Work-Study or Part-Time Job—Is One Better Than the Other?

Tyson Schritter / Colleges of Distinction »

Are you looking for additional income while earning your degree? Perhaps you are interested in alternatives or additions to scholarships and student loans. Regardless of the reason, it’s likely that you’ll either want or need a way to earn money during your time in college. Your options, thankfully, are plentiful, with both work-study programs and part-time jobs available to you. Both work-study and part-time employment are great means of support, but they have some key differences to keep in mind. If you’re trying to decide which one may be for you, we’ve provided a few points for your consideration.


Work-study programs are student employment opportunities that are funded by the government and/or individual universities. Here, students take on a job, usually on campus, and are paid at least the federal minimum wage for work.


  • You’ll have greater flexibility in arranging your work schedule around your class schedule.
  • Your job will be conveniently located on campus.
  • Because work-study counts as a form of financial aid that you apply for through FAFSA, you may be able to avoid taking out a high-interest loan! That means you don’t have to worry about paying back as much money in the future. 


  • Not only is there a cap on the amount you can earn from work-study, but participation in work-study may also impact the amount of the other forms of financial aid you receive.


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Part-Time Job

Students interested in a part-time job that is not affiliated with work-study can open their search to locations both within and beyond campus. Without being tied to financial aid, part-time work has a broader potential for what one may be able to earn. 


  • Your college cannot set a cap on the amount of hours you work in one week or the amount you can earn.
  • There are more open positions to choose from in a wide range of industries.


  • You will have less flexibility and accommodation for your class schedule.
  • Your job may be located off campus, which means you will have to plan and arrange your means of transportation.

There’s no obvious choice between work-study and a part-time job. Each student has different needs that one employer may accommodate better than another. No matter what, either can be a great option to help you support yourself throughout college. 

Having trouble deciding between work-study and a part-time job? You can also consider a third option: both! To offset the limits that work-study can place on your financial aid, you may be able to work a few additional hours at a part-time job in order to help cover your expenses. But remember, the more hours you work, the less time you’ll have to study or partake in any other activities. Ask for advice and do your research so that you can have a healthy and satisfying work, school, and life balance! Colleges of Distinction always recommends meeting with a financial aid officer to learn more about your options and answer any questions you may have pertaining to specific colleges. 

First thing’s first, though! Are you still unsure of which college to attend? Start here to narrow down your search. 


More Helpful Guides:

Three Difficult Conversations to Have About Affording College

When Do I Need to Complete the FAFSA To Meet College Deadlines?

7 Student Loan Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Attending a Private School CAN be Affordable


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