Jobs for college students (including pros and cons)

Updated 20 August 2023

Many college students consider taking on part-time jobs to earn an income and gain practical experience. Since college students are often first-time jobseekers, they may not be sure how to begin or what kind of job to seek. Understanding what jobs to pursue and how to apply to them is crucial to landing a job while you're at college. In this article, we define jobs for college students, discuss whether they should work and what's best for them, discover the top jobs for them, and explain how to find one.

Related: Career advice for students (10 helpful and practical tips)

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What are jobs for college students?

Jobs for college students are usually entry-level positions that require little to no qualifications or prior experience and can be performed alongside study. Employers understand that most college students haven't had the opportunity to gain work experience or develop workplace skills. These positions are often part-time, allowing employees to continue focusing on their studies. These jobs are equally useful to recent school leavers studying full-time at college in their teenage years and adult learners that have started a college course and want to continue earning while they study.

While in college, having a job can help students earn money whilst getting practical experience in the workforce. Many job opportunities are available, from part-time jobs during the academic year to seasonal work during summer break and the holiday season.

Related: 12 online jobs for students and how much they pay

Do college students work?

Many college students take part-time jobs during their studies. This may be to pay for living expenses or earn some extra spending money while studying. Adult learners, in particular, are more likely to have other jobs while they study at college. For learners between the age of 16 and 18, the most common age group for full-time college students, there are some legal restrictions to keep in mind. For example, those aged 16 or 17 must not work after 10 p.m. or before 7 a.m. except in specific circumstances.

Advantages of working as a college student

A job can provide teenage college students with valuable work experience, workplace and life skills, a sense of independence, improved confidence and income. You can list the jobs you did alongside college on your CV and use the experience and skills to enhance your employability or increase your chances of getting into a university. Working while you study at college shows ambition and responsibility.

Skills students can develop through holding a part-time job include organisation, social skills, time management and accountability. Students can gain an understanding of the operations of a typical workplace and build their self-esteem. This is also a great way to get your first professional character reference and letter of recommendation. These are useful when applying to jobs, universities, internships or volunteer periods.

Related: The importance of life skills at work and at home

Disadvantages of working while studying at college

There are some drawbacks to working while studying at college. Working a job whilst studying at college takes time away from homework, may limit time with friends and may make it difficult to partake in extracurricular activities like sports, theatre or clubs. This can become overwhelming and stressful if not managed properly and even hurt your academic performance.

An excellent way to prevent this from happening to you is to speak with a counsellor at your college before beginning employment. You can also address these concerns with your supervisor. A good employer acts as a mentor to you and helps you manage your first workplace experience.

Top jobs for college students

College students have many job options available to them. Below are some of the more common jobs for teenagers, but many are also suitable for adult learners who have chosen to study at college. These jobs are known to let college students balance their academic schedule and gain work experience:

1. Retail associate

National average salary: £10.16 per hour

Primary duties: Retail associates stock products in shops and support the shop manager. They help customers with questions, work on the checkout and process refunds. Associates clean and organise merchandise, fitting rooms and other work areas.

Related: 12 careers in retailing (with salaries and duties)

2. Server

National average salary: £10.21 per hour

Primary duties: Servers answer customer questions about the menu. They take food orders and deliver items to the table. Servers make sure customers have everything they need throughout their meals.

Related: What does a food server do at work?

3. Barista

National average salary: £10.27 per hour

Primary duties: Baristas take drink orders and make coffees, smoothies and teas. They serve customers and manage cash registers. Typically, they clean the shop before and after shifts.

4. Movie theatre associate

National average salary: £10.34 per hour

Primary duties: Movie theatres offer a range of jobs. Possible positions include cashier, ticket office, ticket checker, concessions worker and janitors. Employees can also oversee theatres during shows.

5. Food runner

National average salary: £10.75 per hour

Primary duties: A food runner, sometimes known as a waiter's assistant, works in restaurants and helps to clean tables and run food. When a group finishes their meal, it's their responsibility to take the dirty dishes away. They wipe down the tables and often wash the dishes.

Related: How to become a food runner (with skills and duties)

6. Dog walker

National average salary: £10.82 per hour

Primary duties: Dog walkers provide relief to busy individuals by walking their dogs on their behalf. Dog walkers are responsible for providing exercise and sometimes basic care such as putting out food and water after the walk. They often walk each dog once a day per a set schedule.

Related: A step-by-step guide on how to become a dog walker

7. Prep cook

National average salary: £10.95 per hour

Primary duties: Prep cooks work in restaurant kitchens. They prepare ingredients for the line cooks and chef by chopping vegetables and setting out needed cookware and dishes. They help maintain the cleanliness and order of the kitchen.

8. Ice cream scooper

National average salary: £11.08 per hour

Primary duties: Ice cream scoopers take and prepare orders at an ice cream parlour. Many times they manage the cash registers. They also clean the shop and organise supplies.

9. Delivery driver

National average salary: £11.59 per hour

Primary duties: Delivery drivers run food orders from restaurants and fast-food places to where the person ordered food. They ensure the timeliness of delivery. Drivers exchange money and handle customer concerns at the door.

Related: How to become a delivery driver: a step-by-step guide

10. Babysitter

National average salary: £14.20 per hour

Primary duties: Babysitters look after children while the parents are out or otherwise busy. They are responsible for all aspects of care. Responsibilities include feeding, scheduling naps and bedtimes, partaking in playtime and activities and keeping the children safe.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

How to find a job for teenage college students

Follow the steps below to find a fitting job while you're at college if you're a teenager:

1. Research employment laws if you're under 18

If you're under 18, make sure you're aware of the laws for working while under 18, including the minimum wage. Find out how many hours you can work and what jobs you can take. You can find this information on the government's website, or you can ask a counsellor at college.

2. Make sure your social media profiles are appropriate

Before beginning the job search process, make sure all your social profiles are appropriate. It's common today for employers to search for potential employees before hiring. Ensure all social platforms are presentable and privacy levels are set appropriately.

3. Create a CV

Create a CV listing important information about yourself, including your skills, interests and relevant experience. Employers understand that this may be your first job. You can list classroom experiences, leadership roles in clubs or sports teams, school projects and more.

Related: 33 interview questions for students (with sample answers)

4. Ask for advice

Your college counsellor can most likely help you in your job search. They may even have a list of organisations looking for first-time employees. If not, they may know who can offer you more guidance. Ask other adults, including teachers, coaches, mentors and parents, to aid you.

5. Gather a list of references

Employers want to learn as much about you as possible before hiring to ensure you are a good fit. Your references can be the adults you asked for help with within step four. Other options include coaches, mentors and family friends.

Related: Practical tips you can use when asking for a job reference

6. Use multiple search methods to find job openings

Check job boards, local community resource pages and websites and social media pages for local businesses. You can even go door to door delivering your CV and contact info. Most large companies require you to apply online, but this method works well for local family-owned businesses.

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