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Jobs & Careers

How to balance a job and study at university

Balancing a job and uni can be tough. But, for many, it's a necessity and something that will make you more employable when you graduate. Here's how to get the formula right.

woman holding stacked books and wallet with money

Credit: Roman Samborskyi,, studiovin - Shutterstock

In our latest National Student Money Survey, 56% of surveyed students said they have a part-time job. Meanwhile, 30% said not having enough money to make ends meet was negatively impacting their uni grades.

However, the prospect of working during university can be daunting.

This guide will help you work out how you can take on part-time work to pay the bills, while still gunning for that first-class degree. You can do this.

Did you know the government 'expects' parents to give you money to help with your living costs? Use our parental contributions calculator to find out how much.

How many hours can a student work?

Some universities don't permit students to work during term time. Others, however, recommend limiting work hours to 10 per week.

It can be different for each student. Some even find that taking up a part-time job for 15–20 hours a week is easily doable on their timetable.

While UK students can technically work as much as they want, there are some rules around part-time work for international students. Most international students in the UK can work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during breaks. It all depends on the type of visa you have, though.

How to manage a part-time job at university

Here are some top tips on how to balance a job and study:

  1. Figure out whether you really need a part-time job

    It's worth asking yourself: do you really need a job?

    For the majority of us, the answer to this will be a resounding "yes". Maintenance Loans barely cover rent these days, never mind the costs of living.

    However, for some more fortunate students, getting a part-time job might be more hassle than it's worth. If you can afford to get by without one, you'd be able to spend more time on your studies.

    The key is to first work out a monthly budget. Look at your incomings and outgoings, and establish how much you're short by each month (if at all).

    You might find that you need less cash than you first thought. If this is the case, finding a simple way to make money online might make more sense, as it involves less commitment.

  2. Don't over-commit to shifts

    man sleeping on desk

    How many hours you choose to work each week depends on how much you're able to take on.

    Most unis recommend not taking on more than 10–15 hours per week, while some don't let you take on any during term time.

    Take some time to consider how much time you're able to put in before making any commitments. It's hard to go back once you've given your word, so don't rush this decision.

    Ask yourself: are you willing to work weekends? Do you only want to work midweek, and which days are you not available due to uni commitments? How long do shifts at your workplace tend to be?

    If shifts tend to be short, this can have a more negative impact on your studies than you might think. Doing four shifts of four hours a week will take up more time than two shifts of eight hours once you factor in travel.

    Think about what you're able to do, and discuss this with your boss as soon as you can. Never take on more than you think you can handle.

  3. Know when exams and deadlines are coming up

    Being organised is the key to avoiding any nasty surprises (a.k.a. deadlines). This is essential when you're studying full-time and working part-time.

    Make sure you know all the important dates coming up in your course (and social) calendar. Highlight any assignment deadlines and exam dates so you can see your busy periods and plan ahead.

    Finding a part-time university job with regular shifts can help. It's easier to manage your time when you're working the same days and times each week. But, the downside is that, depending on your employer, having regular shifts can make it harder to take time off.

    If you can work out important deadline periods in advance, you can ask to take time off or swap shifts with others. These things are much less painful if you give those involved some fair warning.

    Struggling to get everything done? Check out our guide to becoming more organised.
  4. Use your time productively

    One of the best parts of having a part-time job at uni is it encourages you to work productively.

    Often, you'll find that the less time you have, the more you get done.

    If you only have a couple of hours before your shift to make some progress with an essay, you'll likely work more quickly.

    Becoming a productivity pro isn't the easiest art to master. But, it will make a big difference to your work/uni/life balance when you manage your time efficiently.

  5. Try not to miss lectures and tutorials

    Students in a lecture hall with notes

    Credit: Matej Kastelic – Shutterstock

    This one is easier said than done if you need to work as much as you can to make some extra cash.

    However, going to your classes will massively help you keep up with your course.

    If you only catch up on lecture slides online, this could alienate you from your course and classmates. Going to your classes and taking good lecture notes is crucial to your success at uni.

    Also, the more classes you miss, the less likely you are to be on the good side of your tutors. As a result, they might be more critical when marking your work.

  6. Get a part-time job over the summer or work seasonally

    Getting a summer job is a great idea. It will help you build up some savings for term time. For inspiration, see our guide to the best summer jobs for students.

    The same goes for winter. Getting a part-time job over the Christmas and Easter breaks is a great way to boost your funds.

    You also might want to use your holidays to get some career experience by taking on an internship. But, it's worth knowing that paid positions are unfortunately still rare.

    At this point, it's worth asking yourself what your particular situation needs more. Do you need cash in your pocket to help you through the term or relevant experience to put on your CV?

    Everyone's situations are different, so take the time to work out what makes the most sense to you.

  7. Find some time to relax

    Spa with candles

    Credit: New Africa – Shutterstock

    While balancing a job and university studies, it can be easy to forget to take a bit of downtime. However, we can't stress how important it is to take some time out to look after your mental health.

    Working yourself to the bone will have a negative effect on your studies in the long run. Please give yourself the occasional break.

    Spending time out with friends is crucial. And why not even use some of that cash you've earned to take yourself out for dinner or buy yourself something nice?

    We've got a full guide with self-care ideas for some more inspiration. You've earned it!

  8. Talk to your university and employer if you're struggling

    The easiest way to upset that work/uni balance is by letting things get on top of you if you're struggling.

    Balancing uni and work is no walk in the park. Your employers and tutors should try to respect that.

    Remember to reach out for support if you're ever finding things difficult. The minute you notice any problems with your timetable or if you're struggling with the workload, tell someone.

  9. Get enough sleep

    Lastly (and this one might seem like a no-brainer), when you're juggling coursework, 9am lectures, a part-time job and a social life, it's easy to let sleep run away with you.

    Getting the recommended eight hours a night of shut-eye is vital. If you don't, you'll soon notice everything starts to slip.

    If you're struggling to sleep, try the tips in our guide to falling asleep fast.

    We know there'll be nights where this will go amiss, but make sure it doesn't happen more than a couple of times a week.

Ready to find a part-time job? Here are some student jobs you probably haven't considered.

Katie Paterson

WRITTEN BY Katie Paterson

Katie Paterson is an accomplished writer from Glasgow. She studied English Literature at the University of Strathclyde, then went on to do a Research Masters in Literature at the University of Amsterdam. As Lead Editor for Save the Student, Katie has covered topics from career tips to ways to make money go further as a student.
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