On-campus jobs plentiful, but apply early

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Jobs with flexible hours, a convenient location and a pleasant environment are hard to come by in the real world. But on a college campus, they are plentiful.

For students looking to pay off loans or earn some extra spending money, these on-campus opportunities are the perfect way to stay afloat financially. Typical jobs available to students include being a tutor, receptionist, cashier, computer assistant, food-service worker, lab assistant or research aide.

But that’s not to say that highly ambitious or more career-minded students can’t find stimulating — and good-paying –work. Some jobs actually require a higher skill level, especially those in information technology-related fields.While the standard hourly wage is about $7 per hour, says Tim Luzader, director of the center for career opportunities at Purdue University, highly technical positions, such as Web designing, can pay as much as $12 to $15 an hour.

Ultimately, though, the amount of money a student earns depends on his or her work schedule.

“It’s important for students to work fewer hours at first,” Luzader says. “They first need to get a sense of what kind of academic commitment they are going to need to make and what their workload will entail before they sign on.” He encourages students to start off with about eight hours a week and then add hours as they feel more comfortable.

Work helps grades

Surprisingly, studies have shown that students who work actually perform better in the classroom. “It helps students to structure their time better,” says Carl Martellino, director of career services at Pomona College in California. “If they have a campus job, they are forced to manage their time and work their assignments around it.”

Some jobs even allow students the flexibility to study while clocking hours. One such job is the ID checker at the athletic complex. Martellino says this is one of the most popular jobs at Pomona.

Students working in on-campus jobs also have the advantage of a very flexible boss. Unlike some other employers, the college or university is genuinely looking out for the student’s best interest. “We tell all of our working students that they are academic students first, before they are workers,” Martellino says. “If a student is really falling behind, the supervisor will be accommodating because everyone understands academics take precedence.”

But, what makes a good job?

“Students should take a different tack on what they consider to be a good job,” Luzader says. “Not all students want easy jobs. Some actually want to be challenged.” Fortunately, there are plenty of stimulating jobs available, but it depends on the student’s interests.

“Students who are very scientifically oriented can work in a lab; socially minded students can work in the bookstore; those with leadership skills can work as a residential assistant or peer adviser,” says Deborah Chereck, director of the career center at University of Oregon. “There’s a place for everyone.” But, she adds, students must do their investigative work and ask the right questions.

Bargaining power

Working in a field of interest can also help students make connections down the road. These students may also be more valuable to potential employers because they will have references and relevant work experience to boast. This can place them in a better bargaining position to ask for a higher salary once they hit the workforce, she says.

While there are plenty of on-campus jobs available, the good ones often get taken early. Martellino recommends sending off resumes the first week of school, particularly for nonwork-study students. Work-study students (who tend to make up half of the working student population) are those who have been granted federally funded financial aid. They often get first dibs on jobs.

At Pomona, all job listings are posted on Monster.com, which means that students can look for jobs around the clock. More and more campuses are turning to electronic methods to post open jobs rather than the old-fashioned way, which forced students visit the career office and sift through binders overflowing with job flyers. “We are really trying to streamline the process to make it more efficient for students,” Martellino says.