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To Work or Not to Work: The Pros and Cons of Getting a Job in School

Thinking about adding a job to the mix of classes, studying, papers, on-campus activities, and network building? There are some clear benefits of working during school—and some clear drawbacks. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of getting a job in school.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Student Tips
To Work or Not to Work: The Pros and Cons of Getting a Job in School

School is hard enough—classes, studying, choosing a major, getting involved in clubs and activities. The decision to add a job into the mix can be a big one—but it doesn’t have to be a daunting one. There are some clear benefits to having a job during school, but also some drawbacks. None outweigh another, but some make more sense for you than others. See for yourself.

Pros

Young friends having party at home and eating pizza .

1. Money

With rising costs of tuition, fees, housing, and supplies, it’s nice to know that you can pull some of your own weight without having to rely solely on scholarships, loans, your parents, or any other outside source. Even if you don’t make enough money to cover any of those costs, you may want the option of not having to ask for spending money. Going out for an occasional dinner with friends, seeing a concert, going to a movie, or shopping for new clothes—having a little extra cash on hand that you earned on your own may put your mind at ease.

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2. Professional Skills

If your job gives you a meaningful, professional experience in a field that interests you, then go for it. When you graduate from your university, your future employer wants to know that you did well in school—but also that you can function appropriately and effectively in the workplace. What better way to learn time management than to balance an on-campus job and your school work? Not to mention the benefits of learning how to communicate effectively with peers, adhere to schedules, and begin to make professional connections that will serve as the building blocks of your post-graduation networks.

Young woman hiding behind her resume

3. Resume Builder

Having a job in school looks great on your resume—it shows employers your diligence and ability to balance schoolwork with outside responsibilities. It also allows you to list references that will help with that network (see #2). Good grades, some extracurricular activities that inspire you, and a part-time job: not too bad…

Cons

1. Tough Balancing Act

Finding time for yourself if you work and go to school isn’t easy. Tempted by a few extra dollars? Is it worth the cost of burnout? Unless your schedule and personal life have room for a job, reconsider taking that job, even if it’s only a few hours a week. You might want to spend those extra hours doing something else, even if it means that you won’t have that extra spending money. If your job interferes with your success in school? Drop it. You’re there to study and build a peer network, not make extra cash.

Group of designer working on project in workshop

2. Limited Extracurricular Activities

You definitely won’t have as much time to get involved with on-campus clubs and activities. If there’s a club you’ve always wanted to join, or a group you’ve been meaning to check out, you’ll have to plan your extracurricular activities around your work schedule, not vice versa. If the work opportunity is too good to pass up, don’t. If you don’t need it, and want some room to explore clubs, activities, and student groups, working might not be your best option.

3. Limited Internship Opportunities

Research conducted by the Economic Policy Institute shows that students who complete internships during school have higher starting salaries than those who don’t. Internships typically offer a focused, high-quality work experience and help add to that network (see #2 in Pros). If you’re working, chances are good that you will not be able to participate in an internship, unless your employer supports your decision. What has more weight? Internship or on-campus job? You decide.

The decision to work as a student is one that you have to make. You have to figure out what you need, what you don’t need, and how you want to spend your time. There’s no wrong decision here, but remember: your life is what you make it. Stay focused, stay driven, do good, have some fun—and work hard, however you choose.