Personal Finance

Part-time Work for University Students

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Most students would probably rather drink ice cold beer than shovel dirt…(I know I would!)

It’s Sunday afternoon here in Australia and before I go for a walk in the park, I thought I’d pen some ideas about simple part-time work for students at University/College. Why? Because working during tertiary years is increasingly becoming a necessity for students, juggling to pay course fees, rent and living expenses. But even if you’re lucky enough to live at home, picking up a job while you study can help you save cash for your future and get potentially valuable work experience before graduation.

I’ve been a University student for 11+ years (that long!). Without going into a post on the merits of spending such a long period gaining education, lets focus on what kind of work you can take if you find yourself looking for some whilst studying. I’ve been part time for a few of those years, and worked extensively throughout, so have learned a few things about the kinds of jobs that are simpler for students to hold down.

Hot tip. If at all possible, work on campus. This saves time/commuting between or after class.

Simple jobs include

  • Research assistant either to academic staff or a PhD student, in Australia you can earn upwards of $35/hr. I tested primary school kids on a bunch of cognitive tasks with a PhD student. After my Honours year, I took a job in a major hospital doing research for the University. If you’re interested in post-graduate study, it’s a great way to sample research, meet faculty and get paid at the same time.
  • Tutor – aaah, tutoring. Every University students dream *ahem*. Most universities will accept a student with good grades as a Tutor for classes 1-2 years their junior (i.e. a 3rd year student can easily tutor 1st years). Completing my masters degrees, I tutored students in 2nd to 4th years. Classes were easy to prepare (sometimes were prepared for us by the lecturer) and they pay for teaching can be very good (nearly $80/hr). You have to be careful that any pay for marking student assignments is in addition to teaching/consultation, otherwise the salary becomes much less attractive. Usually assignment marking is paid at about $30/hr, based on the word-count of the assignment. Tutoring is a good way to stay sharp while you progress through your degree, as you’re constantly revising material you learned in previous years. If you don’t want to tutor classes, you could simply offer individual tutoring at a rate you choose.
  • Lab rat – If you’re not interested in teaching or doing research, why not take part in research, often earning $10-20/hr. It’s often paid in cash or vouchers and requires no commitment outside of the research. I’ve no experience with this but it’s a quick way to get some surplus cash a few times a semester.
  • Librarian assist – an excellent job if you like books, I had a friend who worked in the University library while she was studying (sorting books, returning them to shelves and alike). It doesn’t require much brain power and the hours are flexible to fit in with your class schedule. I’m not sure of the pay, but I’d imagine it’s between $20-25/hr.

    A less simple, but more lucrative job…

  • Lecturer – Post-grad students are often invited to do lectures, either as a one off (e.g. on their thesis topic), a series of lectures or an entire semester. I’ve done all three, and certainly small blocks of lecturing are lucrative, especially if you repeat them each year – once you’ve done the prep, it’s simple to get up and do it again. The big caveat is if you’re lecturing and coordinating a unit, you can end up doing a ton of work on top without really getting paid for it (meeting students, handling complaints about marks, dealing with enrolments, extensions for assignments etc.). That’s why it’s far wiser to simply offer an existing class co-ordinator your services as a lecturer – you get the cash and experience without the headache. In Australia, casual lecturing pays about $170/hr of lecture. When you factor in that the first time you do a lecture, you’ll likely prepare from scratch (approx. 3-8hrs work) it’s not as attractive as it sounds ($170/9 = ~$18/hr factoring in prep). The boon is if you repeat the lecture yearly, then prep time is approx. 1hr for subsequent lectures.

Off campus jobs might be more interesting or viable, particularly if you’re not interested in University type work. Examples include:

  • Supermarket work (restocking shelves or checkout) ($18-26/hr)
  • Retail ($18-30/hr)
  • Café or bar work (often this fits well with student hours, providing more work on weekends/evenings) ($18-22/hr)
  • Childcare (before/after school and vacation care) ($18-27/hr)
  • Seasonal farming hand (e.g. cotton picking, fruit harvesting etc., often long hours and sometimes hard physical work but not always) ($10-30/hr)
  • Cleaner (offices or schools, this can often be done in the evenings) ($18-26/hr)
  • Receptionist/admin assistant (try to get something in the line of work you might want a career in, as a way to open doors) ($18-30/hr)
  • Sales (e.g. call centre or in store) ($18-29/hr)

These are just a few ideas to get you started, but as you can see there are plenty of entry level job-types for students and it’s a great way to earn extra cash while developing some skills or getting some employment experience before you graduate.

A note on the wages above – in Australia we have a fairly high minimum wage at around $17-18/hr which can be even higher with penalty rates (e.g. 1.5-2x). There isn’t usually an expectation that customers tip employees. Wages here have been taken from various statistics pages, and whilst my best efforts have gone into ensuring they are indicative, they may not be that super accurate so please take them with a grain of salt.

I hope this was of some help if you’re a student looking for work! If you’ve any ideas or tips, please add them in the comments below!

As always, thanks for reading!

4 thoughts on “Part-time Work for University Students

  1. This is great! I’m of the opinion that if you’re a student, you NEED to be working if at all possible. Even if money isn’t an issue, working during college can give you some invaluable experience and at the very least will show future employers that you have a solid work ethic. There’s a lot in that list that can easily be handled by students!

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