Niche Resources
Niche Resources
Niche Resources

Working in College: Pros and Cons

College brings about many milestones: new friends, more freedom, and grown-up choices. Among those choices is whether or not you’ll earn a paycheck, and what type of job you’ll pursue.

Working during college isn’t uncommon: The most recent available statistics (2015) from the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics show that 43% of full-time and 78% of part-time undergraduates are employed. There are benefits to working while in school beyond just earning extra money, but there are potential drawbacks as well. Here, we take a look at both sides.

For Working Learners, Opportunities and Benefits Abound

Plenty of students who work during college do so out of necessity, not choice. But even if a job is a must, there are good reasons to have one.

“Students who have a part-time job while in college are forced to develop better time management skills and to learn the importance of being prompt, professional and dependable. These are all qualities that will serve them well, regardless of their career pathway of choice.”

According to Center for Career Development (CCD) at West Virginia University Director David Durham, “Working during college can be challenging, but the benefits usually make it well worth the trouble. The obvious short-term benefit is earning extra money. But in the long-term, students who have a part-time job while in college are forced to develop better time management skills and to learn the importance of being prompt, professional and dependable. These are all qualities that will serve them well, regardless of their career pathway of choice.”

For students who do want to work, new employment models provide more pathways to a paycheck. Think: Uber, third-party food-delivery services, and multi-level marketing companies like Rodan & Fields, Thrive, etc. Today’s job market has a plethora of employment options that allow for flexible hours and/or working remotely. For that reason, a job, particularly a part-time one, can be more easily molded to your school schedule than ever before.

Students choosing to seek employment can take advantage of these benefits:
Students choosing to seek employment can take advantage of these benefits: Plentiful options to make extra pocket cash, if not a respectable income
Students choosing to seek employment can take advantage of these benefits: Helpful resources for advice and guidance
Students choosing to seek employment can take advantage of these benefits: Practice for real-world employment
Students choosing to seek employment can take advantage of these benefits: Money-management experience

Still not sure where to start? Many public universities have departments dedicated to supporting students as workers through school and beyond. Case in point: The Center for Career Development at West Virginia University provides students as well as alumni with access to guidance for on-campus internships, resume reviews, mock interviews, weekly newsletters, and more.

For Some Students, Work Can Curtail Career Advancement

For the majority of students, the choice to enter college speaks to a desire to learn and to pursue a job in a given field upon graduation. A study conducted at Georgetown University shows that “on average, more education yields more pay.” Those with higher degrees tend to have more career and financial stability throughout their professional lives.

So, when it comes to working while in school, students need to weigh their options seriously. In addition to university resources, students can seek the advice of career coaches. While finances likely prevent one-on-one consulting, some career coaches provide free information on their websites. One such adviser is Angela Copeland of Copeland Coaching, who offers a wealth of advice on her blog.

When asked about the potential drawbacks for working students, Copeland’s opinions are pragmatic, and sum up the real-life hurdles students face. She advised students to consider these challenges of working while pursuing a degree:

Potential drawbacks of working while in college
Potential drawbacks of working while in college It can be distracting, especially if you're trying to work a lot of hours.
Potential drawbacks of working while in college A 4-year degree can end up taking longer.
Potential drawbacks of working while in college Some of the easiest jobs to attain might not offer valuable experience that will set you apart from your peers.

Many academic professionals and numerous studies uphold the benefits of working during college, with the caveat that students limit hours to between 10 and 15 a week. A study published in the International Journal of Business Administration found that 11 hours is the magic number where school and work don’t collide in a negative way.

While such a specific number may not be achievable, the main takeaway is that while in college, if at all possible, academics should be the main focus. Work should come second.

The Bottom Line

The decision to work while pursuing a degree is a personal one. Each student should look at the benefits and drawbacks and then apply those to his/her circumstances. Will it interfere with the course of study? Will it benefit post-graduation job seeking? Is it necessary for financial stability throughout college? Seek out resources, either on campus, online, or one on one, to determine the best work-school balance for you.

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Author: Danielle Costello

Danielle Costello is a writer and editor with 13 years in marketing and publishing, both as an in-house employee and a freelancer.