Working part-time whilst studying: money versus experience

Approximately 68 % of students have one (or more) part-time jobs. But students wishing to work alongside their studies face a dilemma: what is more important? Earning money, or practical experience?

So, not the right field, but well paid? Or career-relevant but badly paid? In other words: what is more important to you? What you earn? Or what you learn?

Generally, working students are highly appreciated, whether within the university as scientific assistants, or in the various sectors outside the university. Everything from temporary work that can be carried out independently without just a short briefing, to positions of responsibility, which are a win-win situation for both the company and the students.

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Depending on where you study and the local infrastructure, it might be a good idea to consider you own personal reasons for working whilst studying and what your aims are. Is it only the financial aspects that are important? Or do you want more? Such as career-relevant experience and the chance to make some useful connections?

Why is this question important? Because your answer will help you to decide what kind of job you are looking for. Not all part-time jobs are the same. Even though working whilst studying is always a challenge, the kind of job you choose can make a big difference when you start your career.

And of course, there is the issue of whether you can afford to earn less if you choose to only apply for career-relevant jobs. And this is because jobs in certain sectors are simply badly paid.

Part-time work offers an alternative to student life

If you already have enough to do with studying and you don’t want to spend what little free time you have with a job that is related to your field of study, you could choose a job in an entirely different field that doesn’t require too much extra mental energy. For example, physical work can offer an alternative to hours of pouring over books or sitting in front of the computer.

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The advantages are obvious: instead of doubling your workload, this type of part-time work serves one purpose, filling your pockets! This type of job is flexible, and you can earn well without too much effort. Though, of course whether something is a lot of effort depends on your perspective. For some, this just means work that’s not intellectually demanding, but for others it means exactly the opposite.

Here’s a cliché for you:  a job in a restaurant can be physically tough, but is usually not difficult. At the same time, it is well-known that extra tips (and these aren’t taxed) can amount to a good source of income.

Career-relevant part-time work that is

Another strategy is already named in the title. Choosing your ideal part-time job is about more than money. You want to work in a field that is related to your studies. The key phrase here is “study program relevant”.

Exactly what this means to you depends on what subject you are studying. For example:

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So, if you are studying architecture, it might be a good idea to work part-time in an architectural office rather than in retail. And if you are studying medicine, then working in a hospital would have more in common with what you are learning at university than a job in a restaurant. The same applies for prospective attorneys, who might benefit more from a job in a law firm than from one in a different sector. For trainee teachers it might be a good idea to offer tuition or to work in a school.

The biggest advantage of career-relevant part-time work is that you can make connections that might be useful later in your career. But how? Because high-quality work, interest and commitment stay in people’s minds and this could well give you an important advantage when it comes to applying for jobs later, because those selecting the appropriate candidate for the job already know you, and know that you can work to a high standard.

If you wish to pursue an academic career, or a job in research, it’s definitely a good idea to look for a job at the university, or to draw the attention of your lecturers by contributing and working well. Most jobs available at university are often given to students who are known to the lecturers, many positions aren’t advertised, they are simply given to a suitable candidate. After all, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that is important!

Simplifying decision-making

So, you have weighed up the for and against arguments, but you’re still not sure what kind of part-time job you should look for? Fear is a poor basis for making decisions, so it might be a good idea to consider not only all the rational arguments, but also to listen to your gut instinct.

These questions might help you to decide:

      • How stress-resistant am I really? Can I cope with a demanding study program and a demanding part-time job?
      • How flexibly can I plan my semester and how much flexibility does a part-time job demand? Can I do both?
      • Is it possible to reduce the number hours I work during times of stress? (so, examination periods for example), without my employer making me feel bad about it and accusing me of a lack of commitment?
      • What alternatives are available to me? Do I need to take this particular job (for example for transport reasons, or due to working in a highly competitive field) - or can I look for alternative jobs? If you are free to look for alternatives this can help to ease the pressure.
      • What is more important for me? A steady income that makes it possible for me to finance my studies – or practical experience that might make it easier for me to find a job after uni? If the latter is the case then it might even be worth studying for a couple of semesters longer, if possible, if you then have a better chance of being able to find career-relevant part-time work.
      • Will the internships that I have to complete as part of my study program be enough, or would a career-relevant part-time job help me to find my dream job in the future?
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And if none of the above helps you to decide, why don’t you just try it out? It is often more helpful to try out something new than just to think about it. Sometimes it takes a while until you know for sure what your maximum workload is in a semester – and this can also vary from one semester to the next. So, if you don’t manage it in one semester, that doesn’t mean that you won’t manage it in the next.

Are you looking for a job?

If you are currently looking for a job, make sure you check out Stellenwerk Stuttgart. This is where you can find jobs aimed at students and graduates, and internship placements. Some of these job advertisements also come directly from the Universität Stuttgart.

Good look with your job search!



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