The next best thing you can have besides your degree when you graduate is experience. But, which kind of experience is most valuable? There’s traditional work experience, hands-on experience with an internship, or a work-study position. Depending on your goals and circumstances or even the season you’re in, one of these options may be most suitable. So, which one? Let’s dive in.
One of the first things employers take a look at is your work history. Taking on a part-time job during college could be crucial in getting a job in a specific field. Think of a job as adding value or even volume to your resume.
Another great thing about working through college is the opportunity to network. One of the most powerful tools someone can use in their time at college is meeting a vast number of people.
Perhaps the most significant factor that separates a job from an internship or work-study position is the earning potential. Often, jobs offer you a set number of hours to work, but there are also opportunities to pick up additional shifts if you seek more income for school, food, housing, or whatever else you would need.
So, those are the pros, but what about the cons of working a job through college? A potential drawback could be the rigidity of a job. If you work for a company – that’s it. You just simply work for them, and many employers, unfortunately, don’t care about your life outside of work, including your classes, living situation, etc. Because a college student’s lifestyle is irregular and often unpredictable, you may find yourself in some tough predicaments with scheduling at work. As a result, try to find a job with flexible hours and an understanding boss!
Just like a job, internships are essential for your career development. The great thing about internships is they offer specific experience in your desired field. For example, students seeking a career in counseling or social work may want to look for some hands-on work and experience at a counseling center.
Internships provide you with the ability to finally apply what you’ve been learning in the classroom and practice it in the real world. This solidifies and reinforces what you’ve been learning, and it prepares you for employment after college; you’ll know how certain things work and protocol for processes within a work setting, giving you a lead over other job candidates.
A perk that is often overlooked with internships is that you get to see what you would or would not like in a job. If you were to be a business major and decide to intern at a big retailer, but you end up not being a fan of the industry or work environment, you now know more of what you’re looking for and actually like in a job.
Internships offer the opportunity as well to transition from an intern into an actual full-time employee. You can do this by showing the employer an excellent understanding of the work needed in the position.
A drawback of many internships is that they are not paid positions. You would get the experience and the ability to develop connections with people that could potentially give you employment after college, but without a paycheck in return. So, if you desperately need money, try to find a paid internship, or you may have to find a part-time job in addition to your internship or wait to intern when you’re in a better financial situation.
Something that is offered to many students is the ability to apply for a Federal Work-Study position when they fill out their FAFSA.
This means you can be offered a certain amount of financial aid if you take on a work-study position, but you only get that amount of financial aid if you can find an open position and work through the school-specific school year.
While most universities have the jobs on-campus working as professors’ assistants or in an administration office, there are also many universities that have partnerships with nonprofit or private organizations to offer work-study positions. For example, Southwestern Assemblies of God University has partnerships with Convoy of Hope through our Global Compassion Leadership degree and the Oaks School of Leadership.
One of the most significant differences between a work-study and an internship or job is that you will be limited in work hours according to the amount awarded to you through FAFSA. This would mean that you would not be able to pick up more hours if you needed more money since you were only awarded a specific amount of earning potential as a Work-Study through FAFSA.
It is nice though that the student has the choice of either receiving their checks through direct deposit or being put straight towards their school bill, which is convenient.
So, when should you look for work-study positions? These positions are best when you live on campus, and you don’t have a vehicle or if your schedule is too packed for a part-time job or an internship. If you land a good one, you can still get some practical experience in your field. However, with these positions being usually around minimum wage and with limited hours, they may be more suitable for pocket money or textbooks.
About the Author
Andrew received a bachelor’s degree in Journalism (2015) and a master’s degree in Strategic Communication (2022). Seeing the world by way of story, he was drawn to writing and music at a young age. He is also a major foodie which may explain why his shirts “keep getting smaller.” Andrew serves as the managing editor for PrepU.