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Having a part-time job at University: does it hold you back?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bristol chapter.

Since I began studying at Bristol in 2021, it became immediately obvious that I had to secure a part-time job. Putting my online shopping addiction aside, this was important as I wanted to relieve some of the financial burden off of my parents.

Having secured employment that October, I found a thrill in the Christmas, Easter and summer breaks that followed, as it meant I could work extra hours without affecting my academic attendance. Whilst these paychecks were a fantastic addition to my bank account, I sometimes felt that I was missing out on parts of the university experience for the sake of greater financial independence.

For many students, the current cost of living crisis is the key motivator for part-time employment. According to BBC News, the number of students in paid work has risen from 45% in 2022 to 55% in 2023, whilst 76% of students believe that the crisis has had a negative impact on their studies.

An even more shocking statistic is evident in the Save the Student’s 2022 September survey, which found that students’ costs had risen by an eye-watering 14% in just 12 months. With maintenance loans in England increasing by just 2.8% this year, it is no wonder that many are seeking further financial security to cover their ever-increasing expenses.

Finding the sweet spot between earning extra cash and managing your academic life does have its challenges, and working longer hours can put you at an academic disadvantage. Students who cannot financially rely on their families or secure more funding may feel an even greater need to pick up overtime, as their paycheck may be crucial to completing their degree. To some, earning extra money means they can afford another pub night or Vinted purchase. To others, it gives them peace of mind that they can pay their rent or bills. In a society that is supposedly becoming more equal, how is it fair that some students’ university experience relies on how much they can earn in part-time employment?

Having a part-time job alongside your studies also has a lot of benefits. Whilst you can sometimes resent your chosen contracted hours or miss out on some aspects of your university social life, future employers will be impressed that you have succeeded in several commitments. The transferable skills you gain along the way, such as fluency in communication, problem-solving, organisation and teamwork, will be recognised – even if your part-time work is not directly related to your chosen future career.

It can also be liberating to work in the city outside the bounds of the university. Not only does this expand your social life, allowing you to socialise with fellow students and non-students alike, but it can also offer a much-needed distraction from the pressures of academia (as long as it does not become too much of a distraction).

Besides, with some universities offering students a three-day week to find employment alongside their studies, it looks like this is the new norm for higher education students.

Overall, it is wrong to assume that having a part-time job alongside studying only serves a financial purpose, as it can also be a rewarding and productive addition to university life. Whilst it is problematic that some have to work long hours to keep up with costs, in many respects, they are more in touch with the “real world” than those who do not work at all. After all, the university experience is not just about getting a degree – it must prepare you for what comes next.

Elinor Cole

Bristol '24

I am a third year History student at the University of Bristol. I am passionate about history, reading, developing my artistic skills and travelling.