Many students work during college, but coordinating your job with your class schedule can be tricky. Luckily, students who earn money through the Federal Work-Study program may find that their jobs are convenient (often right on campus) and accommodating of their academic demands. Plus, whether they’re serving their school community by helping out at the library, or assisting a professor with important research, these students are gaining valuable experiences.

What is the Federal Work-Study Program?

When you get your financial aid award letter, it may show that you’re eligible to earn money through the Federal Work-Study Program. This form of need-based financial aid allows you to earn money through a part-time job—often related to your studies or in service of the community—to help you pay for school-related expenses. About 10 percent of full-time undergraduate students participate in the federal work-study program each year, reports educationdata.org.

Work-study may not be available at every school, so check with your school's financial aid office to see if they participate. When you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), be sure to select "yes" where the application asks if you're interested in work-study. And make sure to fill out the FAFSA early, since funds for this program may be limited. If you do get a work-study job, you might work on campus (for your school) or off campus (such as for a non-profit or public agency). You’ll earn at least minimum wage, though the rate may vary depending on the job itself. And you’ll be able to earn up to the amount of your work-study award listed on your award letter. Undergrads are always paid by the hour at work-study jobs, but graduate students can be paid either hourly or by salary. This type of federal aid has some other unique advantages, too.

1. You keep what you earn

While you have to pay student loans back with interest, work-study earnings are yours to keep. How you spend your earnings is up to you—and will depend on your individual situation.

2. Your paycheck won't affect financial aid eligibility

Like most financial aid, work-study awards are only guaranteed for the current school year, which means you'll have to fill out the FAFSA every year you attend college. Yet unlike other forms of income, your work-study job won't affect financial aid eligibility. You'll still have to report your work-study earnings on the FAFSA, but they won't count against you in the calculation that determines your award.

3. Work-study jobs are convenient

Most work-study jobs are located on campus, but there are also some off-campus opportunities. Employers are approved by the school's financial aid office and are generally private or non-profit companies or public agencies where work performed is in the public interest. Regardless of where your job is located, you can usually schedule your work hours around your academic schedule.

4. The reward can be more than just financial

A work-study job in your academic field can offer valuable experience that may even guide your future career choices.

Since many schools offer convenient ways to find jobs that are flexible and accommodating to class schedules, work-study can be a great way for students to earn extra money while building a résumé.


FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover® Student Loans.

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