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Blog » Personal Finance » Is Working Through College Worth It? Pros and Cons Unveiled

Is Working Through College Worth It? Pros and Cons Unveiled

Posted on July 12th, 2023
Working While Going to College

Whether to work through your college or not is an old debate. Let’s face the fact– regardless of which side of this controversy you are on. Balancing your academics and experience is no easy task.

If you wonder whether your experience would be worth it, you’re not alone. Statistics from the National Center for Education reveal that as much as 40% of college students take on full-time jobs, while 70% work part-time.

Working through your college brings in unquestionable rewards during your professional days. So, if you are wondering whether working during college would be worth it, the answer is yes.

As the debate between the values of degrees and experience continue raging, we will weigh the perks and cons of working during your college days.

What do recruiters want? Academic degree or professional experience?

Before we delve deeper into this age-old controversy, let’s evaluate the common arguments on both sides.

  • Acquiring an academic degree doesn’t warrant professional competence. It proves that you are a good student, not that you’d be a great employee in the professional circuit.
  • Professional exposure during your college days helps you stand a higher chance for jobs. However, recruiters look for degree-holders, too, since a higher degree demonstrates sound theoretical knowledge.
  • An academic degree demonstrates that the candidate may have technical knowledge without practical skills. A potential employer may hire the candidate if the skills are transferable with on-job training.

How valuable is higher education with experience for job-seekers?

Higher education, along with professional exposure, translates to better pay and job stability. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that candidates with higher education tend to earn more. Besides, they have a thin chance of getting unemployed.

The Bureau further reveals that in 2020, the unemployment rate for professional or doctoral degree holders was just 3.1%. However, the unemployment rate for employees lacking a high school diploma was 11.7%.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities published a report which shows that 75% of hiring managers and 82% of executives prioritize candidates having completed their college degrees.

No wonder your academic degrees go a long way in stabilizing your career. However, how do you plan to equate professional commitments with your college classes?

Being a recent graduate, your degree articulates your skills in the respective field for an entry-level job. Potential employers would expect you to transfer your skills with minimal on-job training. However, when you look beyond entry-level jobs and eye a progressive career, your experience pays off! Remember, employers value their resources, so they want job-ready candidates. So, what’s their point in training you on the job and allocating their resources?

Evidently, hands-on experience while learning has its edge over mere degrees. Candidates with employer-preferred traits such as time management, teamwork, and leadership stand better chances.

What are the pros while working through your college?

The perks of working while in college range from better student debt management to honing valuable finance-handling skills.

Avoid student debts

At the outset, let’s take a look at these statistics.

  • On average, students shell out $25,707 per year for a standard 4-year college degree.
  • In December 2022, the Federal Reserve revealed that students owe a collective debt of $1.76 trillion as education loans in the US.
  • Besides, a whopping 59% of federal loan borrowers fear that they would struggle to clear their loans.

Working during your college days goes a long way in absorbing this financial stress. Whether you commit 40+ hours a week to work or work for three to four hours a day, there’s no denying the privileges of earning a steady income. Before saving for the long-term or making any investments, try to clear off your student debt.

Taking a few hours off your studies can help you manage student debt. The last thing you’d want is to let interests accumulate throughout your 30s and early 40s before you finally manage to pay them off. The sooner you settle your education loan, the faster you can start building your asset portfolio.

Gain professional experience

From a career perspective, the professional experience gained during your college years proves invaluable in the job market. Two to three years of industry exposure during your learning period puts you in command of your career. Higher pay, faster promotions, and better job profiles: you’re all set for a progressive career.

Work experience during your college further enhances your job profile by balancing your theoretical knowledge with technical skills. In a fast-paced professional environment, recruiters prefer candidates with internships or industry exposure. Working through your college makes you better poised to make the most of your professional opportunities.

Ensure better time management skills

How about juggling your assignments, projects, meetings, and professional priorities like a pro? There you are! You’re nurturing the much-needed time management skills that your hiring manager would appreciate. On completing your academics, you can seamlessly blend into the industry!

Moreover, you’re learning how to deal with others in the professional network. No wonder students working during college enjoy a hassle-free transition from their academic to professional lives.

Careful planning puts you on track to manage your priorities. It’s all about putting yourself in a competitive position and navigating out of the situation.

Grow your professional network

Integrating yourself into professional life early on helps in expanding your network. With part-time, on-campus, or full-time jobs, you can grow your rapport with professionals in key positions. Nurturing professional relationships with co-workers and seniors in the professional space puts you in a position to fast-track your career.

Get started with finance management

Well, there’s no shortcut to mastering money management. The earlier you get started, the faster you learn. When you start earning right from college, you realize the true value of the hard-earned bucks. Accordingly, you can start strategizing your financial goals.

For instance, most working students consider clearing their student debt as a short term-goal. Once this burden is gone, you can work toward your mid-term and long-term financial goals.

Moreover, you get to learn budgeting skills practically. This keeps you on top while tracking expenses and making substantial savings.

Get your employee benefits

Whether working part-time or full-time, you’d get your employee benefits once you start working. Naturally, you can qualify for corporate health insurance and open a 401(k) account. Starting to save early exposes you to the tremendous potential of compound interest.

Some companies even offer a tuition assistance program to students who attend college. Just like any other employee, you continue to get sick leave and vacation. This way, you can alleviate your work burden from time to time and chip in with a few more hours for studying.

Why not start contributing to your pension plan early on? Starting early would ease up your financial stress later on.

What are the drawbacks of working while in college?

The downsides of working while in college are fewer compared to its benefits. As a student, it’s worth considering these drawbacks before balancing work and academics.

Neglecting your academics

Well, when you start earning hard cash right from your college days, it’s easy to get carried away and over-commit yourself. In the end, you may mess up your academics and start earning at the cost of your performance in examinations.

Unless you manage your time to perfection and balance work and studies, your grades are likely to take a blow. However, this isn’t the fate of many students, given that they master the work-study equation and put in sufficient time to study.

The secret to scoring prolifically lies in allocating time for studies and working strategically, using your leaves for preparation.

Compromising extracurricular activities

Well, money comes at a cost during your college days, and that’s your leisure hours or extracurricular activities. You might find it challenging to equate these activities in the mix. In the end, working students hardly find their prized time to engage in recreational activities.

Nevertheless, being committed to your academics and work keep other distractions at bay. You remain focused on your career goals and work toward developing your professional skills.

How to set your work schedule while in college?

Here’s how students should plan their work schedule while in college to strike a balance.

  • Look out for a job with a pre-set schedule while you are in college. This way, you can allocate adequate time to study for the classroom even after attending to your professional priorities.
  • Get a job where you can earn more than the average pay. Thus, you can limit your time to work and optimize the same.
  • Make sure to find a job related to your academic field rather than engaging yourself with some random tasks. This would add to your experience, streamlining your professional profile.
  • Socializing is essential to prevent worker fatigue. So, schedule a time with your friends for relaxation and fun.
  • Try not to take on unnecessary obligations at work. Besides, stick to the predetermined shifts and don’t take on the extra load.
  • Don’t go for shifts between two classes. Try to set your schedule before your classes or after they are over.

As a student, you must establish your priorities and stick to your schedule. Consider using a few time management tools that work wonders to help you get started.

Whether you go for an on-campus job, paid internship, part-time job, or full-time employment, balance your academics to evolve as a versatile learner.

With the professional environment looking competitive, your hard-earned experience and time-management skills will pay off when you tap into your career opportunities. No wonder college students with work experience remain better poised to zoom past their peers!

FAQ

How many classes should working students take per semester?

This largely depends on the nature of your course. If you are in the technical or management field where prior professional experience matters during recruitment, try to channel maximum time to your internships, part-time jobs, or other professional priorities during college. Besides, check out the minimum credit requirements with your college and plan your schedule.

If I decide not to work during college — how can I manage my expenses?

Not having adequate funds to manage your educational expenses can put you at risk of student debts. Although education loans are available, borrowers struggle to clear them without a source of income while studying. Apart from loans, look for scholarships and grants to help you manage your expenses. Although your family members and friends can help, they must shell out gift taxes if the amount exceeds $16,000.70.

What are some typical jobs for college students?

The ideal job for a college student depends on the course being undertaken. Some of the common college student jobs include bookkeeper, bank teller, medical receptionist, teaching assistant, campus ambassador, and community assistant.

Online jobs are also available for college students, which brings you the privilege to work from anywhere. These work profiles include those of online tutors and tech support assistants. You may also check out popular off-campus positions relevant to your profile.

Can a college education replace work experience?

In some cases, a college education can replace work experience. However, in most fields, having work experience while learning comes with its perks. Potential employers look out for experienced candidates with academic degrees. However, if you undergo training through a highly regarded academic program, the lack of experience may not affect your professional scope.

Is a college degree essential for a good career?

Yes, a college degree proves essential for a sound career since it serves as a stepping stone into your profession. Employees look out for academic degree-holders, preferably those with relevant work experience. This explains why as much as 70% of college students engage themselves in work while studying.

Working while learning brings in a steady income to manage high education costs. Most importantly, the degree proves valuable when you eye a progressive career.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Karolina Grabowska; Pexels; Thank you!

Angela Ruth

Angela Ruth

Angela Ruth is a financial writer at Due. She has a passion for helping people get out of debt and live a better life.

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