Should you get a part-time job whilst at university?

The number of students that work part-time during the study semester varies from university to university. The University of Manchester touts the fact that approximately 50% of their students work part-time during their terms. They recommend no higher than 15 hours a week, and demanding the minimum wage of £6.08 (as of October 2011). They also warn against going for a job that has ‘commission only’ in the title, as payments there are directly linked to work performance. That could hit you hard, especially if you’re just starting up, and you could find yourself putting in the hours for little to no reward.

So what is good about part-time jobs while at uni? A Halifax survey found that fifty percent of students who have a part time job (so around a quarter of all students) earn around £100 a week, with the top 15% of students taking away around £200 each. Additional benefits include a host of new friendship circles, which can help to alleviate university tedium, and gaining several really employable skills, including selling and training skills. Some part-time jobs may also lead to full-time jobs after university, though on average these tend to pay equal to or less than the average graduate wage (at around £18,000).

What about tax? It’s important to know that students who only work during their holidays and do not earn higher than the tax threshold of £5,225 can complete a P38(S) form. This, once submitted, grants tax-free earning up to that threshold. 25% of working students did not know that, and paid a 10% contributory income tax rate on their earnings (or around £10 a week).

Students do need to balance part-time work with their studies. The majority of students in a Canadian survey – some 77% of those canvassed – believe that working part-time will impact their grades. Despite this, the UK Department of Education conducted a longitudinal survey of those working during College (so Years 12 and 13 before University) and found that there was no significant impact on AS and A Level grades unless the hours worked were long (deemed higher than the average of 17.3 hours a week).

Student jobs are on the rise – up 54% in the past 10 years (now around 630,718 students UK-wide, according to the TUC and the National Union of Students). Those from manual work backgrounds tend to seek employment more – around 61% of graduates whose families work in manual labour were employed part-time in 2006.

So, taking a part-time job isn’t all bad, but it isn’t all good either. Effective budgeting can take care of the majority of student financial issues at university, and the Royal Bank of Canada found that 74% of students do not use a budget at all. For example, investing in multifunctional printers such as all in one printers – particularly picking up an all in one laser printer can save huge amounts on both phone bills – why not scan and e-mail, or fax, instead of using up your minutes by calling someone (the written word is always more personal, too). This will also save you on printing costs –- why use the pricey university printers when you could use your own, or even a shared one? For an added bonus, an all in one laser will save you serious money on ink, too (it uses more efficient toner instead of cartridges). That’s just one way of effectively budgeting, and can keep you in the uni loop rather than marching off every other day to a place of work.

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Photograph by William Warby

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