6 summer job options for college students

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for

Teens may be the recession’s hardest hit demographic. According to the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for teens ages 16 through 19 is north of 20 percent, higher than workers in any other age group. While teens typically have some financial support from their parents, high school and college students in need of summer cash could find themselves without jobs. Consider these six ways to make money if the summer jobs aren’t there.

Internships and apprenticeships

Two of the fastest ways to land a post-grad job — internships and apprenticeships — are solid investments in your future, says Tom Cath, director of Valparaiso University’s career center in Valparaiso, Ind.

“A lot of organizations that offer these programs don’t advertise them,” says Cath. “Students need to take a lot of initiative, make inquiries, approach prospective employers whether there’s a listing or not.”

While apprenticeship programs are always paid, lucrative internships may be a bit harder to find this year. Unpaid opportunities are available by the boatload.

“If you get an unpaid internship, ask for a stipend for parking, transportation or meals,” says Cath. “Also, ask (your school) for academic credit in return. That way, you’re at least getting a little financial help.”

Cath adds that students may also be able to find fiscal help through internship grants available at their school’s career center, financial aid office or academic department.

Cooperative learning programs

Rearrange your college schedule and a co-op could be in your future. Designed to help students earn while they learn, co-ops require students to attend school full time for one semester, then work full time in a paid job related to their field of study for the next. The National Commission for Cooperative Education, a Boston-based advocacy group, reports that co-op students tend to earn more than those with summer jobs (anywhere from $200 to $1,167 per month) and 95 percent of co-op students find jobs immediately upon graduation. Since co-ops typically run during the school year and usually require at least one semester to set up, interested students can visit their career center or experiential learning office to discuss the possibility of attending school full-time this summer and working a co-op position for fall semester.

Research grants

Get paid to build your resume. Available through colleges themselves as well as through private companies and governmental bodies, research grants can help students pay for college, room and board while they study.

Cynthia Favre, director of career management at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minn., says you need to apply for grants early. “Normally students start looking for jobs in April, but for these programs you have to start in February or March,” says Favre. “For fall semester, they need to start looking the (spring) semester before.”

The best place to start the hunt, says Favre, is within their school. Once students have exhausted options available through their academic department and financial aid office, they can find additional opportunities through scholarship sites, the federal government at students.gov and professional associations in their field.

Work-study jobs

“If you’re smart about picking a work-study job, it can actually give you more real-world experience than a summer retail job,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career coach and founder of SixFigureStart consulting in New York City.

Ranging from research assistant to recycling manager, work-study positions won’t make you rich — the pay is usually just above minimum wage — but they are flexible and won’t subtract from your financial aid eligibility as much as other jobs. The federal government currently allows students to earn up to $3,000 in income without it affecting their financial aid package. For every dollar earned over the $3,000 benchmark, students will lose 50 cents in federal scholarships and grants, reports the Department of Education. Work-study jobs along with earnings from the Peace Corp, AmeriCorps and Teach for America are exempt from this clause, so students are free to earn away without any repercussions.

Students seeking work-study jobs for the academic year may have more say in where they’re placed if they can start during the summer, says Ceniza-Levine. At campuses that empty out during summer, work-study students will have significantly lower competition for the best jobs.

Build a business

Forget showing up in a monkey suit from 9 to 5. Students who really want to make money this summer will start their own business.

“It’s really easy. Get off your (butt), walk outside and look around for what needs to be done,” says Cameron Herold, founder of the Vancouver-based corporate mentoring company BackPocket COO. “Students don’t really need any money or special skills to do it. I paid my entire first year of college selling wineskins door to door.”

Herold says students can get started doing basic jobs like baby-sitting, cutting lawns, doing home repair and running errands for the elderly. But students can also find work teaching businesses how to use social media, designing Web sites and promoting events.

“Businesses make a lot more than summer jobs anyway,” Herold says. “You can usually charge $20 or $30 per hour for services, plus you can take tax write-offs.”

Students can get started and connect to other young CEOs by checking out youngentrepreneur.com and c-e-o.org.