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Best Summer Jobs for
College Students

For many college students, enjoying summer means having enough cash for fun activities. But summer is also a great time to gain work experience and beef up resumes. Whether you’re looking for a part-time job in your hometown or an internship at a big name company, this guide can help you find a good summer job and potentially turn it into something more. Keep reading to get some ideas about possible summer jobs, learn more about top companies that hire college students for the summer and get expert tips on how to turn a summer gig into a career post graduation.

Meet the Experts

Vince Massara Coach and Speaker
Kristen Moon College Counselor and Founder of MoonPrep

Written by:

Top 5 Traditional Summer Jobs for College Students

With summer break just around the corner, many college students will be looking for seasonal and short-term jobs for extra cash, to stay busy or to beef up their resume. For those looking for a summertime gig, the following jobs have been longtime go-tos for many young adults:

  1. Lifeguard

    Because summer is the busiest season for pools and beaches, tons of summer jobs exist for strong swimmers who are home for the warmer months. Lots of positions can be found at community and neighborhood pools, while those who live near the coastline can also find positions at public beaches. These jobs are a great opportunity to build your fitness, keep people safe and be outdoors to enjoy some fun in the sun. The average hourly wage for lifeguards is $9.31, but those with certifications or previous experience may be able to earn a bit more.

  2. Nanny

    Being a nanny over the summer offers lots of different opportunities for qualified students. Those seeking a bit of adventure may find positions as overseas au pairs, while students hoping to stay in the city of their college or return to their hometown can find plenty of positions as parents scramble to arrange activities and find care for their children while school is out. Students who enjoy spending time with kids, staying active and being outdoors can spend their summer making money without even feeling like they’re working. PayScale estimates that nannies make about $14.56 per hour.

  3. Camp Counselor

    Students who enjoy spending their time with children, being a leader and overseeing fun, outdoor activities are often the perfect fit for camp counselor positions. Depending on the type of camp, a counselor role can also benefit students in their future careers. Individuals studying science, for example, can work at a science camp, while those with a creative flair can work at an arts-focused summer program. It’s also a natural fit for teachers-in-training. PayScale states that the hourly average wage for camp counselors is $9.28, but those with multiple years of experience or specific academic backgrounds may be eligible to earn more.

  4. Sales Associate

    Whether working at a clothing store, pop-up boutique, outdoors shop or furniture gallery, students with a knack for persuasion and helpfulness often thrive and enjoy sales associate jobs – especially if they have commissions to incentivize their interactions with customers. Individuals interested in business, finance or sales/marketing often gravitate towards these roles, but they’re also a great fit for anyone seeking a low-pressure summer position or even just a discount at their favorite store. The average wage is $10.20 hourly, but this number varies based on whether the store allows workers to earn commissions.

  5. Food Server

    Although it may not seem like the most glamorous way to spend a summer, working as wait staff allows students to build their social skills, stay active, enjoy free meals while working and possibly educate themselves about different cuisines. Depending on the restaurant and gratuity system, they may be able to make significantly more money than other positions. The job can be ideal for aspiring chefs or restaurant owners. However, food servers need to be on their feet for hours at a time and must be able to multi-task like pros, so take this into account before submitting an application. The median salary is $9.00 hourly, but tips can raise that number substantially.

Top 5 Out-of-the-Box Summer Jobs

Many students automatically think of the positions listed above when searching for a summer job, but some are now embracing the 21st century and thinking outside the box when it comes to how they make money during their summer break. According to freelance expert Vince Massara, approximately 50% of jobs are predicted to be freelance or “gig-based” by 2020. “The gig-based economy requires a brand new set of skills that may be a little different from what students get taught in school,” he notes. “Why not start learning these skills for the new workforce early with a summer job?”

Those looking for something a little different might want to considering the following jobs. Students can also check out ACO’s Guide to Side Hustles for more ideas.

  1. Travel Blogger

    Students with a significant social media following and a taste for adventure can find work with various travel publications or by using their own platform to traverse the world and catalog their explorations. Students choosing this path may write a weekly column, provide daily vlogs or use Instagram to share sponsored locations throughout their journey. This summer job offers exciting possibilities for students who don’t want to stay put during their summer vacation. According to PayScale, freelance writers and bloggers make a median hourly salary of $24.10, but this number can go higher if the student brings in advertising revenue.

  2. Freelance Web Designer

    If you have a knack for computers, an understanding of website platforms like WordPress and Squarespace, and enjoy coding, a freelance position as a web designer could be a great summer job. Rather than clocking in at a 9-5 position, freelance web designers create their own hours to take on work from a variety of clients. They may design a new website, update an existing page, install new widgets and apps, or help clients maximize their presence on the web. Glassdoor reports the average hourly base pay for freelancer web designers is $26.99.

  3. Online Tutor

    Traditional tutoring has long been a way for academically-minded students to make money over their summer vacations, but thanks to the Internet, tutoring opportunities have expanded. Whether taking a seasonal job from a company like Chegg Tutoring or finding some of your own clients at college or from your hometown high school, tutoring is a great job for students with area expertise and an ability to teach others. A PayScale report found that online tutors make an average hourly wage of $19.57.

  4. Touring Musician

    Students studying music at college or who are able to play an instrument particularly well may be able to find work as a touring musician during the summer months. Many bands and musical groups play at festivals and other events during the warmer months and need additional musicians and singers to create a full sound. Depending on the group, students may be able to continue touring during the weekends once they start back at school in the fall. PayScale reports that musicians and singers earn a median hourly wage of $42.92.

  5. Business Owner

    Students with an entrepreneurial spirit often launch their first business in college, and for good reason. With access to so many resources and expert advice, students can incubate their concept without some of the usual startup costs. Lots of students have businesses of their own that mainly exist in the summer, ranging from selling items on eBay to providing graphic design, illustration or content development services. Pay varies significantly by industry, but PayScale says $25.43 is the average hourly rate for small business owners.

Top 5 Companies for College Students

Let’s not forget about summer internships. Thousands of companies offer internship programs each summer, but some stand out more than others. When looking at a prospective company and internship opportunity, students should ensure the program allows them to work on projects that stretch their skills and knowledge, provides a tangible line on the resume, and offers the chance to forge connections. The companies highlighted below are the top examples but even if you’re unable to land an internship with one of these big names, reviewing them should give you an idea of what’s out there.

  1. Facebook

    According to a CNBC insider look at Facebook summer jobs, interns make $8,000 per month and receive tons of perks along the way. A few of these include free housing, transportation and food – not to mention the opportunity to take part in fun weekend activities like beach days, baseball games and visits to the zoo. Interns participate in lots of activities meant to build their resumes, including special projects, mentorships, weekly Q&A sessions with executives and information seminars about getting more involved in the company after graduation.

  2. Under Armour

    Students may first think of sports apparel and footwear when they hear Under Armour, but this massive retail store offers internships for students with backgrounds in the arts and sciences, business, design, engineering and technology. The company has numerous locations throughout the U.S. and allows students to take part in a self-driven project that has real business implications. They also receive a mentor, access to learning seminars and frequent executive Q&A sessions. According to Glassdoor, Under Armour interns make between $10 and $20 per hour.

  3. L’Oreal

    First founded in France more than a century ago, today L’Oreal is a multinational beauty and personal products corporation that accepts interns in a variety of business functions. Its summer internship lasts 10 weeks and helps students build skills in areas of teamwork, priority management and public speaking. Students also have the chance to take part in lunchtime learning sessions with L’Oreal leaders. Interns seeking a longer-term option can take part in a 54-week industrial placement. Most L’Oreal interns earn approximately $20 per hour, according to Glassdoor.

  4. Bloomberg L.P.

    From its headquarters in New York City, Bloomberg operates as a media and data company and also sells financial software. Interns can apply to positions based in North America as well as Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East. Most last 8 to 16 weeks, but some opportunities extend to two years. Areas of focus include corporate functions, financial products, industry verticals, global data, news, research and technology. In addition to taking part in meaningful, hands-on projects, students receive feedback and advice about future career decisions from their managers. Hourly wages range between $25 and $45, depending on the area of focus.

  5. Google

    No list of internships would be complete without mentioning Google, as this hotspot is a perennial favorite amongst students and professionals alike. The Google internship program offers roles in areas of business development, product management, IT & data management, and software engineering to name but a few. Competition is fierce, as the company receives 40,000 applications annually and takes just 1,500 interns. Students work alongside other interns and receive one-to-one mentoring during their time there. They get to make a lasting impact on the company while also building skills and creating community. Glassdoor estimates Google interns earn between $6,500 and $8,500 a month.

5 Expert Tips for Finding a Good Summer Job

Even if college students don’t have an extensive resume showing prior work experience, that doesn’t mean they aren’t in contention for interesting and/or career-propelling summer jobs. The key is to leverage your network, think creatively and not give up. Experts Vince Massara and Kristen Moon share their tips for finding a worthwhile summer job or internship in the following section.

Don’t underestimate the skills you currently have

“Even if you don’t think you have enough expertise for a freelance role, you do,” says Vince Massara. “There is, without doubt, at least one thing you’re good at and, odds are, there are people out there willing to pay someone else to do that for them.” Massara points to the website Fiverr as a great place to get plugged in. “People are making livings off freelancing on websites like this,” he says. “What was once a feeble startup, is now a busy marketplace where a range of professionals sell their skills to willing buyers.” Take time to think about what skillsets you can bring businesses and entrepreneurs, and then market them accordingly.

Students may feel they can’t compete with businesspeople who have been networking for years, but they may have more contacts than they think. “Start with the people you know, people your parents know and family friends,” says Kristen Moon, college counselor and founder of MoonPrep. “You’d be surprised how resourceful your inner circle is and just how far a referral goes.” Even if no one in your immediate circle does the type of work you’re interested in, they might know someone who does. In the months leading up to summer, work with your college’s career center to perfect your resume and then send it to your inner network.

“Job shadowing is mutually beneficial,” notes Moon. Students interested in obtaining an insider look at potential careers may want to consider spending a week of their summer break shadowing someone who holds a job they might want to hold one day. “If you aspire to be a dentist, contact your family dentist and explain to him or her that you are an aspiring dentist and ask if you can job shadow them for a time,” suggests Moon. “This can apply to any field that interests you but remember to explain to all potential employers how you intend to add value.”

When picking a perfect summer job, students must ask both themselves and their potential employers the right questions to decide if it’s a good fit. According to Moon, some of the best questions to think about and/or ask during this process include:

  • Will this job allow me to hone my customer service skills?
  • Will the position stretch me out of my comfort zone and help me grow as a person?
  • Does this opportunity allow me to explore potential careers?
  • Does the position help me learn more about an industry of interest?
  • Is there potential for this job to lead to other opportunities?

Given that most college students don’t have the longest resume or list of contacts, it can feel tempting to take the first job that comes along. However, if you receive an offer for a position that doesn’t positively answer any of the questions listed above, it may be more beneficial to hold out for a job offer that does. Don’t take the first role offered to you just because it’s a paycheck, especially if you know instinctively that it isn’t a good job for you. If turning a role down provides additional stress, try to start the search earlier in the spring semester so you have time to job hunt if the first one offer doesn’t feel right.

Thinking Beyond Summer

Unless they’re about to graduate, most college students don’t think beyond a summer job, which can sometimes be a mistake. It’s never too early to start thinking about your career post-graduation. While any short-term summer job can put extra money in the bank, a carefully thought out summer job can help bring you one step closer to your dream career. The tips below can help students turn a summer gig into something more:

Use LinkedIn to your advantage

“LinkedIn is a great way to stay in touch with employers and colleagues,” says Moon. “During an internship or summer job, be sure to connect with peers and managers – once you leave, stay in touch and let employers see all the great things you’re up to while in college.” Moon suggests students think of their LinkedIn as an online portfolio. “Ask for recommendations and get endorsed for skills; stay in touch and nurture the relationships made over the summer. After college, it might lead to a career opportunity.”

Make yourself irreplaceable

“Don’t just do the job requirements, always try to add a little more as managers will take notice of this,” encourages Moon. “You’re only there for the summer, so push yourself, look for opportunities and try to create new ones.” Students who hope to receive an employment offer from a summer job must use their short amount of time there to show what they bring to the table. “Many times, one opportunity leads to the next,” says Moon. “It’s important to give 110% of yourself each and every day.”

Treat an internship like a real job

Even though you may only be there 8-12 weeks, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat an internship like a real job. Make sure you get up early each morning and have time to eat breakfast, exercise and follow any routine that gets you prepared for the day. Show up on time (or even a little early) each day, ready to work. Turn in projects by their due dates, follow up with colleagues or peers regarding any unanswered questions and provide timely updates to your supervisors.

Dress to impress

While jeans and a t-shirt usually make up the average college student’s wardrobe, chances are this outfit won’t make the cut for certain summer jobs and internships. Professional organizations will likely require interns and employees to dress in business casual, while retail and restaurant positions often provide uniforms for their workers. Appearance can make a big difference in how supervisors and managers perceive students, so it’s worth it to polish shoes and make sure clothes are wrinkle-free.

Take advantage of any professional perks

As evidenced earlier, lots of companies offer stellar perks for summer interns. While the free coffee and food may initially seem most appealing, don’t forget to take advantage of all the professional training on offer. If your company hosts an informal question and answer session with the top brass, make time to attend. If they host a conference for other business leaders, ask if you can go and help out. At the end of your time, ask your supervisor to sit down with you and discuss your strengths and weaknesses. All of these experiences help you become a more self-aware and well-rounded job candidate in the future.

Take stock of the skills you learn

All jobs – from being a barista at the local café to being an intern at Google – teach students new skills that can be applied to future jobs and can be talked about in future job interviews. After you’ve left a summer job or internship, take some time to reflect on your recent experience and list out the high-level skills you learned. For example, if you were a barista, you’re probably able to make one amazing cup of coffee but maybe you also trained several new employees or were recognized for your outstanding customer service. These are great skills to highlight and can be applied to many different job settings.

Resources for Finding a Summer Job