To Work or Not to Work – Getting a Campus Job

College brings academic demands and social stress to the lives of students, so should you add a job to the mix?

Money may be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about working while in school. Any little bit helps if you’re facing expenses like tuition, rent, food, books, or other costs—or if you’re looking for some extra spending money.

But having a job as a student is about more than money— experts and students alike point out a range of benefits that come with being employed while enrolled.

Working while in school “will tell prospective employers that you have what it takes to be employed and working,” according to career expert Heather R. Huhman in a USA Today article. It also helps to have more work history on your resume before entering the post-college job market.

It has worked well for Faalon Andrews, a student at Northwestern University, who has a work-study job on campus that helps her keep perspective. “I have to be aware that my top priority is school before work,” she said, adding that she’ll work fewer hours during exams.

Kayleen Chen, a University of Utah student who is studying to be a certified financial planner, works at the Personal Money Management Center on campus.

“This office is perfect for me to test the waters of this field,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed … the experience I’ve gained and how much I’ve gotten closer with my career path.”

A job also automatically enrolls a student in Budgeting 101. When a student works to have a little extra in his or her wallet, it instills a sense of responsibility to spend it wisely, according to an article written by Money magazine senior writer Kim Clark.

Chen’s co-worker and fellow student Lauren Brocious is not in a finance-related major, but she appreciates how her campus job is shaping her outlook.

“I am learning a lot of skills that help me with very practical things in life,” she said.

Where the money went was motivation for John Sass, who worked as a manager at McDonald’s while he earned his bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State University in Minnesota.

“I had to save up for each semester. … I worked to pay for my education, and that meant my money was paying for my classes,” he said. “When you’re in that situation, you make sure you excel in your classes.”

An old adage says, “Time is money,” and learning to manage money also requires learning to manage time—another benefit of balancing education and occupation.

“It forced me to plan ahead of time each week and see what was due and when I had time to do it,” said Melissa Parkinson, who worked as an office assistant, intern, and nanny while obtaining a master’s degree from George Washington University. “Each weekend or Monday morning I would look through my agenda and schedule for the coming week and determine what needed to do be done and when.”

Andrews at Northwestern discovered other skill-learning opportunities through her work on campus.

“My particular job has given me a lot of opportunities to assist the faculty with research,” Andrews said. “I also have learned skills such as communicating with professors and professionals.”

“The great thing about working while getting your degree is that you get to apply skills from each right away,” Sass added.

“I came out of graduate school already having had experience in the workforce, which I really think gave me an advantage professionally,” Parkinson said.

And Utah State student and Logan Herald-Journal employee Garrett Faylor gives an intangible benefit of working while in school.

“I think work could probably help provide an environment that differs from school … the same kind of respite that exercise or going to the gym might,” he said.

But students advised proceeding with caution when asked what they would tell others who are seeking employment while enrolled.

“If doing really well in school is most important to you, make sure you spend most of your time focusing on your school work than on earning money through work,” Brocious said.