Working Through College: Does It Pay Off?

For most students, paying their way through college is no simple feat. Not everyone is blessed with the good fortune of having family capable of helping them financially. Therefore, many take out students loans to pay the high tuition prices. Students see this an investment for their futures, and hope that it will eventually be worth it, however for some it can take decades to pay back later on in life.Many students feel as though they have no choice but to work throughout college.  Nowadays, it is nearly impossible work throughout college and be able to fully cover all the costs, however they see it as a way to help them prevent major debt afterwards from their student loan.

Student loan debt concept. Young woman with heavy box full of debt carrying it up the education ladder

However, as if it wasn’t already tough enough being a college student, studies have shown that students who work throughout college have an even bigger challenge in front of them, as working long hours instead of investing the time in studying, or causing more fatigue can often affect grades, and thus interfere with their chances of a successful career later on.  By working, there are other disadvantages for the future, They also do not have time to have internships, which could also be of great help to their careers, and the dropout rate is higher for students who work, compared to those that focus only on school, as it can be very stressful and exhausting to manage it all.


The main issue for working students is the amount of time it requires, especially since the types of jobs that they are willing to accept do not usually come with a high pay per hour.  In the ‘70s,  it is known to have been slightly easier; male students could manage to make enough money from a summer job doing physical work in factories. However this was harder for females to find such positions, and by the ‘80s these jobs started to decline, while at the same time college tuition prices started to soar, rising by a shockingly large 56% in the past decade.


Most students today work in sales and food services jobs because the hours are flexible for student schedules, however the pay is even below the poverty level, and is nowhere near covering all the costs of college, let alone the tuition. There is however existing research that shows that working throughout college can be beneficial to students.  Studies show that 85% of students who are not completely independent from their parents also work at least part time. The research shows that a certain amount of work can decrease the borrowing stress, as well as teach young students how to be more organized, manage their time, and therefore better succeed in school. However, this means working 15 to 20 hours while studying, as opposed to 40 or more hours. However, any more than these hours can be exhausting and deviate from success. This is based on a study by Dundes and Marx of McDaniel College.

There is a lot of talk about how spoiled and lazy young people of this decade have become. However, a strong work ethic truly is not the issue.  Many years ago, it was more simple to be able to pay for college without family support. Although today, it is much more difficult and complicated.

If you can manage to pay your way through college with outside help and student loans, it is most important to ensure that you will have a well paying job waiting for you after your studies. Which in turn, is the whole idea of student loans, that students should be able to fully focus on school in order to be the most successful possible. And of course, if you can manage to find work experience within your field, for a reasonable amount of hours while studying, there truly is nothing more valuable. While a degree is important, companies greatly value seeing that students have already had hands on experience.

Back to the initial question, does it pay off to work throughout college? Well, all things being said, it truly all depends on absolute need, the amount of hours you put in, what kind of work you are doing, and how confident you are in the future.