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Having a part-time job at university: students' views

Many students find that a part-time job can help them cope with the living costs of university. Read their top tips on bagging a job and managing with your workload…

Which part-time jobs are available to students, and how can you go about getting one? Can you find something flexible and do you need experience first? And, perhaps most importantly, how is it possible to balance a job with your degree?

As part of our annual student survey, we asked current students about their experiences and their top tips for working part-time at university:

Finding a part-time job

Start with your university

My university has a great jobshop that provides really useful CV and cover letter writing tips. First Year International Relations Student | Aston University

Your university is a great resource for finding a job, including those based in the local city or area. Local businesses and recruitment agencies often contact universities to advertise part-time positions that would suit students' skill-sets and hours.

These roles can vary, from retail, admin and promotional work to things such as care work with young children or the elderly. In fact, the latter is an example of a part-time job that could benefit you if it's related to your course and the career path you want to pursue – nursing, teaching, social work and the like.

Contact your student union to find out who you should speak to. This will likely fall under student services or the employability and careers department at your university, but it's best to check.


The student union has lots of job opportunities

The student union is a very big employer on campus and recruits students for cafes and other venues that they run. Second Year Social Studies Student | Queen Mary and University Of London

Working on campus for your university can be great for many reasons. It's not far away (if you're living on campus or have a shift after lectures), you'll get to see students and teachers outside of lectures, and it can make you feel more connected to the campus community.

It might also mean that your manager will be more understanding when you need to put your studies before your shifts, during exam season or when assignments are due at the end of term, for example.


Bars and shops are great student employers

I was lucky enough to get a part-time job during my second year, which made life a lot easier in terms of finances. There are quite a lot of shops in the centre of town so plenty of retail opportunities and LOADS of bars and clubs. They tend to employ a fair few students so if you want a job like that, it's best to get in there right at the beginning of term. Second Year Geography Student | University Of Lincoln

Do you already work in a shop or restaurant with branches around the country? If so, you should ask your manager if you can transfer to the one that's in your uni city. Managers look on this favourably, as they don't have to train up employees from scratch.

If you've been a great employee so far, your manager can put in a good word for you there. If you're lucky, they may be able to hold your job for you when you return home during holidays. See how your part-time or weekend job can pay off in other ways.

Checking out what the local area has to offer is one of our must-dos when visiting for an open day. As well as the part-time job opportunities available, you'll want to choose a student city with enough to keep you entertained.  
Haven't had a job before? Check out our guides to writing a CV and writing a cover letter, including tips for first-time job-hunters.

Getting the job

Your uni can help

My university has a great jobshop that provides really useful CV and cover letter writing tips. First Year International Relations Student | Aston University

If you're not having much response to your job search, take some time to look at your application and critique it. Generic cover letters and CVs often get overlooked in favour of those that actually address what the job description has set out the clues are there.

Again, your university can help. Speak to the relevant department and get their expert opinion.

Freshers share their survival tips for first year

Start your applications early

I began making calls and sending out CVs and application forms before I came to uni. First Year Biology Student | Lancaster University

You'll face stiff competition from your fellow students for decent, part-time employment (especially if you're studying in a smaller city or town). Get ahead of the game by contacting prospective employers before term even begins.

Otherwise, set aside some time in freshers' week to pound the pavement with your CV. We've mentioned above how transferring from your part-time job at home can be a big help.


Part-time job benefits

You can treat yourself

I would highly encourage any students to get a little job whilst at university. The escape from Halls can sometimes be very welcoming and the bit of extra money in your pocket means you can afford that all important takeaway coffee or those highly needed heels from Topshop! First Year Teacher Training Student | University Of Chichester

Depending on your course, you may find yourself with a lot of free time at university. While independent studying is important, going to a part-time job for a few hours a week can be a blissful break. It also gives you a chance to step out of the 'university bubble' and interact with non-students.

While you still probably won't be swimming in cash, working part-time and having some money coming in regularly can make a difference (especially if you don't receive a lot in maintenance loans plus it's money you don't have to pay back down the line). 

Not sure what you're entitled to in student finance? Check out our simple guide to what you'll pay and what you can receive.
  • Best student bank accounts: we reveal which banks offer the most generous 0% interest overdrafts, and which are the most highly-rated by customers.


You can save up

Generally I work two nights a week, and it's really nice having a bit of extra money to spend on things like clothes and holidays, which I wouldn't be able to afford otherwise. First Year Graphic Design Student | Loughborough University

With careful spending, you might even manage to put a bit of money aside each month  it doesn't have to be a lot, but over a few months it could add up to a nice little summer trip with friends.

It also means you don't have to feel so guilty about the occasional treat, whether it's a special dinner with friends, a late round of drinks you probably shouldn't have bought or a new pair of trainers.

Calculate your living costs
See how much you'll need to live on at your chosen university, with our student budget calculator.
See your living costs

Managing work with uni

Get flexible work

If you don't have time to commit to a job, you can pick up the odd casual shift doing things like distributing leaflets. Make sure you sign up to participate in psychology experiments. There's an online sign-up. It's a great way to earn some extra cash and contribute to research. Third Year Anthropology Student | University College London

If your uni workload means a regular part-time job would be difficult, think about other money-earning ideas where you don't have to commit to the same hours each week. Market research and babysitting are all options that can be more flexible. 


Work for the uni – they understand that your degree comes first

I got a job in the students' union shop. It was perfect for me because it was very flexible around my work commitments. Third Year Politics Student | University Of Sheffield

There are lots of different job options within the university. A part-time hospitality role within the refectory or student bar can be a great earner, as well as administration roles within the various departments (which could lead to full-time roles after graduating). 

Note, that Oxford and Cambridge sometimes put restrictions on what part-time jobs students can do, to ensure they focus on their academic work in their slightly shorter terms. This may mean your job options are limited to those within the university or union, but check what the rules are with the university directly.


Work seasonally  

Seasonal staff are always being advertised for near Christmas time, so even if you can't commit to a part-time job this is a great way to earn some extra money. Fourth Year Business Studies Student | Teesside University

If you need term time to focus 100% on studies, the holidays between terms are an excellent opportunity to earn some money for the term ahead.

Lots of businesses take extra part-time staff on to help over Christmas or the summer, which is ideal for students looking for temporary work that you can jump into for just a few weeks. 

What else can you do to make ends meet?

We've got plenty more student finance advice, including sources of extra funding, ways to cut your costs and student banking tips.

You can also plan ahead to see what your living costs will be. Try our student budget calculator.


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