With an estimated 70% of students maintaining part or full-time employment while attending college, the necessity to work during the college years has become the rule rather than the exception. This trend has not eliminated the need for student loans, however, can assist students to cover some or all of their living expenses.
Other benefits of employment include learning valuable trade skills, balancing time commitments, beginning to build their resume, and practicing money management skills to prepare for your life after college.
Employment is typically broken down into two basic categories: On campus or off campus opportunities. On-campus employment allows you to work as an employee for the school, where off-campus options mean finding a private employer. There are key benefits and drawbacks to each.
The Benefits of an On-Campus Job
No Car Necessary. On-campus jobs allow you to walk or bike to work. You do not have to build in long commutes, easy time commitments. Getting off work late is a short walk from on-campus housing. You will typically use campus transportation, ride a bike, scooter, or walk, saving you on the cost of operating a vehicle. Another benefit to on campus employment is the proximity to other on-campus activities and classes which allows more flexibility.
Time Savings. One of the most valuable resources while at school is time. Eliminating a commute to work leaves more time for study and socialization. Learning to manage time without the assistance of parents and teachers while reducing demands on time can ease this transition.
Work Schedule Flexibility. Typically, a campus manager will work around your class schedule without requiring long shifts found in off-campus jobs: Instead of working a four or eight-hour shift you may be able to work two or three hours between classes. The job may also grant you a lighter schedule of 10 to 15 hours, instead of the 20-hour plus work week often required in off-campus employment. Work schedules also tend to follow the University schedule, giving you time off during school breaks, which can be particularly beneficial during winter and summer when campuses close. The hope with this flexibility is to ease your transition, make attendance easy, and allow you to complete both your academic and work assignments.
Increase Your Network. Working on campus give you the chance to build relationships with professors and university staff which could lead to future job opportunities. Students can also learn valuable networking skills they might not gain from employment at a local fast food chain.
Relevant Work Experience. Not all on-campus employment opportunities are created equal. However, if you apply early, you might find meaningful work relevant to your field. For example, you could work as an assistant to a professor in your field, or in a campus theater learning about job opportunities in film. Athletic departments, photo departments, and administrative offices can provide resume building experience while in school.
The Benefits of an Off-Campus Job
More Work. Off-campus jobs allow students to work more hours because they are thriving businesses not concerned with student hours, projects, or flexibility. The downside is that they can require more hours than you are comfortable with, potentially compromising your academic performance and social life. The number of hours available or required can be a significant factor when choosing which job opportunity is best. Those working to cover the majority of living expenses benefit from the additional hours. If you are only looking for extra spending money, the on-campus job will likely be a better fit. On-Campus employment often comes with restricted hours. The university wants to employ as many students as possible which can lead to a small number of hours available each week.
More work can also mean longer shifts, which depending on schedule or personality, can be a benefit or a drawback. When you work longer hours, you can get more done in fewer days. For example, working two eight-hour shifts every weekend gives you a 16-hour week, without demanding time during class days.
Relevant Work Experience. Both on-campus and off-campus jobs provide a chance to gain work experience however, off campus may offer a broader range of opportunities. For example, a health care major could work at the local hospital creating valuable contacts while still in school. Experience and connections can lead to future jobs in the industry. It may also help you identify additional career opportunities and sometimes leads to recognition, that you are studying a subject you will not thrive, giving you a chance to change majors before spending thousands of dollars on the degree.
Diverse Social Network. Working off campus can be a great experience. Such an environment will take you outside of the University bubble and help you see others in different life stages. You might work beside a single mom, an older individual who returned to work, or a high school dropout. Their life experiences can enrich your life and help you see others value, even when circumstances are vastly different than your own. ### try to think of examples that don’t make locals sound like the dregs of society. Regular people with families work. And, the kids don’t always come from the most perfect background. This sounds a bit elitist.
Drawbacks of On-Campus Jobs
Financial Aid Impact. On-campus choices will often tie to the financial aid package reducing other forms of assistance.
Limited Choices. Students who choose to work on campus do not always have to go through the same process as off-campus work. You may choose from a list of available positions and show up for work at an assigned time. Training might be limited, and the work unchallenging. The school usually sets the maximum number of hours and managers will determine availability. The most popular positions fill quickly leaving less pleasant or no work, for those who delay.
Set Wages. The college sets the rate for each job, which may not be as competitive as off-campus selections. Schools in larger cities may have more competitive rates due to higher outside demand for students. Schools in small communities can support lower wages because of the smaller selection of off-campus work available.
Drawbacks of Off-Campus Jobs
Getting to Work. Transportation costs are one of the biggest challenges with off-campus work. You may need a car or time and money for public transportation, which adds to the expense of attending school. The cost of maintaining a vehicle can take up most of your pay when you calculate car payments, insurance, parking, and maintenance. Buses are more affordable but can add additional hours to your week.
More competition for the job. To gain off-campus employment, you must apply and interview, competing with other students and locals. Learning to sell yourself is a valuable skill but can add an intimidating factor to off-campus work. Pay will vary based on local market conditions which could offer more or fewer options than on campus opportunities.
Working while in school gives you greater financial independence and more opportunity to meet influential people who can help your career. You also learn time and money management skills by balancing work and school obligations.
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