the application process is advantageous to securing your chances. This is also a huge life skill when you are applying to job opportunities or future scholarships!

Receiving work-study aid is not guaranteed throughout all your years of study. There are several factors that determine whether you are eligible for Work-Study aid on an annual basis, and these can include: total funding your school receives in a given year, your financial need, and family income, as well as whether you used the Work-Study funding allocated to you in the previous year (and if so, appropriately).

What are the benefits of work-study?


Work-Study tends to be friendly to college students’ schedules. Since the roles are part time, the employers know your first priority is your grades and classes, so your job should never play a role in affecting your academic success.

Students tend to blend their jobs into the free times in their schedules. For example, if you have a majority of your classes in the morning, you may look to fit a job into the afternoon/evening hours.

Finding a good time for your own schedule can be the determining factor for what job you take. Say you are a night owl, and you normally have classes late in the day. You might consider working at a student help desk overnight.

At Xavier University, the Gallagher Student Center is open until 2am every weekday. Students tend to pick up these late hours since someone needs to watch over the center anyway!

Resume experience

You will acquire a variety of skills regardless of the job you have, and through the different roles you have and the time spent in these positions, you will build significant work experience that can set you apart from your peers, especially in time management and money management.

Extra elements to consider

The process is a privilege, not a given. Just because you as the student may have the money allocated for you to make, it does not mean the school must pay you if you do not keep everything else in line, such as grades and schedules.

Also, you may have to settle for a job that may not be a top choice. To keep your mindset high, challenge yourself to make the most of the experience. See if there are jobs outside of major requirements your employer might need or some projects you could complete for someone else. 

Essentially, securing a work-study program position is the same as a traditional job. In order to be successful, you must communicate to the best of your ability to make the most of your situation.

You will be going against other students during the hiring process and will most likely not be the only student going for your position. It is important that you keep in mind that work-study is an opportunity, not an award. 

All in all, work-study can be an amazing addition to your college experience and can help you build professional skills along the way!

Find College Scholarships

Author: Alton Jenkins

Alton is a first year student at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH. He is double majoring in Psychology & Sports Management, with aspirations to become a Sports Psychologist. When he is not making content for Niche, he is likely riding his bike, watching coming of age films from the 80s, or eating popcorn. And studying, of course!