14th December 2014

Should you get a job whilst at university?

It might seem like a great idea in order to pay for those Taylor Swift tickets, but is working up to 30 – 40 hours week manageable? Robert Firth finds that it can be (so long as your boss loves you)

More and more students are working whilst studying. According to a study by Endsleigh in conjunction with the NUS, in 2013 57 per cent of students had a part-time job—a seven per cent increase from 2012. With the increase of costs in university study (has there ever been a year in which halls prices have not increased?!) it seems likely that this trend towards students working will only accelerate. Is feasible to work and still achieve a good degree (and have a bit of a life)? I spoke to two students to find out.

Fern, a nineteen-year-old Drama and English Literature student quit her job at a popular sandwich chain after she found it difficult to manage a work-life balance with the commitments of a part-time job.

Promising beginnings
“I worked at Subway for just under a month, from late September to late October. I didn’t earn that much cause it’s crappy pay and I didn’t work there for that long, but the money went on tickets to see Taylor Swift.”
All work and no play
“I worked about 20 something hours a week, the longest shift being like ten to just after eight at night. I quit because I started to be put down to work in literally every spare second I had, like the manager didn’t understand that I had university work to do even if wasn’t actually in lectures. Also because I’m involved in societies as well I found I had no time to actually do university work outside of lectures. I’m here to learn, not to get a full time job, but they didn’t really get that.”
Talk to the boss!
“I’d still recommend getting a job at university it because it’s good to have the extra money but if you plan on having a life that’s not just lectures and work, make sure that the boss knows that before you start or else it’ll become too much”

Emma, a 20-year-old Geography student has found that working part-time allows her to get more from studying at university.

The Bank of Mum and Dad
“My mum agreed to give me £50 a week to cover my laundry, food just everything, but that wasn’t enough. I originally told her £50 because that would be enough but I didn’t really know the price of anything. It was like a blind guess.”
On zero-hours contracts
“I have a zero-hours contract but I work between 30 and 40 hours a week. [The zero-hours contract] means that essentially my boss can give me as many hours as she wants. I like the zero-hours contract because my boss loves me. Like I obviously understand why people would want to get rid of zero-hours contracts, but as a student a zero hour contract is good for me because my job isn’t my top priority, and also because nothing, like my rent, is really relying on it.”
Unemployed Problems
“If I didn’t have the job I would go back to being poor: not going out, selling my clothes for food. Yeah, basically like I was in my first year: a lot of stress because I was having to worry about money. Luckily I have a boyfriend for that though.”
All work and no play?
“I’m the type of student that hates uni so I do usually take work over uni, just because it’s less stressful for me: I’d rather do a ten hour shift than write my essay, and you know, procrastinate.”
Study Geography, not Physics
“If you think you’re the type of person who can say no to going out and going to work the next day then I would recommend getting a job. You’ve got to be committed to it, and you have to do a course that doesn’t demand a lot from you…” [Like What?] “Well I do Geography, so Geography. I imagine if you do Physics it’s just not going to fit.”

*Some names have been changed.

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