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Should I Work While Still In College?

Whether a student chooses to work while attending college is due to choice or necessity, there are things to consider before joining the workforce while being a college student.

Shorter Version


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Whether a student chooses to work while still in college is due to choice or out of necessity, there are multiple things to consider before joining the workforce while being a college student.

As a whole, there is a bit of a paradox about working while in college. If students forfeit too much time from academics, this can sometimes lead to lower grades and result in higher dropout rates. On the other hand, there are multiple benefits associated with working in college and research shows that it can ultimately boost adult earnings.

To work or not to work

Maintaining a part-time or full-time job while concurrently being enrolled in college can be both rewarding and challenging. To help you assess whether or not joining the workforce while still in college is right for you, I recommend you evaluate the pros and cons. Here are some easy ones to get you started with your brainstorm.

Pros of working while still in college:

  • Graduating with less student debt and/or some money saved up
  • Boosting your resume
  • Acquiring professional experience
  • Mastering critical skills

Cons of working while still in college:

  • Forfeiting time to devote to academics
  • Forfeiting time available for extracurricular activities, family, and friends

Working while enrolled as an undergraduate student is a great option for some but is not for everyone. There is no right or wrong approach and it is important that you make the best decision for you, considering your circumstances.

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Longer Version


Est. Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Attending college is a large investment and working while enrolled in college has become increasingly popular. According to a study by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, over the past 25 years, more than 70% of undergraduate students joined the workforce while still in college. Whether a student chooses to work while attending college is due to choice or out of necessity, there are multiple things to consider before joining the workforce while being a college student.

Research shows that students who work approximately 10-15 hours per week while attending college are more likely to graduate. Simultaneously, the time commitment and other responsibilities that come with working while being a student can also have a negative impact on academic success if the student cannot juggle both school and work duties. Therefore, the big question remains – should you join the workforce prior to graduation or not?

To work or not to work

Whether you are considering joining the workforce solely to help pay the bills or are interested in an internship that perfectly aligns with your dream career, maintaining a part-time or full-time job while concurrently being enrolled in college can be both rewarding and challenging.

To help you assess whether or not joining the workforce while still in college is right for you, I recommend you evaluate the pros and cons.

Pros of working while still in college

Juggling a job and being an undergraduate student has multiple benefits. It not only makes the financial cost of a college education easier to bear but it can also provide a valuable opportunity for training and work experience. Even if you do not need to work for financial reasons, it is absolutely still worth considering.

Some pros of entering the workforce while still in college might include:

  • Graduating with less student debt and/or some money saved up – College is an investment and starting work prior to graduation helps you earn an income and save money so you can chip away at those student loans down the road.
  • Boosting your resume – Working in a professional setting, even if it is not 100% relevant to what you ultimately aim to do after you finish your degree, will help set you up for success after graduation.
  • Acquiring professional experience – If you already have work experience under your belt as a new grad, you will have the opportunity to pursue a more advanced position compared to an entry-level position.
  • Mastering critical skills – By juggling multiple responsibilities you will master crucial skills such as time management and organization.

Cons of working while still in college

With all the perks that working while being a college student brings, it also comes with increased responsibility. For many students this increased responsibility is beneficial but for others, it can be detrimental.

It is also important to consider the cons before proceeding with joining the workforce while in college:

  • Forfeiting time to devote to academics – Regardless of the university you’re attending or your specific major, undergraduate classes require extensive time and commitment both inside and outside the classroom in order to be successful. The more hours you are working in a job, the more challenging it can be to devote time to academics.  
  • Forfeiting time available for extracurricular activities, family, and friends – Attending college is a once in a lifetime experience that presents innumerable opportunities for growth. Attending sports events, or getting involved in a student organization, for example, can be challenging if you are working many hours each week.

There’s no right or wrong answer

In summary, working while enrolled as an undergraduate student is a great option for some, but is not for everyone. There is no right or wrong approach and it is important that you make the best decision for you considering your circumstances.

Actionable Steps


1

Evaluate the pros and cons

Write out lists of both pros and cons that pertain to you so you can make the most informed decision. Think about how many hours you need to devote to your studies, extra curriculars, friends, and taking care of yourself. Do you work better when you are busy?

2

Seek advice

Campus resources, mentors, advisors, A Guide for Your 20s, family, and friends can provide fantastic guidance. Try talking to a professor, academic advisor, or Dean that can guide you.

3

Take time to make the best choice for you

There’s no need to rush this choice. Spend some time doing self-reflection to fully weigh your options.

4

Remain open to adjust as needed

If you start working before graduation and realize that it’s not for you, that’s ok! Adjust and take care of yourself. You know you best.

About the Author


Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

Alyssa is a Doctor of Education, receiving her degree in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. For the last 7 years, she has mentored hundreds of college students on how to be successful academically and in prepping for a job.
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