Is Work-Study Worth It?

Anybody who has been to college knows that it can be extremely difficult to balance the demands of home life, social life, classes, a job, and any other outside obligations all at the same time.

This is where Federal work-study can be a good option for students who want to have fun but still need a job. However, is work-study going to be worth it for everybody, or is it just a waste of time and energy?

Work-study might be worth it for students who may not have any other options. However, work-study is not a stable means of income since yearly applications are required. There is no guarantee of getting accepted into the work-study program every year.

If you are considering work-study as an option for yourself or someone you know, you undoubtedly want and need to know the specifics. Read on to learn how to apply for the work-study program and the pros and cons of doing so.

How Does Work Study Work

In essence, work-study is a program that was started by the Federal Department of Education back in 1964.

This program was designed to provide a source of funds to students who cannot afford to finance their postsecondary education. The work they can do will help them to offset any sort of loans or financial aid they may receive from the government.

Over 3,400 different universities are participating in this program worldwide, and it has helped more than one college student out of a jam.

Funds can be available to students in varying amounts, and the nice thing is that nothing a student earns through work-study will count as their FSA loan. It will be purely earned.

The work-study program is available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in almost any field. It doesn’t matter if you are a full-time student or a part-time student, there is plenty of stuff available for you.

Work-study opportunities are administered to students through their school financial aid office. That is the place you should go if you have any questions.

Work-study jobs come in all sorts of shapes and forms. If you have ever wondered whether you can get a job that caters to your interests or field of study, the answer is yes.

Work-study positions are offered in a thousand fields and are geared toward the students’ majors as much as possible. There is no solid definition of a work-study job, just whatever you need.

Additionally, there are jobs you can find both on and off-campus.

If you happen to secure a job on campus, you will most likely end up working for the school. The nice thing about this is that it’s likely a lot closer to where you live unless you live farther from campus.

If that is the case, there are other places where you can work as well. As mentioned before, there is no limit on what you can do as a work-study participant.

The next question is probably about how much you’ll work and how much you can earn. This depends on where you end up working, as well as when you apply, what kind of aid you need, and what the funding level is for your university.

Be aware that all jobs are different. The number of hours you work will likely depend on the statement of your award. Talk to your financial aid office if you have specific questions about what your options are.

How will you get paid?

This is usually determined by whether you are a graduate student or an undergraduate student. You are usually paid by the hour as an undergraduate student, or by the hour or by salary if you are a graduate or professional student.

The school will usually pay you directly unless you specifically request that those funds be sent to pay for your tuition costs.

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How to Apply for Work Study Position

If you decide that work-study is something you want to try, or that will benefit you throughout your college experience, you undoubtedly want to know how and where to apply.

Here are a few tips on eligibility and application requirements that you may want to know!

First of all, how do you qualify?

As mentioned above, you must be either a graduate, undergraduate, or professional student (a professional student is someone who is enrolled in any vocational program).

You will have to demonstrate a serious need for financial support throughout your college experience, and you must be enrolled in a school that participates in the Federal Work-Study program.

You must also be a student participating in either a full or part-time, degree-seeking program to qualify for application. If you meet all these requirements, then you are eligible to apply for the work-study program.

Keep in mind when applying that not every applicant is going to be accepted.

Not all universities are the same, but most of them do seriously assess the financial needs of every single applicant, and if they decide that you do not fit the criteria, you may not be able to receive aid.

If work-study is no longer an option, however, you could still be eligible for a FAFSA loan. You can find information on how to apply for work-study here.

If you are fortunate enough to be accepted into the work-study program, your next step will be to find a work-study position.

As menacing a task as that sounds, your school should be able to provide you with information and instructions on how and where to find jobs to apply for.

Remember that being a work-study program participant does not guarantee you a job, but don’t lose hope if you keep coming up with nothing.

You may end up having to take a job that doesn’t quite fit what you had in mind, but as long as it pays the bills, you should be fine. You can apply for work-study yearly, and though you may not find acceptance every time, it’s always worth a shot.

Work-Study: The Pros and Cons

As mentioned before, students usually apply for work-study as their situation warrants. However, if you decide you want to apply for work-study just to give it a try, that’s okay too. Before you do, however, you may want to know about a few of the pros and cons of doing so. Here are some of the most important ones to know:


One of the reasons so many college students opt for work-study is because of how flexible the schedule and hours can be. There is a good variety of jobs that can be counted as work-study jobs and will accommodate several different kinds of students.

Keep in mind that every job is different and some might be a little more accommodating than others, but for the most part, the needs and flexibility of college students are taken into account.

Work-study might be a little different from a normal job, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a good source of experience to put on your professional resume.

College students will generally try to pick a work-study position that aligns with their chosen field of study. This will give them credible experience in that field and possibly make it easier for them to find jobs in the future and build a solid career for themselves.

Additionally, working a work-study job provides you with a little extra cash to set aside for paying tuition and other college costs. Doing work-study will allow you to make money on the side, which means you won’t have to take out nearly as many student loans as you might have had to otherwise. The less debt you’re in, the better.

And while we’re talking about loans, you don’t have to worry about anything you earn from being in a work-study position being counted as part of your FAFSA. All federal aid you are given will be given separately, and anything you earn from a work-study job will be purely yours to do with what you would like.

Most jobs will be located on or at least nearby campus, which makes work-study jobs even more convenient for students. If you don’t have a car or any other means of transportation besides your legs, you won’t have to worry about it.

Keep in mind that not all jobs are the same, as mentioned above, and some may not be within walking distance. However, since this program was started specifically for college students, you shouldn’t have a difficult time finding something that suits your needs.

In most college towns, most jobs are gone within weeks or even days because of the scramble for employment among students.

There is not nearly the same amount of competition between students for work-study jobs as there is for normal jobs. This will lessen the stress of trying to find some means of income, plus you will be more likely to have your pick of work.

Finally, work-study positions are all part-time. You may be wondering why this is a good thing. Part-time work is often easier for college students to handle because it allows them plenty of time to do their homework and still have fun with friends or whatever else.

Work-study positions make it possible for students to have flexible schedules, which then take away from unnecessary stress.


Unfortunately, there are plenty of downsides to working a work-study position as well. One of these downsides is the uncertainty of the work-study program.

Though you may get lucky enough to find a position and get accepted into the program one year, that does not guarantee that you will get accepted or find a job the next year. It is a year-by-year process to find work, and that kind of instability might be a little too stressful for some students to handle.

If you are totally dependent on a work-study job to pay the bills, you may find the rug pulled out from underneath you at times.

As mentioned before, you may or may not get accepted every year that you apply, and if you end up not being able to find work through this avenue, you may be left without a source of income.

This being said, it is fine to give work-study a try, but you should always have a backup plan in case. It might take just a full-time job to pay for tuition.

While a part-time work-study position can make it easier to balance several obligations, you might also find that it takes away from your time to do homework and academic study.

The hours are often unpredictable and can fluctuate in surprisingly high numbers. You might have to work four hours this week and twenty the next. If you are prepared to deal with that, then great, but if not, you may want to rethink applying for work-study.

And speaking of hours, sometimes you won’t get quite as many as you might need in a week. As mentioned before, the work hours fluctuate, and sometimes they are very limited. If you are needing more than twenty hours a week, don’t hold out hope because it’s possible you may not get the schedule you had in mind.

Additionally, the kind of job you want might not be available to you either.

With work-study positions, they do try to make them as varied and as flexible/available as possible, but depending on where you are, your options might be a bit limited. Signing up for work-study could be a very rewarding experience, just know it will also be a little bit of a gamble as well.

Lastly, work-study can be a huge contributor to unnecessary stress in your life.

Because of how uncertain and unstable a work-study position can be, that will sometimes contribute to huge amounts of stress on your plate that you don’t need. If you feel like you want something a little more predictable, then work-study is probably not for you.

Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons of work-study, you can decide for yourself if this program is worth it.

Should You Do Work-Study?

Before deciding on work-study, consider your financial situation, the time you have for commitments outside of academics, and your career goals. A work-study job provides opportunities to gain relevant experience, supplement your education, and build valuable connections within your college program.

However, it’s essential to balance your work schedule and academic responsibilities. If you feel work-study wouldn’t negatively impact your studies, then it may be a good fit for you.

Is it better to get a part-time job or do work-study?

While work-study jobs are usually limited to part-time hours and may not cover your entire college cost, they often offer advantages over traditional part-time jobs. With a work-study position, you can gain relevant experience in your chosen field and make connections within your college department.

Furthermore, work-study income may not count towards income on the following year’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, if you need more hours or higher pay, a traditional part-time job might be more suitable.

Is work-study like a normal job?

Work-study jobs do have similarities to normal jobs; you will work part-time and gain valuable work experience.

Some differences, though, include the cap on hours per week and the financial need basis for eligibility.

While work-study jobs typically focus on providing opportunities relevant to your major, regular jobs may not share that focus.

Do work-study jobs look good on a resume?

In general, work-study positions can be a great addition to your resume. By participating in work-study, you gain experience and develop skills relevant to your intended career path. Employers may view the work-study experience as a demonstration of time management skills, dedication, and professional development.

Is it bad to decline work-study?

Declining work-study is not bad at all. You should evaluate whether it would benefit you or if another job option would be more suitable.

Keep in mind that if you decline work-study and later decide it would have been a better option, regaining that work-study opportunity might not be guaranteed.

Why do employers like work-study students?

Employers appreciate work-study students because they often come with financial incentives, such as partial or full salary reimbursement through the work-study program. In addition, work-study students tend to be motivated, focused, and eager to apply their academic knowledge in a real-world setting.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.