Some students must work in order to pay for grad school, while others do so to boost job prospects, earn extra cash, or meet new people. Get ideas about the best part-time jobs for grad students and how to make working during grad school worth it.
Many students work while in grad school to help pay for educational costs, gain experience in their fields, or stay connected to the world outside their institution. According to research published in The Atlantic, almost 76% of graduate students work at least 30 hours per week and an estimated one in five graduate students help support a spouse and children. Some students secure a job to fulfill degree requirements or strengthen their resumes.
Jobs can provide many benefits. Working students tend to take out fewer student loans than their nonworking peers, for example. One study out of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce showed that only 14% of students with $50,000 or more in loans worked while going to school. On-campus jobs may come with tuition discounts or stipends that provide valuable benefits along with a paycheck.
Before applying for positions, grad students should determine what they want out of a job, their availability, and which jobs will help advance their future careers. The best jobs while in grad school meet students' varying expectations and offer flexible hours, solid pay, and fulfilling responsibilities.
This guide offers tips on how to pursue the best jobs in grad school, plus information on how to achieve an ideal work-life balance, determine if working is the right choice, and look for a job. Students can also find a list of resources to help them apply for work and maintain their health while pursuing higher education and a job at the same time.
The best jobs while in grad school should pay enough to cover some tuition costs or provide local work experience in your given field. Read on for a few jobs to pursue while in grad school.
Grants Analyst: Nonprofits and educational institutions hire grants analysts to review grant proposals, collect data, and prepare reports.
Writer: Writing marketing or informational content helps companies to build their brands and promote products and services. Some writers work from home, and others work on-site.
Night Auditor: This job that pays for grad school involves working at hotels and other hospitality venues. Night auditors in these businesses perform basic bookkeeping, paperwork, and guest services tasks.
Maintaining a job while in grad school can help a student to align their work with their degree's academic emphasis. A future lawyer might work as a legal assistant, for instance, or a future teacher might serve as a classroom assistant. Some learners provide support to nonprofits that work in their area of interest or offer their services to companies as organizational consultants.
A student with crossover skills, such as content writing or web development, may put them to use working in their eventual industry. For instance, an engineering firm might need a blogger and social media manager, which is an ideal role for a future engineer who possesses sharp writing and project management skills.
Tutor: Graduate students can work for their universities or as independent contractors helping undergraduates achieve mastery of foreign languages, mathematics subjects, or writing classes. Some tutors help students prepare for graduate admissions exams.
Teaching Assistant: Teaching assistants work under the direction of faculty. These students give lectures, assist with group projects, grade papers, and proctor exams. Teaching assistantships offer great experience for students planning to go into higher education.
Research Assistant: University laboratories and researchers bring on student assistants to help sort through publicly available research, perform experiments, and manage teams of undergraduates in the lab.
Keeping a solid work-life balance can help a graduate student produce high-quality work and enjoy the experience. Graduate school can be challenging, but the students who draw the most out of it make time to work, rest, study, and play. Managing your time and energy will help to keep up your productivity without sacrificing your health or sanity.
Learn to Say "No":
Graduate students often enjoy opportunities to study, tutor, teach, research, work, and serve the community. While nearly anyone can benefit from these tasks, it's important not to overwork yourself. Successful students can determine the right opportunities for them and say "no" to everything else.
Ask for Help:
You are not alone in this journey, and thinking you are may lead you straight into burnout. Asking a professor for more information, a student to be a study partner, or the school's counseling office for therapy to help to push through tough times.
Create a Detailed Schedule:
Writing down the small things helps you to not get lost amid the pressure of looming projects and deadlines. Keep track of grocery trips, scheduled dinners out, and even a time to call friends or family. What's written down usually gets done, but what's only thought about often gets set aside.
Set Your Hours:
A single three-credit graduate course requires three classroom hours and about six hours of outside study each week. Coupled with work, sleep, family, and other obligations, your time can fill up quickly. Organizing a daily routine by the hour can keep you from falling behind in any one area.
Food fuels both the body and the brain, so when pursuing a graduate education, it's important to make sure you get three healthy meals each day. By planning meals in advance, students can cut down on the temptation to eat from vending machines or at unhealthy stop-and-go locations.
Get Enough Sleep:
When busy with work, school, and relationships, skimping on sleep can tempt even the most dedicated graduate student, but adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night to function at optimal capacity. Sufficient sleep keeps students alert, reduces the chance of injury, and promotes better physical health.
Master Your Time:
Exercising strong time management skills can help a graduate student keep up with hectic work, study, and social schedules. Students can download apps to their smartphones to help plan, divide, and organize their days into productive chunks. Otherwise, an hour between classes can get whiled away instead of used productively.
Use a Formal Organizational Method:
Working graduate students may scramble to keep up with even more work and school activities. With a formal organizational method, whether it involves sticky notes, spreadsheets, or a handwritten journal, a focus on organization can help make sure nothing gets left undone.
Make Your Breaks Count:
Breaks can boost a working student's productivity. Even 15 minutes of break time at work can be enough to review notes, organize information, or reread a few pages of text. Alternatively, busy grad students may want to use their breaks for a power nap or to refuel with a healthy snack or drink.
Graduate students answer to professors, bosses, team members, and sometimes family. Smart graduate students remember that they alone can take charge of their time, thoughts, emotions, and activities.
Working during graduate school can provide students with much-needed income, a welcome distraction from studying, and a chance to stay rooted in the real world during a time of intense academic work. Many graduate students choose to work because a job provides structure and continuity to their day, helping them improve their time management skills. Jobs offer other skills-building opportunities, such as teamwork and customer service. Students who land part-time jobs in their fields can show future employers that they possess not only academic knowledge but also practical experience in the field.
Sometimes, a part-time job can eat into a vibrant personal life. Some students solve this issue by choosing to make friends at work. If a job starts to interfere with practicums, internship requirements, or thesis research, it may be time to discuss new hours or a more flexible schedule with your manager.
For most graduate students seeking part-time jobs, flexibility is key to their success. An employer willing to shuffle schedules every semester, always put a student on the same early-morning or weekend-only shift, or offer flexible scheduling can make or break a student's success at work.
A work-from-home position can provide many students with the best opportunity to succeed. Writing jobs, tutoring positions, editing gigs, and some customer service roles let students craft their schedules and require little more than a computer and an internet connection. Many of these positions also pay more than standard hourly jobs, since the employee contracts directly with the customer.
The burgeoning gig economy also offers flexibility and independence. Ride-sharing apps, along with companies that let contractors rent bedrooms, cars, and toolboxes, can help graduate students turn unused property into income-generating assets.
To maximize the value of a job during graduate school, students should seek employment in teaching or other positions related to their field of study. For example, some graduate students help other learners prepare for admissions tests such as the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, or SAT. Others tutor high school or college learners in foreign languages, advanced math, or writing. Still other learners find employment in libraries, nonprofit organizations, or research laboratories. This approach provides continuity to the students' lives during school.
Finally, learners should make sure the time invested in the jobs returns enough income to justify the time spent away from study, research, and family. No part-time job is worth derailing an academic career.
Many people who are looking into graduate school already serve in professional careers. Online and other nontraditional programs can allow these professionals to remain in their current employment while simultaneously pursuing degrees. Some employers even have systems in place to help employees pay for education.
Prospective students should ask their human resources department if their employer maintains a tuition assistance plan. If so, the next step usually involves broaching the subject with a manager or direct supervisor. This is an ideal time to ask questions about what percent the employer pays, any GPA requirements, and what happens if the program takes longer than anticipated.
Employees of companies without formal tuition assistance plans may still receive benefits from their employers. Small companies may not have had an employee choose to return to school before. In this case, asking for partial support may be a good way to help an employer set up a new benefits program.
With research in hand, employees can interface with company leadership about tax breaks and other benefits an employer can receive by helping employees earn graduate degrees. For more tips and suggestions, review our guide to company-funded grad school.
Alternative Ways to Pay for Grad School
American Association of University Women, Education Funding, and Awards: This long-standing organization provides about $3.9 million in grants to 250 women and nonprofit organizations working in diverse disciplines each year.
American Educational Research Association, Funding, and Grants: Provided with support from the National Science Foundation, these grants go to students researching education policy and practice using large-scale, federally funded datasets.
Grad Resources: This faith-based website contains many articles addressing an array of problems graduate students may face, along with on-call mentors, on-campus seminars, and a link to Christian Grads Fellowship.
GradSense: GradSense provides an online library of articles dedicated to personal finance and graduate school. Readers can explore tips for securing a job along with information about student debt.
Inside Higher Ed, Getting Through Graduate School With a Day-to-Day Job: This article offers graduate students some solid, actionable advice on balancing work and school. Learners can also read about the benefits of a day-to-day job.
Grants.gov: Sponsored by the U.S. government, this site provides the most extensive and up-to-date listing of federal grants. Graduate students may find research or evaluation opportunities through a government grant.
National Academies Science Engineering Medicine Fellowships: Graduate students in the sciences, engineering, or medicine fields can apply for one of the eight fellowships offered by this organization.
National Association of Graduate-Professional Students: Members of this national organization can leverage their membership by attending a virtual job fair, participating in regional events, and purchasing low-cost insurance.
National Black Graduate and Professional Students Association: A large, interdisciplinary organization for students of African descent, this association provides networking opportunities that help members to achieve success in careers and academics.
University of Nebraska, TA Roles and Responsibilities: This site offers an extensive but readable infographic detailing what graduate students serving as teaching assistants should know about their roles and responsibilities.