How to Make Money As a College Student

Quick Answer

College students who need a paycheck have a variety of options for making money. To find the ideal work situation, it helps to weigh preferences and needs around flexibility, scheduling, resume-building, career growth and earning potential.

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The independence of college life can be thrilling and terrifying all at the same time. If your parents covered your expenses previously, but now expect you to pitch in for bills or pay for your own entertainment, the pressure is on to make money.

It can be tricky to balance a job with academics (and fun), but it's doable. There are different types of work college students can pursue depending on preferences around flexibility, consistency, pay, resume-building and hands-on experience. If it's time to start earning your own keep, here are five ways to make money as a college student.

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1. Tutoring

If you excel in certain subjects, think about putting that knowledge to use by tutoring fellow students in your spare time. You don't have to limit yourself to academics, either: You can also teach skills like playing an instrument or coding.

Choose a subject in which you have proven success and can confidently teach others. Do some research to find the going rates for local college tutors, and decide if you want to work online or in person. You'll also need to decide if you'll go through a company or work for yourself.

Tutoring companies have requirements about experience, hours or rates, though they can deliver clients. Before applying anywhere, check eligibility criteria since some tutoring companies require completed degrees, while others allow current undergrads (like, which allows college sophomores and higher).

If you work solo, you'll need to seek out clients on your own. Spread the word with classmates and professors, post flyers around campus and share on social media.

2. Work-Study Jobs

If you received a financial aid package from your school, it may have included an option for work-study jobs as a way to meet financial need. The work-study program provides eligible part-time or full-time students with a part-time job that, when possible, is related to their degree.

Work-study jobs are typically on campus, but some schools offer them through partnering nonprofits, public agencies or companies. Participating students earn at least minimum wage, though it can be more depending on the required skills and type of work. The number of hours you can work are limited and will be noted in your financial aid award letter. These limits usually factor in your class schedule and academic standing to ensure the job doesn't get in the way of your schooling, though it can limit your income.

Some schools match you with jobs, while others require you to find one yourself. Since work-study jobs are designed for college students, they may be more accommodating to your schedule than other jobs. Plus, if you live and work on campus, you can't beat the convenience.

Not sure if you're eligible or if your school participates? Ask your school's financial aid office. Funding for this program is limited, so applying for aid early helps your chances.

3. Paid Internships

In addition to a paycheck, a paid internship offers hands-on workplace experience, valuable resume material and often a college credit.

In the past, paid internships were practically unheard of in most fields. Students who could afford to work for free did unpaid internships to "pay their dues" and enhance post-college job prospects. But criticism mounted about exploitation and concerns that these career-boosting opportunities left out poorer students who couldn't afford to work without pay.

So in 2018, the Department of Labor released strict guidelines for employers. Unpaid internships are still legal, but now they must meet criteria such as providing sufficient benefits to interns—like hands-on learning rather than just coffee runs. Following these changes, some organizations have started proactively paying interns to avoid confusion or lawsuits, making paid internships easier to find.

Internships usually only last a summer or semester, so they allow you to try different types of jobs and workplaces without much commitment, along with gaining connections and references. To find an internship, visit your college's career center and ask if they have a placement program or online job board. You can also scope out LinkedIn postings or reach out directly to companies you're interested in interning with.

4. Other Part-Time Work or Gigs

Even if you don't qualify for work-study, you can apply for other part-time jobs on campus or at nearby businesses. Some students may prefer formal arrangements, like being a part-time employee at a restaurant or boutique, with predictable income and set hours. This may not boost a resume as much as an internship or work-study job in your field, but it still provides work history, a paycheck and references.

For more flexibility, explore intermittent jobs like babysitting or petsitting for locals or students who only need occasional help. You can create a profile on relevant websites or post on social media and local sites like NextDoor.

For ultimate flexibility, there's the gig economy, where apps provide on-demand work gigs as often (or not) as you want. Pay can be low, however, and you need your own transportation. But for students with hectic academic or extracurricular schedules, the gig model can be helpful.

Examples include:

  • Delivering food or groceries via UberEats, DoorDash, Instacart or Grubhub
  • Drive for rideshare apps like Lyft or Uber
  • Petsit or walk dogs via Wag or Rover
  • Do miscellaneous tasks via Taskrabbit

5. Freelancing

We've covered how work-study programs and paid internships provide helpful career experience, though they may lack flexibility. Gigs and other part-time jobs often have more flexible schedules, but they're not always as useful for resumes and career-related experience.

One option that combines some of each is freelancing, where you offer professional skills to multiple clients. You're not an employee, but an independent contractor working for yourself, so you have the flexibility of setting your hours and rates, if you work online or in person and whether you'll do ongoing or one-off projects. Some freelancers bill clients hourly, some by project and others a mix.

Unlike gig work, freelancing is more oriented on professional skills or talents, so this could pose challenges if you haven't had much experience yet. But if you've already mastered some basics, you might find clients willing to help you learn and gain valuable experience.

Some types of freelancing to consider:

  • Graphic design
  • Photography
  • Videography
  • Transcription
  • Writing/editing
  • Social media management
  • IT support
  • Software/app development

You can find clients through your own outreach, or through online marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr. Pay is often low on those types of sites, but it can be a great way to get your foot in the door.

Be Wise With Your Paycheck

Earning your own paychecks can make college life easier and more enjoyable, from reducing your reliance on student loans to making it possible to go out more often with friends.

A word of caution, though: Try to avoid overspending. It's tempting, especially if you've never had the ability to spend money freely before. But if possible, set aside some to build savings for a financial cushion, and seek out ways to cut costs so your money goes further.

Having an income may also make it easier to qualify for a student credit card. These can help you establish credit history, and even tide you over on occasion if you have an expense due a few days before a paycheck. Just know that credit cards make it easy to get trapped in debt, so try to reserve them for planned purchases you can pay off immediately.

You may have some stumbles as you get the hang of managing your finances in college, but that's okay; the smart money habits you start developing now will continue to pay off for the rest of your life.