According to a Georgetown University study, around 70% of all college students work at least one part-time job while also going to school. With so many students relying on their employment to help pay their way through school, this begs the question of how much they’re actually making.
Full-time, dependent college students make a median income of about $3,900 from part-time jobs, based on a study from CollegeAffordability. At the same time, independent students brought in about $13,880.
However, these estimations don’t include the Federal Work-Study program, which accounted for a median of $1,788 per student out of 601,000 students who used FWS during the 2017-18 school year. For a more in-depth breakdown on how minimum wage and part-time work tie into each other, the work habits of college students, and other aspects of earning money while pursuing higher education, read on.
Minimum Wage and Part-Time Work
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, the current federal minimum wage sits at $7.25 per hour for covered non-exempt employees. A non-exempt employee is someone entitled to the federal minimum wage, as well as overtime pay. These are most commonly blue-collar workers and those who work an hourly wage. In other words, these are college students.
States also have their own minimum wage, but these will vary depending on the state in which you live/work. Like Ohio, New York, and California, some states have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. However, some states, like Georgia, have a minimum wage lower than the federal minimum.
The Department of Labor has a helpful map that shows each state’s minimum wage in relation to the federal minimum.
How Many Jobs Do College Students Have?
Many college students have two or more jobs during their college careers. It’s becoming increasingly common for students to need more than one income as the cost of tuition keeps rising and other expenses, like books and rent, pop up.
Unfortunately, surviving usually means you have to sacrifice a letter grade or two in the process. One study conducted at Georgetown University found that students that worked while also going to school were far more likely to do poorly in their classes and eventually drop out as a result.
As a general rule, it’s recommended students work no more than 15 hours per week. With that said, 15 hours isn’t feasible for students who come from low-income families.
Now, pair that information with the fact that now, more than ever, students of color and students from low-income families are enrolling in two and four-year public colleges and universities. Now you have many students who may be struggling to balance work and life responsibilities with academic responsibilities.
To help ease some of that burden, many colleges and universities have counselors and success coaches whose sole purpose in their position is to guide you throughout your college experience.
Can a College Student Work a Part-Time Job Above Minimum Wage?
Although a set minimum wage is in place at the state and federal levels, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all college students can earn minimum wage. The point of minimum wage is to give workers access to the bare minimum amount needed to survive, though one can argue that the current numbers aren’t enough.
A college student can work a part-time job above minimum wage if they’re able to find a role that pays more. However, the yearly income for most jobs will also depend on your state and the amount of time worked.
Here’s a quick look at some jobs that may pay more than the federal minimum wage:
Private Academic Tutoring
If you’re particularly strong in any subject, offering your services as a private tutor can earn you a good amount of money. The median salary for a private tutor comes in at $30,272 per year. This number will vary by state and depends on how much you decide to charge for your services. In general, most private tutors will charge anywhere between $15-$20 per hour.
Freelance Writing or Design
The great thing about freelancing is that you make your own schedule, and you can work as often or scarcely as you’d like. In general, freelance writers make a median income of $63,213 per year and charge around $30 per hour. You likely wouldn’t start out charging that much with this type of job unless you already have some professional writing experience under your belt.
Freelance writing or other types of freelance work can also come very sporadically. For this reason, it may not be feasible to rely entirely on this job to pay all of your bills when you’re first starting.
Bank telling is a low-stress job that offers consistency and stability. Bank tellers earn a median income of $28,130 per year, and no higher education degree is required for an entry-level position. To do well in this job, it’s essential that you’re comfortable handling and counting large sums of money as you’ll be helping bank patrons deposit and withdraw funds in varying amounts.
Blogging and Social Media
Utilizing your writing and social media skills can earn you good money if you work at it. With that said, this is one of those careers you need to work at to see any return on investment. While some social media influencers earn up to $74,000 per year, others may learn as low as $14,000 per year. The median salary for a social media influencer reigns at $46,703 per year.
Fitness Instruction or Personal Training
A fitness instructor or personal trainer job is perfect for students who enjoy being physically active and have an outgoing and upbeat personality. To successfully do this job, you have to have a positive and encouraging demeanor as you’re helping others complete successful workouts.
The median salary for a personal trainer is around $48,853 per year. It’s a relatively easy field to get into as long as you’re passionate about the work of helping others feel good about themselves.
Other Modes of Income for Students
Aside from a typical part-time job, there are other ways to earn money while pursuing your degree. Using extra student loans from financial aid is common amongst students but should be done so carefully. On the other hand, many students qualify for federal work-study or can make money from several different passive income avenues.
Let’s explore these different modes of income in further detail.
What Is Federal Work-Study?
Federal Work-Study is a program that provides college students in undergrad and graduate studies with part-time jobs. The work-study program is designed solely for students who display a serious need for financial help in paying for their schooling. It’s available to full and part-time students.
Students who participate in the program are also encouraged to complete a certain number of community service hours in their field of study. With that said, not every school participates in the federal work-study program, so it’s important to double-check and make sure your school does.
Usually, there will be a spot on the FAFSA form where you check whether or not you’re interested in information about federal work-study. If that’s the case, the schools you apply to and are accepted into, or your current institution will provide you with the necessary information.
Federal Work-Study Jobs
Jobs under the federal work-study program may be on or off-campus. If they’re on campus, it’s likely for one of the offices or another part of the University itself. If the job is off-campus, you’ll likely work for a nonprofit organization or a public agency.
In some cases, the job assigned to you may even tie into your field of study. A major-specific job is helpful as you get another tick on your resume when you graduate.
Federal Work-Study Wages and Hours
Under federal work-study, students will always earn at least the current federal minimum wage. With that said, the type of work you do and the required skills needed to do the job may constitute higher pay for you. The amount of work-study awarded will depend on when you apply, how much financial help you need, and how your school’s funding looks.
How your school pays you depends mainly on whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student. While undergraduate students are paid an hourly wage, graduate students may be compensated hourly or by salary. The school you’re attending is required to pay all federal work-study participants at least once per month, and they must pay you directly unless you specifically set up other accommodations (i.e. direct deposit or tuition designation).
You cannot earn more than the amount of money you’ve been awarded in terms of hours. When work hours are assigned, the school or employer will look at your class schedule and academic progress.
How To Use Student Loans for Living Expenses
The loans you receive through the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) cover more than just your college tuition.
You can use these funds for various other expenses, including:
- On or off-campus room and board/rent
- Books and other supplies
At some schools, you may also use your financial aid to care for dependents in your home. However, this information has to be given to your particular school, so they know to consider that while deciding your aid package.
Although you can use your student aid package to help pay for various living expenses, you shouldn’t use them for any significant purchases. Significant purchases may include purchasing a vehicle, unauthorized vacations (any trip not considered study abroad), or excessive dining out.
When using your student loans for living expenses, keep these things in mind:
- Spend wisely. Student loans will eventually need to be repaid. Because of this, it’s best only to take out what you believe you’ll need. This way, you’ll have less to pay back when it comes time to start your repayment period.
- Your servicer may issue penalties. If you default on your student loans or miss multiple payments, then your credit score will drop significantly. It’s also difficult to discharge student loans in bankruptcy, so it’s best to refer to the first point and spend wisely.
- Set a budget and stick to it. After filling out your FAFSA and receiving your aid package from your desired school, it’s essential to make a preliminary budget before deciding how much aid to accept. This budget should include all school-related expenses like tuition and books and living expenses like rent and childcare.
You can certainly use your student aid package to help cushion your living expenses during the school year, but this shouldn’t be your primary source of income.
Generating Passive Income
Another secondary form of income great for college students is the generation of passive income. Passive income is income involving money that regularly flows in without putting in much effort. This money source is excellent for college students because the lack of effort required means they can focus on their studies instead of trying to balance work and school.
There are plenty of passive income opportunities for students and are easily accessible with a quick internet search. The most common of these opportunities is making content for social media and collecting the ad revenue, driving for a meal delivery service, or driving for a rideshare app.
Each of these options gives students the flexibility to work as often or scarcely as they desire. This means they don’t have to worry about falling behind in their classes due to a work schedule.
College students can make anywhere from minimum wage to at least double that depending on the job they’re working. Now double or triple that number for the multitude of students who work multiple jobs while also going to school despite the research saying students with jobs tend to fall behind in classes.
The stress from a part-time job or two has led many students to lean closer to generating passive income than a typical part-time job. Regardless of how students choose to make an income during their college career, the amount of money earned varies from student to student.
- How Are Student Jobs Taxed?
- 16 Reasons to Work Part-Time as a Student
- The Effects of Part-Time Jobs on Grades
- U.S. News & World Report: The Pros and Cons of Working While in College
- Urban Institute: Working during College
- U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division: Questions and Answers About the Minimum Wage
- Investopedia: Non-Exempt Employee
- U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division: State Minimum Wage Laws
- The Hechinger Report: The paradox of working while in college
- Pew Research Center: A Rising Share of Undergraduates Are From Poor Families, Especially at Less Selective Colleges
- Cornell Legal Information Institute: Minimum Wage
- Salary.com: Private Tutor Salary in the United States
- ZipRecruiter: Freelance Writer Salary
- ZipRecruiter: Bank Teller Entry Level Salary
- ZipRecruiter: Social Media Influencer Salary
- ZipRecruiter: Personal Trainer Salary
- U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid: Federal Work-Study jobs help students earn money to pay for college or career school.
- Forbes: Can You Use Student Loans for Living Expenses?
- Forbes: Passive Income And Why You Need To Know About It