The financial, networking and training benefits of working while in college can seem pretty obvious. Students earn cash that can be used to offset loans, pay college costs and fund other expenses. They learn to value money and to budget. They can connect with professionals who may be able to help them locate and succeed in future jobs. They learn how to navigate the workplace, gain skills they can use in their careers and put classroom lessons into practical use.
What may not be so obvious is how working part-time during the academic year can also boost a student’s grades. Although a student’s first job is performing well in school, working for pay a few hours a week may help the student achieve more academically.
The most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) backs up earlier research performed by Lauren Dundes and Jeff Marx of McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. Dundes’ 2006 study found that the academic performance of students who work 10–19 hours a week was better than all other students’ performance, including those who worked more or less and those who didn’t work at all.
According to 2012 NCES data:
- The average GPA for all full-time college students is 2.99.
- Those who worked 10–19 hours per week earned an average GPA of 3.07.
- Those who worked 1–9 hours per week earned an average GPA of 3.10.
- Those who did not work earned an average GPA of 2.98.
GPA Per Hours Worked
Estimated Hours Worked Per Week
|Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2011–2012 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS: 12)|
Why Working Works
The reasons for the grade boost may vary widely by student, job and college, but researchers often conclude that the busier schedule forces students to better manage their available time.
Hanna, a graduate of an Iowa high school now attending Kansas State University, agrees. “Having the extra responsibility of a part-time job forces me to study more efficiently,” she said. “I know I won’t have the time to keep procrastinating.”
Another possible reason for the higher average GPA may be that students who work to pay for part of their education expenses are more invested in the outcome. Students who are likely to succeed because of their own goals and motivation may also be more likely to look for and obtain part-time work.