College is expensive. For college students, getting a job in college is usually part of the experience. For those of us who have to pay our own way through school, the choice of working or not working is not even an option.
But even if you’ve managed to get your education paid for, there are all kinds of expenses that being a college student will incur, from study resources to clothes to entertainment - or even your Friday night drink fund.
If you’re looking to pick up a college job, here are some out-of-the-box side hustle ideas aside from working at a restaurant - although that’s obviously always a great option for college students, too!
I started lifeguarding as my first job when I turned 15 and didn’t stop until I left my teenage years behind forever. I loved being a lifeguard and found it so convenient throughout my college years for many reasons:
- I usually could set my own hours, so I could work around my class schedule.
- Because it’s a certified position, I always made at least $1 more than minimum wage.
- There were always opportunities to make extra money, such as picking up overnight shifts for private events that always paid more.
- There was always plenty of work over the summer when I was off, so I could earn the majority of my income during the months I was back home. I’d double-book myself to work shifts in the early morning at an indoor pool, then lifeguard all day at a summer camp, then head back to the pool for evening shifts.
- The work itself is pretty mindless–it didn’t encroach on my studies at all, because I would just spend hours alone watching people swim, so it felt like pretty easy money.
This one almost feels like a cliche, but working as a barista can come with a lot of perks. HA!, sorry. For instance, even part-time employees with Starbucks can qualify for benefits that include health insurance, paid time off and even tuition assistance. Plus, what college student doesn’t need the caffeine to stay awake while studying?
Once I established myself as a good student with some of my profs, I was frequently asked to house sit, a gig that I found super convenient because I could bring my homework with me and get paid to do work. Sadly, I ended up fired from one after one of her cat vomited on the carpet after I was given explicit instruction not to let it.
In the same vein, if you have a good relationship with any of your professors who have young kids and you enjoy spending time with children, put yourself out there as available to babysit or nanny. Good sitters can be invaluable, and from a parent’s perspective, it’s nice to know that it’s someone they trust. (Although it could get a little awkward if you suddenly start failing or their kids hate you, so keep that in mind.)
5. Computer lab
It’s true, there is a world that exists in which not all students have their own personal laptop. For that reason, computer labs are present on campuses across the country. And working there can be a convenient way to get your own work done at the same time, as well as pick up some new skills on-the-job.
“I had a work study job as tech support in the campus computer lab,” says Laura Todd Carns. “That job gave me all kinds of hard-to-come-by mid-90s techy skills that ended up leading to a career in I.T.! It was like having an internship during college that gave me real-world skills that were more valuable than what I was learning in my classes.”
6. Work study jobs
Speaking of work study, if you can score a work-study gig through your school, absolutely take advantage of it. My husband qualified for a work study position working for a math teacher during college and he spent the majority of it doing his own homework. So, basically he got paid to do his work. (Yes, I was jealous.) You can apply for work-study positions through your financial aid package, so definitely speak with a financial aid officer to find out if that’s an option for you.
7. Writing tutor
“I was a writing tutor in our university's writing center,” says Shannon Brescher Shea. “It was terrific. I got to help people, use skills that I loved, [it] paid pretty well, and [I] studied when no one came for help.”
Side note: this is a gig you will have to apply for and demonstrate actual writing skills in order to qualify. Also, let it be said that I, who now works solely as a full-time writer, was rejected from working at my college’s writing center. Take from that what you will.
8. School library
Want a gig that involves being surrounded by books and complete silence? (Dream job alert!) Check out the school library. Michelle Borok explains that the best gig she ever had as a student was working in the university library.
Her duties included sitting by herself in front of stacks that were going through renovations to keep people out and fetching and putting away books as needed. “I never had to deal with more than one co-worker at a time, got to nap on the clock, studied my ass off on the clock out of boredom, and got a 4.0 that semester,” she adds.
9. College bookstore
Speaking of books, scoring a job at the college bookstore could pay off in big ways. Briana Meade landed in her school’s bookstore through work-study and she says she “loved” the experience. “I was able to get a discount on some of my textbooks, candy, and study materials like Diet Coke!” she adds.
10. School tour guide
I also worked for some time as a tour guide at my school–I’d give prospective families and students tours of the campus, show them around to sample housing, and answer questions. It was something I could do in two-hour slots between classes, I didn’t need to drive anywhere, and it was nice to be active and get outside and get paid for it. Ask at your college’s admissions office if they’re accepting applications for campus ambassadors.
11. Overnight security guard
This one sounds more intimidating than it actually is, but Kimberly Rae Miller assures us it’s actually a nice way to score some study time. The former security guard waitressed during the day in between classes and then worked overnight as a security guard at a state park.
“[It] was great because it was just me, and I studied and did my work then,” she explains. “Obviously didn’t sleep much though.”
12. Test proctor
This might be one you hadn’t considered, but it’s a job that’s always in demand, thanks to the necessity of standardized tests. Why try it out? Well, you get to read or do homework most of the time, says Sarah Aswell. “It's often on the weekend, but you get out by noon or so, when your friends are just waking up,” she adds.
13. Art model
Always wondered what modeling would be like? Apply to be a model for your school’s art department.
Olivia Campbell worked as both an assistant at a florist shop and as an artist's model for the university art department. “Good pay and skill development and time to think,” she says of her time there.
14. Musical work
For students who love singing or are pursuing a musical degree, there are many related routes of employment. For instance, Katie Altemus joined the musicians' union and got work with a local symphony. “It was wonderful!” she exclaims.
And Jessica Lemmons was an opera student, so her side hustle (aside from Victoria’s Secret), was singing in church choirs that struggled to find members who weren’t tone deaf. “It paid surprisingly well,” she notes.
15. Gym attendant or exercise instructor
Have a passion for fitness? Put it to good use by teaching exercise classes or working as a gym attendant. “Teaching swim lessons and water exercise classes on the weekends gave me free access to the gym I taught at and encouraged a healthy lifestyle,” says Katie Norton Waite.
And if these 15 side hustles aren't your jam, and you'd rather work from your dorm or apartment in the comfort of your PJ's, then write for us! We're always looking for good freelance writers still in college to help us give the best college advice straight from the source. Fill out the form, and we'll take it from there.