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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Advantages of being a student employee

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a whopping 9,000 student employees. The opportunities are endless, with jobs ranging from working at a dining hall on campus or being a personal trainer at the gym to working at an official university office. 

Working while enrolled in college has become increasingly normalized in recent years as college tuition and rent prices increased. In 2020, 74% of undergraduate students were working part-time jobs while pursuing their degrees, according to the U.S. Department of Education

Student employment is a unique opportunity for students to gain professional and leadership skills, build their professional network and explore potential careers all while getting paid. 

When employed by a university facility, students have the opportunity to better connect with their campus community and build friendships with people they may not have met otherwise.

UW-Madison offers a number of opportunities for students through its student jobs website.

One available option for students involves qualifying for Federal Work-Study through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

UW’s work-study page notes that work-study is not a loan or a grant but rather a need-based part-time employment program in which the government and employer share the payroll cost of employing a student. The money you earn while working will not be directly applied toward tuition, like a loan, or dispersed to you directly. Instead, you earn the offered amount by working at your campus job. Essentially, Federal Work-Study is the portion of your financial aid offer set aside for you to earn at an eligible job.

The pros of accepting Federal Work-Study include:

1. Some jobs are set aside only for work-study qualifying students, increasing your chances of being hired, according to the university. 

2. When you file your FAFSA the following year, your earnings from work-study are not included in your annual gross income, meaning earning work-study income doesn’t count against your actual earned income, while earnings through any other job might.

The student jobs website also features numerous job postings from official university departments and offices. There are jobs at Gordon Dining and Event Center, various campus libraries, residence halls and more. 

Sophomore Halle Pietz works for a university office at UW-Madison. Her employers wished to remain unnamed to protect themselves as well as their student employees' privacy. 

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Pietz has worked as a student employee for almost a year and finds the experience has allowed her to strengthen skills and develop new ones.

“I have strengthened my customer service skills a lot, especially with talking on the phone and writing formal emails,” she said. “I have also gained knowledge of multiple databases and learned how to act as a coworker with my own peers and with professionals.”

Flexibility is a significant benefit of having a student job. Many employers will build your schedule around classes, according to the student jobs website. Pietz even said it’s one of her favorite parts of her job.

“I like the fact that they consider me as a student first, and if I need time off for anything school related, they are very considerate,” she said. “My supervisors are all very concerned with my well-being.”

Student jobs also come with a number of pros many people are unaware of. For one, most of the jobs offered on campus actually pay more than the federal minimum wage, with university housing and the Wisconsin Union having their hourly pay set at $15 per hour. 

These factors combined can make working a university student job a worthwhile opportunity for many people. Students are given flexibility with their schedules, they learn professional skills, they can make new connections and, most importantly, they are treated as students first. 

Disclaimer: The author of this story was acquainted with the interviewee prior to this story.

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