Working part-time during your university studies

Basic Guide by Jade Archer

Working part-time during your studies can be valuable in so many ways, including improving your social life and your monthly bank balance. But this is only possible if you learn to balance your learning and your earning.

Before you start university, you’ll be made aware of any loans or bursaries you’ll receive from Student Finance, as well as the institution you’ll be studying at. Once you’ve received this information, and you’ve deducted all your monthly bills for the year, you’ll be left with the amount that you’ll have to survive the academic year.

Now, depending on your individual circumstances, you may receive financial support from Student Finance – i.e. maintenance loans and tuition fees, plus your chosen university’s bursaries, scholarships, or maybe your parents. The financial support available to you is dependent on two things: your living situation whilst studying at university, and your households’ annual income. Find more about how Student Finance works.

Do you need a part-time job?
Once you’ve deducted all your bills for the year, you should be able to judge whether you need to get a part-time job alongside your studies. Of course, you can seek employment at any time in your studies but remember to avoid any busy periods, such as summer exams! If you think you need a part-time job, it’s a good idea to check your university’s guidelines on part-time work.

Some may not permit students to work during term time, but this depend on the course and institution. Most universities advise students to stick to no more than 15 hours a week when working part-time. International students have the possibility of working up to 20 hours a week during term-time, and they can seek full-time employment over the holiday breaks.

bar worker

How many hours?
The 15-hour working week is advice, and I know of several students who occasionally worked more than this, but managed their time wisely, by taking time off around exams and important deadlines. This allowed them to succeed in both their employment and studies.

I’ve also seen many students bite off more than they can chew by taking on too many hours at work, and their studies took a hit for it. Everyone’s different, and we all have our own limits, so you’ve got to suss out the best the work-study-life balance for you. In my own experience, which may be different from yours,15 hours a week is more than enough to survive university. Working part-time also gave me several great benefits!

Coming from a single-parent background, I was awarded the highest maintenance loan. I also took a year out before starting university to save money by working as a full-time care assistant. I chose a university that was at least a three-hour drive from my hometown, and I knew that having luxuries like a car weren’t something that I could do on a budget.

When I first arrived at university, I decided to find my feet before taking on anything other than my new surroundings and my studies. A month or two into university, I’d learnt my timetable alongside the schedules of any clubs and societies I had joined, so I started to seek employment.

Keep it flexible!
Finding a flexible part-time job is key to finding work whilst at university. Many part-time jobs require you to work every weekend but finding a more flexible part-time job may allow for you to work alternate weekends and on any weekdays that you don’t have lectures or seminars.

Working for an agency can give you the freedom to pick and choose when you work, which means that you aren’t tied into working every week especially when you have those all-important deadlines. I always found that working throughout the entire weekend could be demotivating as it often prevented me from socialising or visiting friends and family.

So, most of the roles I was employed in whilst studying for my undergraduate degree were as a flexibly-employed care assistant and a part-time catering assistant. I chose these roles because working as a care assistant allowed me to advance several of the skills I’d acquired on my gap year and working in restaurants and bars was extremely sociable, so I gained many friends outside of university. Another bonus to working in restaurants and bars is the free food on shift and discounts on their products, which comes in very handy when you’re a student!

Make sure you enjoy it
Other than your institution’s guidelines on part-time work, the one piece of advice that I would pass on to you is to find part-time work which will make you happy. The last thing you want as a student is to have the burden of going to work where you’re unhappy. It’s also important to remember that you don’t necessarily have to find a job role that directly links with the career path that you’ve chosen because that can be extremely difficult, especially if you have uncertainties about what you want to do.

You can obtain several different transferable skills in a variety of roles and settings and many of the skills that you acquire throughout university can also be transferred into your employment. Working part-time in any role alongside your studies can be challenging, but it also shows great enthusiasm and dedication.

How to find one
Sometimes the hardest part of finding a part-time job is knowing where to look. One way of searching for a job is through job advertising sites such as Indeed.com, totaljobs.com and Reed.com; these sites are regularly updated and allow you to search by filters, including distance and job type; full-time, part-time, flexible. If you have a specific organisation or institution in mind that you want to be employed by, then the best place to look is often on their company websites.

Many opportunities for students, such as Undergraduate Research roles and jobs in the Student Union, are advertised on the university websites. Within most universities, like FE colleges, you’ll find a Careers Team who may also be able to support you in your hunt for part-time work. Other ways that you may continue your pursuit for part-time work are university job fairs, recruitment agencies and through social media!

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"Many part-time jobs require you to work every weekend but finding a more flexible part-time job may allow for you to work alternate weekends and on any weekdays that you don’t have lectures or seminars."