From the office to the classroom, from writing marketing reports or flipping burgers to writing class—this is what college experience means when you choose to start working while in school.
Today, many students—whether traditional or nontraditional adult learners—are balancing studies with full-time or part-time employment. According to 2017 data from the US Department of Education, 43% of all full-time undergraduate students and 81% of part-time students were employed while enrolled in college.
Having a part-time job is quite common for college students but some choose to take on a larger workload. Data shows that about 40% of undergraduate students work at least 30 hours a week. That number is expected to be even higher for adult learners—who have to balance studies, full-time employment, and their families.
Holding down a job while studying is no mean feat but it also comes with its own benefits. While some students get a job for the sake of advancing their career goals, others do it to afford their tuition fees and living expenses. If you’re considering the pros and cons of working while in school, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll explore the advantages of having a job while in school.
Benefits of Working While in School
Let’s start on a positive note—there are many benefits of working while studying. The advantages range from the obvious such as earning money to supplement financial aid and pay for personal expenses, to the less obvious such as gaining soft skills that will come in handy for your future career growth.
Let’s look at the benefits of having a job while in school:
There’s no denying it—earning money is the biggest motivation for getting a job while in school. The income from your job can help you fill in your financial aid gap, cover living expenses, purchase necessary school supplies, and stow away in savings.
For adult learners, having an income is more of a necessity. A majority of non-traditional students also tend to be employed when either starting or returning to college. While pursuing a degree, they still need to provide for their families and cover living expenses.
Gaining Valuable Work Experience
In addition to earning money, working while in school also helps you gain professional experience. For traditional students— who have limited work experience—gaining some professional experience puts you ahead of your peers. Research shows that students who work while in school have higher earnings later in their careers.
To reap the most benefits, look for a job in the industry you would like to work in after graduation. For example, if you’re taking a degree in software development, you can start working in that field even before your graduation. Having a job will give you hands-on experience and knowledge that you can’t gain from classroom learning. Simply put, there’s no substitute for experience.
That said, it’s still ok to have a job that isn’t directly related to your major or desired career path. Any job can provide you with transferable skills. Remember to highlight these experiences in your resume and interviews to demonstrate your breadth of experience.
Growing Your Network
It’s said that your network is your net worth. If you want to expand your professional and social network while in school, getting a job is a great move. Even an on-campus job can help you in this regard—it opens up avenues to meet other students and faculty members.
To make the most of your job, make the effort to connect strategically. Remember that networking is more than just collecting phone numbers or asking for favors—instead, think about how you can be useful to the people around you. Networking works best when it’s mutually beneficial.
Paying Off Student Loans
Another benefit of working while in college is that it can enable you to pay down your student loans as you go. With a steady income from a part-time or full-time job, you can go for an interest-only loan repayments plan while in school. Making interest payments on your loan will reduce the total amount of interest you’ll pay over time. After your graduation and grace period or when you drop below half-time enrollment, then you can begin making principal and interest payments.
Alternatively, if you can afford it, you can also start making full loan repayments while in school. You can opt for the Immediate Loan Repayment plan, meaning that you’ll begin making principal and interest payments as soon as your loan is disbursed.
Having a job may also mean that you won’t have to take huge student loans. You might not even have to take any student loan in the first place.
Disadvantages of Working While in School
Working while in school is great, it also has its own share of disadvantages—which are worth considering to make an informed decision.
Sacrificing Study Time
Consider this: while other students will devote most of the time outside the classroom to studying, you will be working. You’ll be constantly juggling class projects with work projects. If you’re working full-time, you’ll run the risk of stretching yourself too thin—which might come at the cost of your grades.
However, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to thrive at work and school simultaneously. To effectively balance the two, you need to develop discipline, a strong work ethic, and time management skills.
Less Time for Extracurricular Activities
When you’re juggling school and work, you’ll have very little time to devote to extracurricular activities. Consequently, you might miss out on opportunities to develop your hobbies and connect with other students.
High Risk of Stress and Burnout
When all your time is taken up by work and study, you won’t have a lot of time to kick back and relax. College is already stressful enough and adding a job into the mix will increase your stress levels, especially if you’re not organized.
High stress levels and lack of downtime can have serious consequences on your mental and physical well-being.
To decide whether working while in school is the right decision for you, examine your current situation. If you’re a traditional student, your studies should always be your priority. Non-traditional students may have to prioritize their work and family responsibilities over their studies.
If you determine that working while in school is feasible for you, try to work in the same domain as your major and your desired career path. If that isn’t possible, remember that any job can offer you transferable skills if you’re open and willing to learn.
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