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18 Best Summer Jobs For College Students & How Much They Pay

College students looking for summer jobs may find themselves in a pickle — are you supposed to go for the ones that can help you make the most money? Or the gigs that will look best on your resume, like a prestigious summer internship

We know; leaving the confines of your cozy dorm room is difficult enough. Now you have to start applying for jobs, too?

Especially with COVID-19 variants on the rise, you’ll also want to consider safety and other factors around your comfort levels. Knowing what to prioritize in a good job isn’t easy. We’ve got your back — these are some of the best summer jobs for college students, including the best-paying, those that provide housing, options that can be done online, positions you can get with no experience, and yes, even a few “easy” ones (you’ve had a stressful semester; we get it).

But don’t start filling out applications just yet — you might want to think about the long-term career benefits of the summer job you take on first.

“College students should sit back for a second before they start applying and think about what direction they want their career path to go in,” says Kaitlin Manion, General Manager at Generation Hired, a virtual career center for college students and recent grads. So while you might not think a chiller gig will have the same impact on your career as a prestigious internship, there are still tons of jobs that can help you with the bigger picture.

“For example, if you’re looking to start your own business, I would check if a small business is looking for employees,” Manion tells Her Campus. “That way you can see how things work from the inside out and with such a small employee structure, you may even be able to snag some time with the owner!”

If you feel like your options are limited, though, don’t stress — Manion notes that you can turn any summer job into a career opportunity.

“Even if you land a job that, at the moment, doesn’t make sense for your career journey, you can still gain transferable skills,” she explains. “Learning how to communicate effectively, managing money, meeting sales goals, providing excellent customer service, memorizing specials and menu items, and so many little things can make future employers see you as a wonderful asset to their company.” There are also ways to spin your unrelated experience on your resume to still impress employers.

Ready to apply? Here are some great places to work this summer.

Summer Intern

Of course, many college students will want to find a summer internship in their chosen field, so they can get hands-on experience and have something that stands out on their resume when applying for post-grad positions. While some internship programs may be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can check job listing sites like Generation Hired or Indeed for in-person and remote internship openings. If your school has a dedicated platform for job listings, such as Handshake, you can also find opportunities tailored more specifically to your school or city.

Depending on the program, some companies might provide housing for the duration of your internship. Internships also vary in pay — some are unpaid, some offer a stipend, and others have an hourly wage. Wherever you apply, you’ll want to make sure the position complies with the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Sales Associate

Retail and food service are often hailed as two of the industries that everyone should work in at least once in their life. Manion adds that working in retail can teach you a lot of transferable skills that will help you later on in your career.

“I worked at Banana Republic for almost five years during my summers and breaks from college,” she tells Her Campus. “I was able to provide real-life examples from this position about conflict resolution, problem solving, providing an amazing customer experience and working towards a goal bigger than myself.”

According to Salary.com, the average hourly wage for a part-time sales associate is between $12 and $13, but can vary depending on years of experience, education, and more.

Waiter or Food Server

Like retail, food service is a great industry to gain skills in customer service, conflict resolution, and more. In other words, “low-skill” labor is a myth. You can work the cashier at your local fast food joint, but if you know of a smaller local restaurant looking to hire, this might be a great place to make connections with the owner and learn from them, as Manion suggested.

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average hourly wage for a waiter is $16.30 an hour, as of January 12, 2022.

Barista

As a college student, you’ve probably already sold your soul to coffee, so why not make it official and become a barista? While you can pledge your allegiance to chains like Starbucks, you can also work for an independent local coffee shop and possibly connect more with regulars, learn to make more unique drinks, and possibly even snag time with the owner. If you need coffee to survive, this is your chance to learn all the tricks of the trade — no more watered-down, terrible coffee for you.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average hourly wage for a U.S. barista is $11.56.

National Park Employee

This suggestion comes from Reddit, and is perfect for nature-lovers or anyone who cares deeply about sustainability and the environment. The National Park Service has summer internship and volunteer opportunities for college students, where you can work as a park guide, maintenance worker, or in other trainee-level roles.

The hourly wages for their internship program, depending on position, range between $13 to $20.

Freelance Writer

If you’d rather spend your summer indoors in the air conditioning, you can work as a freelance writer online. This position is best suited for college students who have a portfolio of work that they can show to publications. Instead of writing for only one publication like an internship might have you do, freelancers can submit pitches to and write for multiple places. Spending a summer getting bylines on multiple sites can help grow your portfolio and writing skills, so you have more to show when you start applying for post-grad jobs.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, freelancers can get paid using one of the following pay structures: by hour, by word, by piece, or by page (the length of which is up to you and the client, or publication, to define). If you’re not sure how to set your own rate, you can look at sites like Glassdoor to see what other freelancers charge and adjust from there.

Freelance Graphic Designer

Similarly to freelance writing, freelancing can build your existing portfolio if you have experience in or are interested in graphic design. You can create accounts on sites like Fiverr or Upwork to find clients, or even see if local businesses in your area might want your services.

The rate you charge is up to you, and you can use other freelancers’s salaries as a starting point to guide you.

tutor

If you know students in your area that could use some academic help over the summer, you can offer your services to them as a tutor. Your assistance can range from practicing algebra with an eighth grader to walking a rising high school senior through the college admissions process. While some colleges and universities have changed their policies around requiring SAT and ACT scores for admission, you can still edit their personal statement, help them prep for AP or IB exams, or practice the dreaded admissions interview with them. If you want to be a teacher or guidance counselor someday, this will give you hands-on experience.

According to PayScale, the average hourly rate for a tutor is $18.07 in the U.S.

Lifeguard or Swim Instructor

Gabriella made it look fun in High School Musical 2, and what better place to spend your summer than the pool? You can take lifeguarding and water safety classes with accredited organizations like the Red Cross in order to earn your lifeguard certification. You’ll also need to be certified in CPR, first aid, and AED, according to the American AED CPR Association, so if this is a job you want, it’s best to start preparing for it early if you don’t already have these certifications.

According to Indeed, the average hourly wage for a lifeguard in the U.S. is $12.63 as of January 2022.

Bartender

If you have an interest in mixology and like a fast-paced environment, bartending can be a fun experience to gain customer service and multitasking skills. (It’ll also make you appreciate the bartender at your college bar much, much more.) Even if you’re not 21 yet, you only need to be 18 years or older to tend bar in the United States. According to Indeed, one of the best steps you can take to become a bartender is to attend a bartending program, which isn’t required but will teach you the ropes and possibly help you stand out over other applicants. You can find bartending classes at local hospitality schools in your area, or online at places like the Professional Bartending School.

Indeed reports that the average hourly pay for a bartender is $11.70.

Data Entry Clerk

While data entry may not be the most exciting summer job, one perk is that it can be done remotely, so you may not even have to leave your couch depending on where you apply. You’ll be plugging data into spreadsheets, transcribing, and performing other administrative tasks that will sharpen your attention to detail. You typically don’t need a college degree or any specific certifications, according to Indeed.

According to ZipRecruiter, a data entry clerk makes about $18 an hour on average.

Dog WAlker or Pet Sitter

Pet lovers, this one’s for you: Being a dog walker or pet sitter is a great way to spend some time with animals and get some fresh air outdoors every day, unlike most remote jobs. Every client might need something different from you beyond taking their pets for a daily walk — you might be responsible for feeding the pets or providing longer-term companionship while the owners are away. Not only is this job fun because you get to be with animals all the time, but you’ll also learn a lot about responsibility and following a stricter schedule. You can sign up for sites like Rover, which will connect you with pet owners looking for pet care.

In May 2021, Care.com calculated the hourly rate of nine U.S. cities for a part-time dog sitter, and they range from $11 to $16/hour. This can vary greatly, though, since you may have more or fewer clients at any given time.

Call Center Representative

Customer service is an important skill for success in nearly every industry, and working in a call center is about as hands-on as it gets (nothing will teach you more about communication than talking on the phone all day). Many call centers now allow employees to work remotely, according to Glassdoor. If you don’t know where to look or are worried about being qualified, check if your university’s call center is hiring students.

The average hourly wage for a call center representative is $14.77, according to Indeed.

Camp Counselor

A Reddit user asked what the most fun summer job is for a college student, and many of the replies said that being a camp counselor was one of the best, even if it doesn’t pay the most. If you have memories of attending camp growing up, this job will be chock-full of nostalgia for you. You get to plan fun activities like nature hikes, arts and crafts, and making s’mores around the fire. You also get to spend a lot of time with kids, which will help you gain more experience if you want to work with children professionally. If you work at a sleepaway camp, you’ll be provided with housing and food for the summer.

According to Indeed, the average hourly pay for a camp counselor is $13.26.

Nanny

If you want to work with kids but think you’ll be overwhelmed being surrounded by them in the wilderness, perhaps a nannying or babysitting job is more your speed. You can look for a job on sites like Care.com, which can connect you with clients looking for part-time or full-time childcare. Since you’re building a relationship with one family, you may be able to continue working for them part-time during the school year, or see if anyone in their network might also need a part-time nanny.

The 2022 national average for a nanny’s pay is $15.30/hour, according to Care.com.

Delivery Driver

Have a car? Why not work as a delivery driver for local restaurants or an app like Grubhub or Postmates? It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with areas beyond your own neighborhood, and depending on the company, you might get a discount or some other perks (Postmates employees on Glassdoor have reported receiving some free lunches).

According to ZipRecruiter, a student DoorDash delivery driver makes about $18 an hour on average.

Grocery Store Stocker

As a grocery stocker, you’d be making sure that products are placed properly on shelves for the best presentation, and gaining experience assisting customers with finding and choosing items to buy. If you want to work in sales, this role will give you concrete examples of experience you can later bring up in interviews or on your CV.

ZipRecruiter reported that the average hourly wage for a grocery store stocker is $13.62.

Nonprofit Volunteer

Even though most volunteer positions aren’t going to pay you as much (or possibly at all), putting your hard work and effort into a cause you’re passionate about might be more emotionally fulfilling — and will still look great on your resume. Volunteer programs at nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity are also great for connecting you with like-minded people and forming friendships throughout the summer. Whether you decide to partake in a local community effort or work for a bigger national organization like the Red Cross, you’ll be making a difference and making the most of your summer.

Volunteering is typically unpaid, though some programs may provide stipends or room and board.

Erica Kam

Columbia Barnard '21

Erica is an Associate Editor at Her Campus. She was formerly the Contributing Editor (2020-21), Wellness Editor (2019-20), High School Editor (2018-19), and an Editorial Intern (2018). She graduated from Barnard College in 2021 with a degree in English and creative writing, and was the Senior Editor of Her Campus Columbia Barnard (2018-20). When she's not writing or editing (which is rare), she's probably looking at food pictures on Instagram.
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