There are a lot of benefits to having a job while you’re a college student (besides just the extra cash, of course). Some of the most convenient jobs available are located right on campus.
In this article, I’ll do a deep dive into the benefits of having a job in college before talking about exactly what you should look for to find good jobs for college students. Then I’ll get to the good stuff: a list of the best jobs out there and how to get one for yourself. Read on to learn more!
Why Should You Have a Student Job, Anyways?
So maybe you’re still on the fence when it comes to deciding whether a student job is right for you. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly - getting a job while you’re a full-time student isn’t for everyone - but there are definitely a ton of benefits to working while you’re in college.
Here are the main benefits of finding a side gig.
Make That Cash
Perhaps the most obvious benefit that comes with a student job is, well, a paycheck. This money can help cover your personal expenses, pay for textbooks and transport, or even go towards tuition, room, and board. This can ease the financial burden of attending college, and maybe reduce the amount of money you owe in loans in the long run.
The amount you can make will vary depending on a few important factors, including:
- Your hourly rate. Some jobs may start at minimum wage, but other positions that require more specialized work (think lab jobs, tutoring, etc.) could pay much more.
- The number of hours you work. You don’t want your schoolwork and extracurriculars to suffer, but you likely want to maximize the number of hours you work when possible. It'll take some trial and error to figure out how often you want to work. The average working student puts in about 19 hours a week, but you don't necessarily have to work as many hours to reap the benefits of a job.
No matter your hourly salary or average number of hours per week, you’ll still be bringing in extra money (which is much better than no money). It’ll be up to you to figure out the balance between your school work and your job. You can read more about this balance by checking out our post on deciding whether to get a student job.
Meet New People
This is an especially relevant benefit for first-time college students who are looking to make new friends. If you get a job on campus, you’re likely to meet all sorts of people who you already go to school with. Depending on where you work, you may even get to meet university faculty, staff, or grad students. This could be a great opportunity for professional networking.
I had a pretty awesome cafe job in college where I met a lot of new friends. I also interacted with professors, TAs, and graduate students regularly. It’s unlikely I would have been able to meet these people in any other setting.
Build Your Resume
College is the time when most people start to think about building professional experience. Good jobs for college students will help you develop skills and establish a professional reputation.
You could start by looking for jobs that align with your professional goals and/or interests - for example, working in a lab in your academic department. If this isn’t a good option, don't worry! You can still build marketable skills for your resume with almost any job. Any leadership, management, or technical skill experiences, in particular, can help you get jobs in the future.
Do Better in School
This seems counterintuitive - how could a part-time job help you do better in school? It turns out that students who work about 12-15 hours a week do just as well or even better in school than those who don’t have a job.
It may be that students who have student jobs are more ambitious or organized to begin with, which could explain why they tend to have better grades. Conversely, getting a job might force you to schedule your time a bit more wisely. There’s an old saying - if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it - that might apply in this case.
Not all good jobs for college students might be a blast, but if you’re working with a bunch of your peers, you’ll probably have a pretty good time while you work. A student job can serve as a great opportunity to socialize, and even to get away from schoolwork for a while.
Back to my college job - not only did I have fun working with friends, but we also had parties and other get-togethers with co-workers after we’d closed up shop. Campus jobs can be pretty casual work environments, so it’s often appropriate (depending on the setting, of course) to take advantage of that in order to have a little fun.
The Best On-Campus Student Jobs
Now that we've talked about reasons to get a job, we can get to the list you've been waiting for: the best jobs you can find on campus. Although this list includes the most common positions available at schools, it isn't exhaustive - if you find a job you like that isn't listed here, it doesn't mean it's not a good opportunity!
If you are interested in getting a student job, check out these great positions to look for.
There are so many different places for a student to work as an admin assistant on campus. You find these jobs in places like libraries, academic departments, and admissions offices. Some busy professors might also seek personal admin assistants.
These jobs probably won’t be very high-paying, but they tend to be low-stress and pretty casual. If you work in an academic department that you’re interested in, you'll have the opportunity to develop some valuable professional connections.
I know this is the stereotypical college student job, but hear me out! If you’re a coffee lover (or even if you aren’t), working as a barista at a college cafe can be a fun, rewarding, and social job.
Working as a barista is good training if you want a supplemental part-time job after you graduate. Also, you might even get free coffee at work - it doesn’t get much better than that.
Who doesn't want to learn to make a latte like this?
Many colleges and universities have on-campus fitness centers that offer different types of classes, including yoga, pilates, Zumba, spin, and more. If you’re certified to teach any of these classes, and you enjoy exercise to begin with, you should definitely check this out.
Fitness instructor jobs tend to pay a lot per hour, although you may not have the opportunity to work many hours per week. A huge benefit of a job like this? You can kill two birds with one stone: get your exercise in while you work!
Schools always need IT help for students and faculty. You’d need some pre-existing skills in order to get a job like this, but if you’re good with computers or have even done IT work in the past, this would be a great fit. Check out your school's IT center for more info.
Working in a library may not be very exciting, but it’s generally quiet and low-stress. Downtime is common, which means you can do homework and reading.
There are also opportunities to interact with new and interesting people, especially if you chat with students and professors who are working on research. I worked in a library in college and made friends with an elderly librarian who liked to teach me words in Japanese! As "boring" as the library might be, you never know who you'll meet and what you'll learn.
If you’re certified as a lifeguard, it’s a no-brainer to check out lifeguarding jobs. This suggestion only applies, obviously, if your school has pools on campus. Because lifeguarding is a pretty specialized skill, you can expect these jobs to pay a bit more than your average student job.
Mail Room Assistant
Mail rooms are usually located very close to student dorms, which also makes them conveniently located if you need to run to work after you sleep through your alarm. But there are other benefits to working in the mail room - it's a great way to meet other people on campus, for one. You also may have down time to work on other stuff, like catching up on your reading for classes.
Many colleges and universities have museums on campus, ranging from small specialized collections to huge, well-known galleries. If you're interested in any museum at your school - whether it's a museum of art, Semitic studies, natural history, Egyptology, or comparative zoology (the list goes on and on) - I would recommend stopping by to see if there are any available positions. I can't think of a cooler place to work!
Research assistant jobs are great if you want to develop relationships with professors and/or grad students in your department. They're also a good way to explore interests in research and academia.
A research assistant job might be very social (i.e. if you’re running research in the social sciences) or pretty solitary (i.e. if you’re working on an independent project in a chem lab). You may also have opportunities to develop very specialized skills, like using particular software programs or running special data analyses. These could serve you well when you apply to jobs in the future, even if they're just interesting things that set you apart from other applicants.
A residential advisor position is a good option for students who feel comfortable interacting with new people, solving social problems, and serving as part of a support network for their peers.
Perks and benefits vary from school to school. You might not get paid in cash, but it’s common for residential advisors to get free housing. In general, working as a residential advisor isn't a huge time commitment.
Teaching Assistant (TA)
Certain departments (most often math and computer science departments) sometimes hire experienced upperclassmen to work as teaching assistants. This is obviously great teaching experience and is a good option for students who are looking for a social, high-responsibility job in a subject that they like. It's also a great way to forge professional connections in your field.
TAs responsibilities vary widely depending on their experience and the policies of the department and school - some might just grade papers whereas others might hold office hours or lead small classes.
Teaching is a big responsibility, but it can also be a lot of fun.
This is a very social job and is great for those who want to develop interpersonal and public speaking skills. If you work for the admissions office, you’ll get to interact with hundreds of students and parents that are interested in your school.
There’s often summer work available, which is great if you want to take classes over the summer. It tends to pay pretty well, and many tour guides get to keep tips!
Depending on what sort of organization you work for, this job may be one of the most lucrative options on this list. My only caveat? Freshmen don’t tend to have a ton of tutoring opportunities (because they’re at the bottom of the academic totem pole), but as students get older and take more classes, they develop more expertise in their particular majors.
The more experience you have, the more in demand you'll be, the more money you can make. Because of this, tutoring tends to pay off even more if you stick with it through college (and even after you graduate).
How Do You Find Campus Jobs?
Excited to start working yet? Like I mentioned earlier, campus jobs tend to be a bit more casual than your average post-grad gig. That being said, there are a lot of things you should know about the process if you’re serious about seeking out a job.
Here, I’ll go over the key things you should know about looking for jobs on your campus. These tips will get you started on the right track.
Don't worry, the search won't be this hard.
Use Your Personal Connections
Your friends, classmates, and peers are all resources. They will be able to offer info on what jobs to check out (and what jobs to stay away from).
If you're taking a class with a professor you like, don’t be afraid to approach them about lab or administrative openings. If they don’t have anything available, they could direct you to other professors that may need help.
Familiarize Yourself With Campus Resources
Chances are your school will have some sort of jobs database available. These databases tend to list both on-campus and off-campus jobs that would be appropriate for students. If you’re not sure how to access this, ask friends or classmates if they know where to find it. If you can’t get good info out of them, reach out to your school’s career center for more info.
Check this database regularly - jobs on campus fill up fast, so if you see a job listing that interests you, pounce on it!
Start the Process Early
Campus jobs tend to hire pretty early in the semester, so start looking for openings a few weeks before the semester starts. If you’re looking at something more specialized - a research assistant position, for example - don’t be afraid to reach out to professors and/or lab managers via email four to six weeks before the start of the semester.
Know Your Work Study Status
Many jobs on campus prefer or require students to have federal work-study awards. You can check out your financial aid package to see if you have a work study award, and if so, how much you have available.
If you don’t know how to access your financial aid award, call or email your financial aid officer. For more information on federal work study, check out our complete guide to the program.
Locking Down the Job You Want
So you've checked out some jobs and found a listing that works for you. The next step is actually getting the job, right? The following tips will help you get the job you want if you're offered an interview on campus.
- Your default should be a professional demeanor and business casual attire. You may be able to dress down a bit depending on where/with whom you’re interviewing - for example, if you’re interviewing at a casual cafe with a student manager.
- Take your cues from your interviewer. If he or she is more personable and casual, you can let your guard down a bit. If he or she is maintaining a very professional distance, you should do the same.
- Prepare for the standard interview questions, as well as any specialized questions that apply to that specific job. Examples include:
- Why are you interested in this job?
- Why do you think you'd be a good fit for this position?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Be prepared for strange interview questions as well. Casual interviewers sometimes ask more unexpected questions as a way to gauge your personality and fit. When I interviewed for an on-campus cafe in college, I was asked some funny questions, including “If you were a pastry, which one would you be and why?” If someone asks a creative question, feel free to get creative with your answers.
- Don't reveal information that's too personal in an interview, no matter how friendly or casual the setting. Topics that you should steer clear of include significant others, complaints about past job experiences, and family issues. Conversely, don't ask your interviewer about personal information - this can be very off-putting.
The more practice you can do before an interview - whether you practice with friends or roommates, or you talk to yourself in the mirror - the better.
And if you don't get your dream job after your first interview? Don't let that get you down. Almost everyone has experienced at least one professional rejection - sometimes, certain positions have too many qualified applicants. Think of each interview you complete as great practice for the next one you schedule!
Interviews, a.k.a. an excuse you'd have to change out of your collegiate sweatpants.
If you're considering getting a job in college, you're also probably thinking about balancing your budget. Start by learning more about the federal work study program and the sorts of jobs you can get with a work study award.
If you're using your campus job money to help fund your college expenses, we have a lot of great guides for you to check out. Start with our complete guide to paying for college, before learning more about paying for college without loans and paying for college without your parents' help.
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Francesca graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and scored in the 99th percentile on the SATs. She's worked with many students on SAT prep and college counseling, and loves helping students capitalize on their strengths.