In a recent Bankrate survey, 20 percent of respondents said that they regret not working more while enrolled in college. While not all students are able to balance a full-time course load with a part-time job, the summer break between academic semesters can provide students ample time to beef up their bank accounts. Summer jobs are a great way for students to offset rising tuition and academic costs, and there are plenty of options for different skill sets, disciplines and interests.

Why you should consider a summer job

The cost of college is on the rise in the U.S., with College Board estimating an 8.59 percent rise in tuition and fees alone at public four-year colleges in the last decade. For 2021-22, College Board found that the average budget for full-time undergraduates is nearly $30,000 at public four-year schools (in state) and more than $55,000 at private four-year schools.

The rising cost of college means that many students will have to take out student loans for their education, which comes with a price. Many students are stuck repaying student loans for a decade or more after graduating, and interest is charged on each dollar borrowed.

Earning money over the summer is one way to reduce those borrowing needs, and it could save you a significant amount of money over time. Say you need to take out a $10,000 student loan with a 4.99 percent interest rate; with a 10-year repayment term, you’d have to make payments of $106.02 every month and would end up paying $2,722 in interest over time. However, if you earn $4,000 through a summer job and cut your total loan amount to $6,000, your monthly payments would drop to $63.61 and you’d pay only $1,633 in interest.

Best summer jobs for college students

There are plenty of summer jobs that college students can choose from, including those for students who are are taking summer courses or living on campus.

Part-time jobs for college students

Part-time jobs are a popular choice for college students on summer break. Part-time work usually requires between 20 and 35 hours per week, making it a good option for students who need time for summer courses or those who want to also enjoy the summer months. These jobs often pay at, or just above, minimum wage.

Below are six common part-time jobs for college students, with average hourly salaries provided by Payscale:

  1. Nanny: $15.49 per hour. Nannying involves providing child care for several hours or the whole day, often including preparing meals and driving the children to and from activities. Depending on the family you work with, this job may be more flexible than others.
  2. Dog walker: $15.14 per hour. Dog walkers may regularly walk dogs for a few families or pick up one-off jobs as needed. There are plenty of apps that let you sign up for as many or as few dog-walking jobs as you’d like, making this a great option for those with hectic schedules.
  3. Lifeguard: $10.33 per hour. Lifeguards are responsible for the safety of swimmers at public beaches or pools, and they must receive certification. However, for those who enjoy being outside, lifeguarding can be a great way to soak up some rays while getting paid.
  4. Fast food worker: $9.40 per hour. Fast food workers prepare food, take customer orders and operate the cash register. Working in the fast food industry can be grueling, but it can offer flexible hours and lucrative incentives, like free or discounted food.
  5. Retail sales associate: $11.83 per hour. Clothing stores, home improvement stores, tech stores and more often hire college students over the summer to restock shelves, interact with customers and operate the cash register.

Online jobs for college students

Online jobs or remote positions are becoming more common following the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employers offer part- and full-time online work to college students, which can be useful for those who are also taking online summer courses.

A few popular online jobs for college students include:

  1. Transcriber: $15.22 per hour. Online transcribers listen to video content or podcasts and type out a transcription. Transcribers must have a good ear, writing skills and a strong grammatical skill set. College students can apply for a position with a specific company or pick up individual transcription jobs on sites like Rev or Upwork.
  2. Tutor: $18.28 per hour. Online tutors work with students over video or email to improve skills in specific subjects. Online tutoring jobs compensate fairly well, and the comfort of working from home is a selling point for most. Tutors will often have to pass tests to prove their expertise in their subject or field of study.
  3. Virtual assistant: $16.17 per hour. Virtual assistants handle a variety of tasks, from bookkeeping to project management to ghostwriting. Virtual assistants need to have strong organizational skills and are typically employed by people who work online full time, from online influencers to CEOs of small businesses.
  4. Proofreader: $18.60 per hour. Proofreaders ensure that content is free of grammatical errors. They must display expert editing and writing skills, making this position ideal for English majors or anyone passionate about writing.
  5. Freelance writer: $24.74 per hour. While it can be hard for writers to get their foot in the door for freelance work, the flexibility of working on individual projects can be worth the extra effort. Freelance writing rates vary by company, and many companies pay per word.

Campus jobs for college students

Students who stay on campus over the summer may find plenty of vacancies left by students who return home. The office of student affairs at your college may be able to provide the best leads for summer jobs, but on-campus options may include:

  1. Barista: $11.18 per hour. Many college campuses have cafes or coffee shops that remain open year-round to accommodate for campus tours and athletic events during the summer months.
  2. School store clerk: $11.12 per hour. Sales clerks for campus bookstores may help with restocking and helping customers with their purchases. Although the hours may be shortened during the summer, the school store can be a great way to make some money while staying on campus.
  3. Library assistant: $14.12 per hour. During the slower months on campus, the library can be a great option for students looking for a slower-paced job in a quiet environment. Library assistants typically help reshelve books, but they’re also responsible for helping library patrons find what they’re looking for.
  4. Peer tutor: $18.28 per hour. Peer tutoring involves helping students succeed in summer courses. This could include help with writing essays, working out math problems or explaining scientific topics. This is a popular option among students who live on campus and are comfortable enough in their field of study to tutor their classmates.
  5. Campus tour guide: $14.56 per hour. Tour guides lead prospective students and their families throughout campus, providing facts about the college and answering questions. Tour guides may receive incentives like free summer housing in addition to the base pay.

What is federal work-study?

Some students taking classes during the summer semester may qualify for work-study. Federal work-study is a form of need-based federal financial aid that helps match students with part-time jobs either on campus or off campus. The U.S. Department of Education says that work-study “emphasizes employment in civic education and work related to your course of study whenever possible.” Work-study jobs often have flexible working hours.

Work-study approval is based on financial factors like income and family size, meaning not all students will qualify. Since it’s a form of federal financial aid, students will apply for the program via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Students will be assigned a maximum number of hours they may work, and often this is no more than 20. Students are paid at least the federal minimum wage, and they can spend their cash however they wish.

When to consider summer internships

Summer internships, even when not required for a degree, are a great way to gain experience in a potential career field and network with industry professionals.

Internships can be both unpaid and paid, so students need to assess their financial need and desire to potentially work for the company before moving forward. Students may also check with their major’s department to see if an internship can also count as a course credit.

The wage for a summer internship, if it pays at all, varies widely by field of study, the expertise of the intern and the state the internship is in; however, ZipRecuiter data shows that the average pay for a summer intern is $14.95 an hour.

FAFSA implications of working a summer job

Annual income is a large factor in determining how much federal financial aid a student will receive; therefore, how much they earn during the summer months will impact how much federal aid they receive. However, the impact should be minimal thanks to what’s known as an income protection allowance — a threshold for what income is counted on the FAFSA.

For independent students without dependents, any income up to $10,950 is not counted in financial aid calculations. Dependent students can earn up to $7,040 without the income being counted. Even if students earn above this amount, only 50 percent of the excess is counted against financial aid. So if a dependent student earns $10,000 over the summer, that’s $2,960 over the income protection allowance, but only $1,480 would count against them in financial aid eligibility.

The exception is federal work-study. Since this is a form of federal student aid, any amount earned while on the clock at one of these jobs won’t count against aid eligibility.

Students who think that they may significantly surpass these income limits have two options: forfeit their potential aid eligibility and supplement with their wages or forfeit their work hours to increase their financial aid potential. Because the risk of exceeding that income threshold is so low, especially if the student is employed only for a summer, there’s not much downside to taking on a summer job. The bigger consideration is if the student works year-round; in this case, students may want to consider what financial aid could be at risk.

The bottom line

Summer is the perfect time for a college student to make supplemental income to help offset the rising costs of a degree. With so many opportunities available that accommodate a college student’s lifestyle and schedule, it’s easier than ever to find the right work-life balance while on summer vacation.