What Are the Best Work Study Jobs?

Library assistant balancing work and study materials.

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Finding a part-time job during college can be daunting—not to mention figuring out how to schedule your job in between your classes, extracurricular activities, and social life. The federal work study program helps to ease this burden by providing undergraduate and graduate students who have financial need with the opportunity to work part-time to help pay for school.

Students who are eligible will be awarded work study through the FAFSA, though funds are limited, meaning students who are interested in work study should fill out a FAFSA application and accept the work study funds as soon as possible.

Keep in mind that being awarded work study does not guarantee you a specific job. That means means you have the opportunity to decide what kind of work study job you’re interested in, especially if you start your search early. Before setting your heart on a position, consider the following:

  • Would you prefer a job on or off campus?
  • Would you rather work in a hectic, social environment or a quiet, more isolated work space?
  • What are your interests and hobbies, and how does that affect your interest in your working environment?
  • What is a fair wage for your circumstance? Work study participants will always make at least minimum wage, but your earning could fluctuate anywhere between $8 and $20 per hour, depending on your job. The average wage hovers right around $11 per hour.

Once you’ve narrowed down what you’re looking for, you can inquire through your university to find out what positions are available. Start your search with these ten popular and practical work study jobs for college students.

Financial Aid Office Assistant

As a financial aid office assistant, you would be the first point of contact for anybody with questions about financial aid. You would also maintain up-to-date financial files on students, review applications and documents, and track down any missing information.

If you’re great at managing people, this job would be a perfect fit. Plus, you would have the perk of being the first person to learn about new scholarship opportunities. Keep in mind, though, that you would also be the point person for anybody dealing with stressful financial situations. To do well in this position, you must problem solve and work well under pressure.

New Student Orientation Leader

If you love working with large groups of people, this is the job for you! As an orientation leader, you would be the first face new students associate with their university experience. In this role, you would guide new students through the first steps of college, including moving in, locating important places on campus, and registering for classes. You might even make a few new friends.

Keep in mind that orientation leaders tend to work long hours during the beginning of each semester, and this position would require additional training during summer months. However, you would have more freedom during the middle of each semester. Some orientation leaders even receive extra job perks like university store discounts and in some cases even pieces of technology to keep (hello, iPad!).

Resident Assistant

So you’ve been in college for at least a year now, and you’re looking to take up a new job. Why not look into becoming a resident assistant (RA)? As a resident assistant, you would serve as a role model to students in your dormitory and on campus, tasked with enforcing the rules and policies of your university.

You job would be at home, meaning you wouldn’t need to necessarily leave your studies to complete your responsibilities. Often, resident assistants work in pairs, so you would always be in a team environment, and you'd likely be working in exchange for room and board, which could be a major savings. However, you would need to feel comfortable enforcing university policies, which might mean occasionally being the "bad guy" in the eyes of the residents you oversee.

Student Tour Guide

Leading groups of prospective students and their parents can be especially rewarding if you love your university and want to share all it has to offer. In this role, your primary responsibility would be to show the highlights of campus and explain to prospective students what campus life is like at your university.  

As a campus guide, you would quickly learn the secrets of your university. You’ll know where to find the best coffee, the optimal study space, or even a free parking spot. However, you will also need to know the ins and out of admission and financial aid, and you’ll need to be able to think quickly to answer the questions that come your way.

Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant

If you have developed a strong relationship with a professor or you simply want to learn more in your field, look for research or teaching assistant positions in your degree program. Teaching assistants will grade papers, help fellow students, and assist with busy office hours, while research assistants typically do more data entry and research for specific projects that professors are working on.

Either way, working closely with a university professor will provide you with the opportunity for great references in the future, plus you will be able to include any research you assist with on your resume. These positions are generally very independent, and at times you may feel like you're piling even more academic work onto your already-busy schedule. You will need to be self-motivated to succeed.

Peer Tutor

If you excel in certain academic area, consider becoming a peer tutor through your university’s tutoring center. Your role would be to assist other students in grasping difficult concepts. Not only would you help them with specific tasks, but you can also teach them beneficial study and note taking habits for future success.

Working in an academic environment would strengthen your performance in your own classes, especially if you take the time to develop new learning and study strategies. However, you might find yourself exhausted and overwhelmed if you don’t take time away from studies—yours and your peers'— to focus on your mental health and social wellbeing.

Library Assistant

As a library assistant, you would help fellow students and library patrons find material, use library resources, and check in and out books. You would also spend time tracking down students that have overdue material.

In this role, you would become an expert on often-overlooked, valuable library resources and how to use them. However, this job could easily become dull if you crave a hectic workplace environment.

Writing Center Assistant

If you love to write and have a high-level grasp on grammar and prose, you should consider working in your university’s writing center. You would read material brought to you by your peers, giving them constructive criticism in order to help them improve their writing.

The only way to become a better writer is to write, so if you have writing career goals, this position would be a perfect opportunity for self-improvement. However, if you're looking for an active, intense work environment, the writing center may not be the most suitable place.

University Bookstore Clerk

As any university student knows, the bookstore is not just a place to buy books. Clerks sell all sorts of different products, including university-emblazoned clothing, school supplies, electronics, and more. Clerks also are responsible for pulling books and materials from shelves and setting it aside for students that place online orders.

If you are a neat and organized person, this may be the perfect role for you (not to mention the discounts!). However, this job can get repetitive, and you must also have an interest in customer service.

Fitness Center Assistant

Always at the gym? Why not apply for a position as an assistant at your university’s fitness center? You will spend most of your time cleaning machines, re-racking weights, and greeting and checking in students and members.

The job may not be glamorous at first, but working in your university fitness center provides excellent networking opportunities with coaches, physical therapists, and outdoor recreation leaders. However, bear in mind that you will spend quite a bit of time cleaning up after sweaty students. 

Whatever work study position you choose, make sure to invest in your future by giving it all you’ve got. You never know where you might end up. 

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Your Citation
Perkins, McKenzie. "What Are the Best Work Study Jobs?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 17, 2021, thoughtco.com/best-work-study-jobs-college-students-4570928. Perkins, McKenzie. (2021, February 17). What Are the Best Work Study Jobs? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-work-study-jobs-college-students-4570928 Perkins, McKenzie. "What Are the Best Work Study Jobs?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-work-study-jobs-college-students-4570928 (accessed June 7, 2023).