Should You Work Part-Time While Studying?

There comes a time in a student’s life when they have to decide how to allocate their time between their studies and work. You want to do really well in school and university but you also want money: money to live a life now and perhaps money to save for later.

What’s more important?

Since I’ll assume you’re studying to increase your future earning potential, let’s say your studies are more important.

But how much more important?

VCE — Secondary School

If you’re studying in VCE, it is likely that your main source of money would be from any part-time work that you take on. Without it, you will be restricted in your ability to go out with friends, buy new things, save up for a car, and save for your future.

Work provides a range of benefits in addition to money:

  • Experience
    • You get a taste for what the real world (life outside of schooling) is like. You interact with co-workers, customers, and/or clients. You learn about working environments, business processes, employee entitlements, management, and customer service. These skills and this knowledge is all applicable and useful to future jobs and life in general
    • When you’re competing for a future job position in something requiring more skill and that offers better career prospects, having the above background knowledge and skills sets you apart from other job applicants
  • Social life
    • You are likely to make new friends in your part-time job, people who will be in a separate social circle to your usual group of friends. Your social circle at school is probably made up of people with similar backgrounds, interests, and perspectives to you. Meeting new people allows you to branch out, take on different perspectives, and gives you people to turn to if something goes wrong with your usual group of friends
  • Time away from school and home
    • School is a place of study and learning. VCE pressures you to do well and make the most of every moment, so just being there is a constant reminder of the year-long race to the ATAR finish line. Home can foster a certain attitude in you for a few reasons, one of them being that home is still a place for homework and study. Work separates you from this — it puts you in a position of responsibility where you don’t have time to focus on school or home pressures: you have to do your job. This hijacking of your thoughts gives you respite from school-related stress.
      For this reason, I believe doing some amount of regular, part-time work can actually improve your VCE performance even though it takes up time that could otherwise be used for study.

There are other benefits but these are the ones that jump to my mind. The thing to notice is that, although school is probably more important than work, work is also important and does deserve some of your time.

How Much Time?

After taking into account all of your classes, homework, and study, there isn’t a huge amount time left in your week to put towards work.

What worked for me, even with my crazy amount of study, was to work no more than one full day a week. Specifically, I worked a 10-hour shift on a Sunday. Admittedly, this restricted how late I could go out on a Saturday and still function adequately come Sunday and Monday, but it allowed for a great balance of study, work, and social life.

What works for you might be different. Figure out how much money you want to make to save for a car, go out with friends, etc, and just work that much.

If you’re not yet in Year 12, figure out how much money you want to have for a car, lifestyle, schoolies, etc, and ask yourself if you can earn that much money in Year 12 while studying. You might be better off using the lower study load in earlier years to work a few more hours each week, then dropping down to something manageable in Year 12.


Some university courses can differ in hours of commitment dramatically.

My Bachelor of Commerce at The University of Melbourne only had 3 contact hours per subject. At four subjects per semester, I was looking at 12 hours a week of actual lectures and tutorials, then I had to add on time for assignments, tests, and study. If I was able to organise my timetable really nicely, I could fit all of my uni work in three weekdays, plus the occasional weekend for assignments. This allowed me to work the two remaining weekdays as an Assistant Accountant in the city, and I kept the all-day Sunday shift at my first part-time job.

Friends of mine who studied engineering or science courses seemed to require at least five days a week to perform well in uni, just like the study load in Year 12.

So I understand if what I’m about to say next doesn’t apply to all university students, but it will be relevant to most of you.

In the competitive graduate environment we have, having relevant work experience can mean the difference between you getting into a graduate position as soon as your course is completed, and floating around for six months waiting for a relevant job position to open up for you.

Consider everyone studying your course in your university. How many of them are going to be competing for similar jobs to you upon graduation? Now consider the students studying an equivalent course in all of the different universities. How are you going to separate yourself from them? What is going to make you stand out?

Some graduate positions focus a lot on your grades, and many (if not all) companies look for additional skills and experience. And if you don’t have something like that on your CV, you’re going to be out-shined by other applicants.

My suggestion to you is to get part-time work in a relevant field that teaches you skills that will be applicable in the job you want to work in after graduation. If you can’t for some reason, try to stand out in another way. Become the president for a club or society at your university, or at least commit some time each week to participate in the club/society’s activities; or volunteer somewhere that exposes you to the industry you want to get in.

While studying for good grades is important, working part-time can help you succeed in your bigger goals more than using that time for extra study.

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