How to Get a Job in College

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Table of Contents: How to Get a Job in College
1. Part-time College Jobs
2. College Internships
3. Work Study Programs
4. Jobs while Studying Abroad
5. Jobs for graduating students
6. Keeping it all in focus

Getting a Job in College

Working as a college student does more than help cover tuition, groceries and weekend festivities – it’s also a great way to attend career fairs and have meaningful experiences in areas of personal and professional interest. See where the best jobs and internships are hiding and learn expert tactics for maximizing your chances of getting hired.

Part-time College Jobs

College students can get part-time jobs either on or off campus. While campus jobs can more easily fit in with a student’s class schedule, off-campus employment allows students to meet people they ordinarily wouldn’t – and the work may be more in line with their interests.Did you know?

Studies conducted by researchers at Ball State University and Brigham Young University show that students who work part-time while going to school have higher retention rates than those who work more or don’t work at all.

Sources: BYU Employment ServicesJournal of Student Financial Aid

Find it

School career service centers are great resources for students looking for jobs both on and off campus, but there are plenty of online resources that students may be interested in checking out as well.

  • CareerRookie 
    A division of CareerBuilder, the largest online career website in the U.S., CareerRookie is a job and internship search site designed specifically for students and recent grads.
  • College Central 
    Students can search their colleges’ job databases as well as College Central’s national job database.
  • College Helpers 
    Brings schools, students and employers all to one place. Students can be comfortable knowing that employers using the site are accustomed to hiring and working with college students.
  • My First Paycheck 
    Lets users search for jobs by age, season, education level or setting, which is helpful for the student who has no idea where to begin.

Crush it

Students can follow these tips and tricks to lock up the part-time job they have their sights set on:

Asking about a position in person is a great way to get a leg up.“Showing up in person is something that can give you an advantage. It can personalize you right away. If you dress how people typically do in the workplace, you can create the image that you fit in right away before you ever
introduce yourself.”

Matt Ishler, Associate Director of Career Counseling and Planning at Penn State University

  • Be prepared

    When students inquire about a position, they should dress appropriately, bring a resume and be ready to talk about the position they want. This means they should do some research on the organization ahead of time.

  • Customize

    Students should write a cover letter specific to each position they apply for, even if a cover letter isn’t specifically requested. They should tailor their resumes for each position as well.

  • Expert’s Advice on Resumes and Cover Letters:

    According to Ishler, students without much work experience should showcase school and personal projects along with school activities they are involved with currently or were involved with in high school. Any certifications may be good to add as well. “It communicates a certain level of responsibility and openness to training.”

  • Follow up

    Assuming an interview has taken place, students should follow up by sending a handwritten or emailed “thank you” note. It’s also a good idea for students to call after a week or so if the potential employer hasn’t made any contact to let the employer know that they are still interested in the position and would like to know where they stand as an applicant.

  • Keep applying

    Looking for jobs takes a significant amount of time and effort, but only applying for a few at a time is not a strategy for success. Applying continuously for many jobs, even if they don’t seem immediately appealing, increases students’ chances of getting a job – and ending the search process – sooner.

Expert’s Advice on Work Hours:

I’m cautious about students taking on more than 20 hours a week, Ishler advises. “That sounds like a lot to balance with a full course load. Each student needs to know how much time they need for their studies and social activities. It’s not enough to say you have these great work experiences or internship experiences if the grades suffer as a result of all the time that’s put into them.”

College Internships

Both paid and unpaid internships can be great ways for students to receive in-depth mentorship in an area related to their academic or career goals. They may also open doors to future part-time jobs or even full-time careers after graduation. In many cases, students can talk to an academic advisor about getting school credit for their time interning.

  • University Job/Internship Board

    Whether physical or digital, many university career centers have posting boards where students can find internships.

  • Personal Network

    Students can ask academic advisors, teachers and other connections if they are looking for interns or know anybody else who might be interested in hiring one.

Find It

Students can use the following resources to jumpstart their internship search:

  • CEI Internships 
    Partners with universities and law schools to connect students to internships from over 3,000 organizations.
    The same site that helps students find part-time jobs can help them find internships, too.
  • Idealist 
    This website lets students search through internships in nonprofit and government sectors around the world.
  • InternMatch by Looksharp 
    Detailed company profiles allow students to get to know an organization before they apply for an internship position.
  • is part of Chegg, a popular resource for students seeking tutoring, study prep and cheap textbooks. Students can search for internships by major, location or company – or they can use the site’s internship predictor tool to figure out their professional interests.
  • U.S. Department of State
    Students interested in diplomacy and foreign policy should check out the U.S. Department of State’s paid and unpaid internship options.
  • YouTern 
    YouTern’s primary focus is to match students up with mentor-based internships at startups and nonprofits where they believe students will get a rewarding experience.

Target Acquired: Prime Internships There are also a number of high-profile internships that can give students experience at industry leaders:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
    The CDC has paid internships in summer and during the academic year, and they provide comprehensive training to help students gain practical work experience. They also participate in federal work study.
  • Disney 
    While Disney’s internships look like standard jobs – photographer, guest services associate, character performer – they also come with tons of perks, including lodging and educational courses.
  • Google 
    The search engine giant offers both technical and product management internships to students.
  • Institute of International Education 
    IIE’s Fulbright fellowship allows seniors, recent graduates and young artists and professionals to study abroad for one academic year, or allows foreign students to study in the U.S. for one academic year.
  • National Football League
    The NFL has three types of internship programs: a junior rotational program, where students rotate through multiple departments; a summer internship for college juniors interested in business and marketing; and an NFL Films program, which offers several internships in the NFL’s film and media department.
  • National Park Service 
    The National Park Service has a sizeable list of internships, fellowships and volunteer opportunities for students interested in environmental science, conservation, historic and cultural preservation, and natural resources.

Crush it

“Students often perceive that it’s too late to secure an internship, or that there’s some magical deadline to which all internships have been filled. My best advice is for students to reach out, apply and ask questions and not worry so much about the timing of it.”

Matt Ishler, Associate Director of Career Counseling and Planning at Penn State University

  • Start early

    While there is no single deadline for many internship applications, starting early means students have more time to polish their resumes and practice their interviews – and they may get to be more selective about which internship offers they accept.

  • Practice the interview

    Students are often hired based on their personalities and whether the organization feels they will fit in with other employees. Doing mock interviews before the real thing can help students get comfortable with the interview process, allowing them to show their character rather than their anxiety.

  • Know the organization

    Those who really want to stand out have to go beyond the “About Us” section on an organization’s website. They should prepared to talk about the company, whether it’s things they like, would change, or are curious about.

  • … and where you fit in it

    It’s important that students sell what they have to offer. This step is highly connected to thoroughly researching the organization, because students need to be familiar enough with the organization to know exactly what they can contribute.

  • Smarts certainly count for something, but showing a genuine interest in the work an organization often counts for even more. This doesn’t necessarily mean insisting in the interview how much you love collecting water samples, for instance. Instead, as Ishler recommends, students can showcase school or personal projects that suggest an interest in the organization’s work, like a video made to promote a university’s clean water initiative.

Work Study Programs

Work study is an aspect of federal financial aid that helps provide part-time jobs to students who have financial need. These jobs can be both off and on campus, but off-campus work-study jobs will usually be offered by private nonprofits or government organizations. Work study positions tend to be community service related or closely tied to a student’s field of study. Since work study positions are dependent on financial need, the number of hours students work is limited by their work study award.

Find it

  • Financial Aid Office

    Students who are unsure if their school has a federal work study program should start with a visit to their school’s financial aid office.

  • Career Services

    Most schools have a list of on- and off-campus work study positions that students can check out, so college career centers are great places to start when looking for a work study job.

  • Government agencies

    Students can also get work study positions at public agencies, usually working for their city, town or county. Students can check out their local government websites to learn about potential work study opportunities.

  • Nonprofits

    Nonprofit organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the American Red Cross, community food banks, and a variety of local charities, organizations, research groups and special interest groups may have federal work study agreements with universities.

Crush it

  • Apply fast

    Work study is limited and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so students should apply as early as possible.

  • Be professional

    Qualifying for work study does not guarantee job placement. Like with any job, students who act and dress professionally during the application and interview process have better chances at landing the job.

  • Cast a wide net

    The broader students spread their searches, the more likely they are to get a position – so art students shouldn’t hesitate to apply for a job in the business department and vice versa.

Jobs while Studying Abroad

Studying abroad can be a very rewarding experience, but it often comes with financial stresses. Beyond paying for the program itself, students have to be able to support themselves while they are out of country. Unfavorable exchange rates can further complicate the situation. Getting a job while studying abroad can help students earn some extra cash and even let them practice local languages and customs.


Both jobs and internships may be available for U.S. students studying in other countries, as long as they get the right visas and work permits. Work exchange programs are the most common ways students can legally get jobs overseas. Another option that may interest students is a university-sponsored internship that allows students who study abroad to earn credit toward their degrees. Some countries don’t allow foreign students to have jobs. In that case, an unpaid internship might be the best option to gain work experience, meet new people and practice their language skills.

Find it

The first steps in choosing a job or internship are determining what type of work is best suited to your goals and knowing what opportunities are available in whichever country you go to. Students can explore these resources to get a better idea of their potential work positions abroad.

  • BUNAC 
    BUNAC connects U.S. students with work opportunities in Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand as well as internship opportunities in Great Britain, South Africa, Spain, Asia, Australia and Central America.
  • Go Abroad 
    Students can search for international internships, learn about getting college credit for them and get help choosing the program that best suits them through Go Abroad’s internship search.
  • iHipo
    Features a wealth of resources for finding jobs and internships abroad, including a job search tool, detailed company profiles, and interview advice.
  • Transitions Abroad 
    Transitions Abroad has tons of articles and resources to help students learn about various aspects of studying abroad, including working, interning, volunteering and teaching.

Crush it

  • Understand what you need
    Students should research what kind of work clearance is required in their study country, and they should get it before applying for work.
  • Tweak your resume
    When applying for jobs abroad, students can lend a little more room to showcasing their personalities and cultural backgrounds on their resumes. Students should make sure to back up these personality traits with concrete examples from work or school experience.
  • Learn the language
    This one may be obvious, but employers are likely more willing to hire students with whom they can effectively communicate. Unless students land an internship or job at a government agency or multinational corporation, where English may be spoken, having a firm grasp of the local language will be helpful. 

International → USA

To work in the U.S., international students need to obtain one of three types of visas:

  • F-1 for full-time students at accredited universities
  • M-1 for students at vocational schools or nonacademic programs
  • J-1 for those participating in work exchange programs

In general, it’s harder for organizations to hire international students, but work exchange programs smooth the process by giving international students the sponsorship they need to gain employment in the U.S.

Find it

The easiest way for international students to find on-campus jobs is by going to their school’s career services center, but for those seeking to gain experience off campus, work exchange programs are good ways to go. Generally, work exchange programs partner with various types of businesses and organizations to give international students work, intern or volunteer opportunities, simplifying the process for all parties.

  • Alliance Summer Work/Travel Exchange 
    As part of the U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program, international students can travel and work in the U.S. for up to four months during their summer break.
    BUNAC helps English-speaking international students find a variety of seasonal jobs and internships in the US.
  • Council on International Educational Exchange 
    CIEE helps international students find jobs or internships in the U.S. by partnering with businesses and providing sponsorship to students.
  • InterExchange 
    International students can get internships as well as part-time and seasonal jobs as camp counselors, childcare providers and a variety of other positions through InterExchange.
  • Transitions Abroad 
    Transitions Abroad is a great general resource for international students who want to learn more about all aspects of working or interning in the U.S.

Crush it

International students should make sure they have a good grasp on U.S. application procedures before handing out their resumes. These tips should help them get started and make a good first impression to U.S. employers.

  • Know your work status
    Many work exchange programs provide comprehensive information on what types of jobs students in their programs can have and what certifications they need. They often provide the sponsorship required for J-1 visas. Students who want to find work outside of these programs should check out the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website and talk to a campus career counselor to learn about necessary work visas, sponsorship or other employment requirements before applying for jobs or internships.
  • Tweak your resume
    When applying for jobs abroad, students can lend a little more room to showcasing their personalities and cultural backgrounds on their resumes. Students should make sure to back up these personality traits with concrete examples from work or school experience.
  • Prepare a compelling resume and cover letter
    For international students, it may also be a good idea to include how long they’ve been speaking or studying English. Students can get help writing a resume and cover letter (and make sure their written English is up to par) at their school’s career center.

Jobs for Graduating Students

Going to college is supposed to make getting a job easier, but landing a job after graduation usually requires a little more than a freshly earned degree. Here are some ways graduates can find success during the hunt for their first job.

Find it

Many of the resources used to find part-time jobs while in school can help students find full-time careers after they graduate, but there are a few others geared specifically toward those with newly minted degrees.

  • After College 
    After College helps recent graduates find jobs from over 25,000 employers based on their interests, skills, degree and schools.
  • College Central 
    A resource students may have used during their undergraduate job search, College Central gives alumni access to their schools’ job databases as well as College Central’s national job database.
  • CollegeGrad 
    CollegeGrad has been helping connect recent graduates with meaningful jobs since 1995.
  • College Recruiter 
    College Recruiter helps connect graduates with jobs and employers with qualified applicants. The site also provides other useful tools, like free resume critiques and a salary calculator.
    It’s got part-time jobs. It’s got internships. And yes, it has entry-level positions for recent graduates.

Crush it

  • Know what you can offer
    Applying for the first job after graduation can be nerve-racking, but graduates can and should take some time beforehand to evaluate their skills and strengths. Once they know what they can bring to a company, they should show confidence when pitching themselves to employers.
  • Get online
    Recent grads should use the Internet not just to find jobs, but to build professional social media presences. LinkedIn is a useful networking tool that can expose grads and potential employers to one another, but new job seekers can also use platforms like Twitter and Facebook to connect with organizations who may be hiring.
  • Find the hidden market
    Job board websites are great, but tons of job openings sneak past qualified graduates because they don’t get posted on such sites. Recent grads should take the time to look for jobs in alternative places, like company websites, alumni associations, past internships, or social media sites.
  • Don’t be too picky
    Unfortunately, not everyone lands their dream job right after graduation. Having too narrow a search limits job options and could lead to a lengthy stint on unemployment. Grads shouldn’t worry if their skills and degree don’t match up exactly with those listed on the job posting – employers can be surprisingly flexible in their candidate search.

Keeping it all in focus

Going to college can be a full-time job on its own, but it doesn’t necessarily pay the bills or provide practical work experience. Not immediately, anyway. Adding a part-time job or internship to the mix means having to learn how to balance studies, work and personal life. It’s daunting, but it can be done.

  • 1. Start slow. You can always increase hours as you get more comfortable with the workload.
  • 2. Let employers know you’re a student.
  • 3. Don’t be shy about asking for time off to get school work done.
  • 4. If you need help, get it. Many campuses offer counseling, tutoring and other helpful services.
  • 5. Create a support system to help you through stressful times.
  • 6. Be willing to adapt. Those who aren’t flexible will find
    themselves frustrated when obligations overlap.
  • 7. Be patient with yourself. Balancing work, school and everything else isn’t always easy right away.

“Students should look at their course and exam schedules and whatever projects they may have to plan in advance. Most faculty and employers will be understanding if potential conflicts are communicated well in advance. When they’re communicated in the last minute, students often find really stressful or challenging situations.”

Matt Ishler, Associate Director of Career Counseling and Planning at Penn State University

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