Reasons for Working Your Way Through College

Working during college may seem challenging, but it also can offer advantages. These benefits include avoiding (as much) debt, gaining job experience, learning time management skills, improving your GPA, and getting healthcare benefits.


Creating a college budget can help you determine how much you'll need to work to make ends meet. 

Avoid or Reduce Debt

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One of the things that many college graduates initially struggle with is making their student loan payments, but working during college can help you reduce or avoid this type of debt. In general, most people who work their way through school have less student loan debt than those who don't.

A part-time job and a careful budget can help supplement what you earn over the summer to pay for your classes. Even if you don't want to work full-time or on a steady basis, you can consider picking up a side hustle to help you earn extra cash and avoid debt.


If you qualify for scholarships, be sure you follow their guidelines about working while going to school.

Gain Valuable Job Experience

Having work experience, especially in a field related to your studies, can help you become much more competitive once you're ready to enter the full-time job market after college.

Check with your college to find out about possible jobs and internships in your field. Some internships will pay and can turn into part-time or full-time jobs while you finish up your degree, or can help you make the connections to help you land a job later on.


The Federal Work-Study Program is also a great option that provides a way for you to get a paycheck while gaining valuable work experience. 

Even job experience that's not directly related to your field may qualify you for a position that someone without your experience could not get. For example, understanding children and their wants from working at a daycare center may make a difference in landing a job in the marketing department of a toy company when compared to someone with no job experience at all.

Learn Time Management Skills

Once you begin working after college, you'll often have several projects to juggle as well as meetings to attend. Learning to manage your time with classes and work will help you to adapt much more quickly.

It will also benefit you in learning to deal with people at work. There is a difference between working with people in school and working with people at your job. These skills will make adjusting to the real world outside of college much easier.

Learning to manage your time effectively can help you do better overall. Some students find that they do better in school when they have a job because it means they need to carefully plan out the week to make time to study.

Improve Your Grades

Some students see their grades improve when they begin working. This is usually a result of learning to organize and plan their study time effectively.

However, there's a catch: The amount of hours you work can make a difference in your academic success. Students who work 15 to 20 hours per week generally report higher GPAs than those who don't work at all. However, working more than 20 hours per week tends to have a negative impact on their grades.

It's important to work the amount of hours that's right for you. Your stress should not be so great that it is a distraction, and you should still be able to stay on top of all of your projects.

Get Employee Benefits

Many companies offer benefits to people who work part time. This means you could begin a 401(k), qualify for health insurance, and possibly even a tuition assistance program while attending college.

You may also qualify for benefits such as vacation and sick time. This can alleviate the stress of working enough hours when you are not feeling well and allow you to take vacations without worrying. It may make it easier to manage your time and enjoy yourself in college even though you do need to work. 

Tips to Make Working in College Easier

  • Find a job with a set schedule. This may make it easier to plan your classes and your study time.
  • Look for a job that pays more than minimum wage. If you need to spend time working, make the most money possible.
  • Consider a job in your field of study to get work experience that will benefit you.
  • Be sure to schedule a time to relax and have fun with your friends. It's important to find balance if you are going to work while in school. 
  • Be sure to set aside money each month to help cover tuition and other fees.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many classes should I take per semester in college while working?

This question ultimately depends on the workload you think you can handle. If you need to retain "full-time student" status for tax benefits, then check with your school to ensure that you meet minimum credit requirements.

How can I get money to live without working in college?

If you don't work, and you don't have savings you can draw from, then you'll need to use a combination of student loan debt, grants, and scholarships to pay for living expenses. Friends and family can help, but they may face gift taxes when their gifts exceed $16,000.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Georgetown University. "Learning While Earning: The New Normal." Page 43.

  2. Georgetown University. "Learning While Earning: The New Normal." Page 11.

  3. Georgetown University. "Learning While Earning: The New Normal." Page 15.

  4. BYU Employment Services. "Effects of Employment on Student Academic Success."

  5. AARP. "New Benefits Boosting the Appeal of Part-Time Jobs."

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "Full-Time Student."

  7. Internal Revenue Service. "Frequently Asked Questions on Gift Taxes."

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