Monday, 5 November 2012

Having a job while studying at university

Hello class!

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin!

I'm going to talk to you a little bit about having a job while studying at uni. This is all based on my own experiences, so it might not be true for everyone, but I think most of what I say will be true for everyone.

As you probably know if you have read my blog, I have done 2 degrees at the University of Liverpool, studying a BA in Egyptian Archaeology Hons. and an MA in Egyptology Hons., so I have spent 4 years at uni. I lived either in Halls of Residence (years 1 and 2), or private rented houses (year 3 and my MA), rather than living at home because I couldn't commute to uni. So I was in Liverpool for about 8 months of the year.

When you are a student at university in the UK (other countries are different), you can apply for government grants, loans etc etc to help pay for your degree, accommodation, and other living expenses. However, as I am sure most students will agree, it is hard to make that money go far enough! And for postgraduate students, you generally can't get any money from the government, and although you can take out loans from banks, you will have to pay back a lot more than you are getting. So, a great way of getting money is by working while at university.

Obviously there are lots of different types of jobs you could do while at uni. Most unis will probably offer some opportunities like showing people around during open days etc, in which you can earn an hourly wage, but these opportunities can be quite irregular. If you are doing a specific degree, you may be able to get a job related to your degree, such as a job in a bank if you are doing a degree in business, mathematics etc, which would give you work experience as well as money. However, I think the majority of students with jobs work in 'unskilled' positions, for example as a bar tender or as a shop assistant. In my personal experience, it's nice to have a job where you don't have to think too much, as you are using your brain so much in you university degree!

During year 3 of my BA, and during my MA, I worked in my students' union shop. It is a little shop selling lunch food, especially crisps, sandwiches, soft drinks and chocolate, and stationery and university memorabilia, particularly hoodies. It is a nice little shop, and I have enjoyed working there, and I want to carry on working there when I do my PhD. I wish I had started work there during my year 2, when I lived on campus- it would have been a very short walk to work! I am very glad I worked there during my degrees, as it gave me something to do other than my essays! I made some good friends, and I feel like I have gained skills in many areas I didn't have before, and I have gained confidence too!!

There are some things you have to take into consideration when you are thinking about getting a job at university.
In particular, where you work: I worked in my students' union. 99% of people who work there are students, and therefore the working situation is very flexible for us- we tell the managers our availability for working by the Thursday, and then on the Friday we get the rota for the next week. If we can't do a shift for whatever reason, we email everyone on the staff email "Can you cover my shift", so you can have time off if you need it. If you can't work a certain week, for example if you have an essay due in, you just don't give in your availability. You can work as many or as few hours as you want. The shop isn't open during Christmas and Easter vacations, so we don't need to work then when I want to go home, and it is only open for short hours during revision periods, so they didn't expect many of us to work when we had to revise.
However, other companies and employers are not so flexible. If you work somewhere such as a shop in the city centre, they may give you a fixed rota, and they will expect you to work that. It may be very difficult to get time off when you need it, or get cover. If you have a timetable of lectures for your degree, you can try to fit your rota around that, which would be ideal, but in my experience, lecturers rearrange lectures quite often, and this is difficult if you have a fixed rota for work. If you are late because a lecture over-ran, you may get in trouble at work. If you work in a shop, most likely you will need to work during Christmas Eve and Boxing day, which means that you will find it difficult to spend Christmas at home if you can't commute. If you work in a bar or similar, you may need to work very late, which means that if you need to get up for a 9am lecture, you may not get much sleep! Also, some degrees require you to do a work experience placement, which may be difficult if you have to work in your job! And if you have a permanent job which requires you to work during the summer, you may never be able to go home to visit your parents!
Remember, working while at uni is a big commitment. If you are doing your uni course full-time, you are probably expected to work around 40 hours on your projects etc; if you work, for example, 12 hours per week in a shop, you are actually working 52 hours per week!
Don't forget that you have to factor in travelling to and from work. Fortunately, my work was on campus, so about 5 minutes work from my department, and if I walked REALLY quickly, a 7 minute walk from my house. However, if you work somewhere off-campus, it might take you quite a long journey to get to work. It may cost you extra money every day to get to and from work, such as if you take the bus, and it will take you time to get there and back, especially if you walk.

All-in-all, having a job at uni is very beneficial; however, I would recommend getting one that will be flexible, such as a job in your students' union! Your uni might (should) have a 'job shop', which will hopefully be full of flexible jobs suitable for students! There are other places you can go to find a job, such as employment agencies, where they can either find you a job or temp work, the Job Centre, online, or ask for vacancies in shops and bars! Remember to update your CV, and have a photocopy available when you are out and about, just in case you see an 'Employees Needed' sign in a shop window!


  1. I just worked holiday jobs whilst I was at uni. I worked while I was in school, at WHSmith, and they kept me on as Christmas and Easter staff. In the summer holiday I did paid work experience at an ecology consultancy for two years (my first summer of uni I was back at WHSmith). Working full-time during the holidays, combined with what I'd saved while at school, covered both excess expenses at uni and my gap year travels afterwards (or would've done if I'd not had to come home after 2 months!).

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