Work Study vs. Non Work Study Job: Which is Better?

Many students choose to work during their college years, either because they want to or because of financial need. When looking for jobs, you usually have two choices: work study vs non work study.

Both options offer opportunities to earn income, but they differ in terms of who is eligible, where they are located, and how they may affect your finances. If you are wondering which option is the best fit for you, let’s compare the pros and cons for both.

student working non work study job.

Work Study Programs

What is work study? Work study programs are designed to assist students in earning money through on-campus or off-campus jobs that can be used to cover educational and living expenses. Work studies are typically funded through the college or university.


Career Relevance: Work study programs often provide opportunities for students to gain experience in fields related to their academic or career interests. This can enhance their resumes.

Networking: On-campus work study jobs can facilitate networking opportunities with faculty, staff, and professionals in the field. This can be valuable for future career development.

Convenience: Because most work study jobs are on campus, you can save time and money without commuting. This makes it easier to transition between work and class.

Flexible Hours: Work-study positions typically offer flexible scheduling options that accommodate your class schedule. Employers typically understand the importance of coursework and allow students to adjust their work hours around class schedules, exams, and other obligations.

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Limited Income: Work-study programs typically offer compensation at or slightly above minimum wage. This might not be enough to cover significant expenses. Students may still have to get financial support from other sources, such as scholarships or loans.

Eligibility: Not everyone qualifies for a work-study position and students are chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis. In order to qualify, Students must apply for FAFSA and also reapply for work-study eligibility every year, so there’s no guarantee you’ll get a spot each time you apply.

Restricted Work Hours: Students participating in work study are confined to working no more than 20 hours a week, which also limits the amount of income they’ll be able to earn. This guideline is to prevent students from overcommitting themselves, so they can still focus on prioritizing academics.

Part-Time Jobs

A part-time job is typically found without the help of the college. Part-time jobs require fewer hours than a full-time job, meaning less than 40 hours a week. Common part-time jobs for college students include those in hospitality, food and beverage, and retail.


Unlimited Earning Potential: Unlike work study programs, there’s no limit to how much you can earn with a part-time job, allowing you to potentially earn more income to support your expenses.

Diverse Experience: Part-time jobs outside of the campus environment can expose students to a wide range of industries and roles. This can provide them with even more real world experience and opportunity for skill development.

More Open Positions: Part-time jobs usually offer a wider range of options compared to work study programs, letting you explore different industries and roles beyond traditional campus jobs, such as working as an assistant or in the campus bookstore.


Transportation Challenges: Unlike on-campus work study positions, part-time jobs may require commuting, which could add extra time and expense for transportation. This may also pose an additional challenge in trying to balance work and school.

Financial Aid Impact: If you have filed for financial aid through FAFSA, the income you earn may affect your eligibility. If you are over the income protection allowance ($11,130 for the 2024-2025 filing year), it could potentially impact how much money you receive for college.

Balancing Work and Studies: Part-time employers may have different expectations regarding work commitments, potentially requiring you to work additional shifts or compromising study time. Unlike work-study jobs, external employers may prioritize work over academic responsibilities, leading to potential conflicts in managing your time effectively.

Work Study vs Non Work Study: Which is Best For You?

Both work study programs and part-time jobs offer valuable opportunities for skill development and your future career. Before deciding between a work study program or a part-time job, it is important to consider the effect it may have on your academic performance. Balancing work commitments with your studies requires careful time management and prioritization. Take time to think about how each option aligns with your long-term career goals and personal growth.

Whichever direction you choose, they can both be helpful in helping you decide on a career you love. (Or help weed out options you don’t love). To help in that process, check out College Raptor’s career finder to search jobs, salaries and career growth outlook.

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