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What is Work Study? Editorial Team

Top experts in a variety of areas

About work-study

For many students, the cost of higher education cannot be ameliorated by scholarships and loans alone. This is because living independently as a college student is accompanied by its own costs aside from tuition, fees, room and board, etc. From buying new notebooks to going out with friends, college incurs a variety of different charges that can pose a major financial burden on students with financial need.

Fortunately, students looking for other sources of financial aid can take advantage of the Federal Work-Study Program. Federal work-study provides both undergraduate and graduate students with part-time jobs so that they can earn money to pay education expenses.

The Federal Work-Study Program also encourages students to help their communities and pursue their disciplines by oftentimes offering jobs and community service work related to a student's field of interest.

If you are a student in need of financial aid and you are considering federal work-study jobs as a source of income, read this comprehensive guide to learn more about how work-study can alleviate your financial need. Below is an overview of what this guide will include:

  1. How to get work-study in college
  2. How does work-study work in college?
  3. How much does work-study pay in college?
  4. Work-study jobs in college
  5. Benefits of work-study in college

How to get work study in college

Before even attempting to get work-study, you must complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA. This application asks questions about your annual household income, the number of family members attending a higher education institution, dependents, and more, which will determine your eligibility for the Federal Work-Study Program. FAFSA can also help you find many other sources of financial aid, so it is important to complete your application regardless of whether or not you want to join the work study program.

It is also important to make sure that your accredited school participates in the Federal Work-Study Program. You can do this by speaking with your school's office of financial aid, which is responsible for administering the program at each institute, or by conducting research on your school's website.

Once you have completed your FAFSA form and have been accepted to an accredited school, you will learn about what financial aid options you are eligible for. If you are one of the many work-study-eligible students, you will be notified and you can go on to apply for work-study jobs.

As you begin your search, you can ask your financial aid office or advisor, or you can search your school's website to see what jobs are available. Work study positions tend to be competitive, so you should apply early and quickly in order to increase your chances of success.

How does work-study work in college?

Work-study jobs are part-time jobs available to college students (including undergraduate and graduate students) who demonstrate a need for financial aid. Federal work-study jobs generally emphasize civic employment and work related to a student's course of interest when possible.

These jobs can be both on campus or off campus, and students can be employed by their school or another private employer. An off-campus employer will usually be a private nonprofit organization or a public agency, and the work performed must be in the public interest.

It is also important to note that participants in the Federal Work-Study Program are not allowed to work too many hours. While it is possible to work extra hours, the amount earned cannot exceed what is offered in their Federal Work Study Award.

When assigning work hours, your school's financial aid office will take into account your class schedule and academic progress in order to ensure that you do not over-exert yourself. You can also speak with your financial aid office about assigning work hours if you have a special circumstance that needs consideration.

You will receive your work-study earnings at least once a month, and the money you earn from your federal work-study job will be paid to you directly. This can be altered if you request that the money be used to pay for education-related charges like tuition, fees, and room and board.

How much does work-study pay in college?

Students with federal work-study jobs will earn at least the federal minimum wage; however, it is possible to earn more than the federal minimum wage depending on the type of work and the skills required. How much you earn in your federal work-study position is also partially determined by when you apply, the extent of your financial need, and your school's funding level.

As a recipient of work-study financial aid, how you are paid is determined by what kind of student you are. Undergraduate students are usually paid by the hour while graduate and/or professional students can be paid either by the hour or by salary, depending on the type of work.

Work-study jobs in college

Work-study jobs will vary between institutions, so you should be sure to conduct research on what opportunities your school offers. Some common jobs include library positions, research positions, and computer lab positions. Work-study students can also find jobs outside of their school through companies and organizations that oftentimes work with the school.

Benefits of work-study in college

Participating in work-study in college provides students with a unique form of federal financial aid that has many benefits.

First and foremost, work-study acts as an extra source of financial aid that does not need to be paid off. Students with financial need often struggle to pay off student loans after graduating, but work-study allows students to keep the money that they earn. Furthermore, money earned from work-study does not affect eligibility for other financial aid, since a work-study job is only guaranteed for one year before students have to reapply with FAFSA.

Second, a work-study job can be very convenient. Most are on campus, thus shortening commute time and making it easier to manage alongside a class schedule.

Third, participating in work-study can make it easier to find work that you are interested in. Since a work-study job will oftentimes be related to your discipline, you can even consider it a stepping stone to a career in something you are passionate about.

Frequently asked questions about work-study

Do you get paid for work-study in college?

Students are indeed paid for work-study in college. In general, students will make at least the current federal minimum wage; however, it is possible to earn more depending on the kind of work and the skills required for it. Graduate and professional students can even earn a salary in a work-study position.

Is college work-study taxable income?

Just like regular work earnings, work-study is usually considered taxable income. Generally, you will be required to fill out and submit a W-4 Employee Withholding Allowance Certificate when you begin work, which determines how much income tax is withheld from your earnings.

Check with your school to learn about what other protocols there may be surrounding the taxation of your work-study earnings.