When summer rolls around, many college students decide to take a break from their academic courses and take on a summer job. Working isn’t just a way to earn some extra money. In some cases, it could also be a chance to gain valuable professional experience.
Of course, not all jobs are created equal. Let’s take a look at what to consider when seeking a summer gig and three job ideas that may be well suited for college students.
Summer Job Considerations
Ideally, a college student’s summer job will mesh with their skills, passions, and career goals. So when brainstorming jobs you might want to go after, think about the unique talents, goals, and experiences you bring to the table. For example, a student athlete can make money by offering personal training sessions, mentoring younger athletes, or working as a camp counselor.
Another strategy is to zero in on gigs that are available for professionals in your field of study. For example, if you’re in the education tract, you may want to look into common side jobs for teachers. Which ones could you qualify for now? Possibilities may include being an online tutor or test scorer or doing freelance writing, editing, or proofreading.
You could also focus on side hustles with low startup costs, like building websites for people, making and selling handmade items, creating a fee-based online course, or delivering food and groceries.
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When to Start Applying for Summer Jobs in College
In general, the sooner you apply for summer work, the better. This is especially true if you’re planning to live and work in fields or areas where the job market is more competitive. Some employers start posting summer job openings in the winter to give them time to find the best candidates. Even if an employer doesn’t start the process that early, they’ll still need time to collect and review applications, conduct interviews, hire employees, and get their staff ready to begin work by summer.
Pros and Cons of a Summer Job
While the idea of relaxing all summer may be appealing, having a job comes with its share of benefits. Working is an excellent opportunity to build a strong resume, because you can pick up hands-on, relevant experience and sharpen essential soft skills like communication and problem-solving. It’s also a chance to discover more about your working style, preferences, and strengths and find out if you like working in a particular industry or field before commiting more fully to it.
A summer job is a good way to expand your professional network, which can come in handy when you graduate and start looking for full-time employment. Managers and co-workers from your seasonal gig can provide references or even keep you in mind if a permanent position opens up at their company.
Plus, the money you earn from a summer gig can help be put in savings or used to pay for school and living expenses. A spending app can help you to more effectively manage your finances.
Depending on your situation, there are some potential drawbacks to working in between school years. You’ll likely have less time for other activities, such as hanging out with your friends or relaxing. You may not also be able to take summer classes, which could help you graduate more quickly.
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Tips to Finding a Summer Job
If you want to work in the summer, there are plenty of jobs available — especially if you know where to look. Colleges often post listings of available jobs on or near campus, so be sure to check in with your school’s career services center.
It’s also a smart idea to tap into your network, including professors, parents, mentors, and former employers. They may know of an open role or suggest people you can contact.
Online job sites are another good source of job leads. Many allow you to search for openings by industry, location, employment type, and experience level.
Top 3 Summer Jobs Ideas for College Students
Some summer jobs are especially well suited for college students. They can be done in the short term, provide an opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned in school, or offer some control over schedule and pay rate. Three jobs to consider: online tutoring, freelance web designer, and retail sales associate. Here’s what to know about each.
An online tutor typically helps individual students understand their lessons, assists them with homework assignments, and provides extra work as needed. Some tutors prefer to rely on word of mouth for clients, while others offer their services through an online tutoring website.
In general, online tutors set their own hours and rate. The average starting rate is around $18-$21 per hour, according to Care.com, but that amount can increase significantly based on experience, grade level, subject matter, and other factors.
If you apply with an online tutoring site, you will likely need to provide information about your educational and work history. Educational requirements can vary widely by platform, so be sure to research what’s needed. Background checks are typically part of the process, and the company may also want to know the type of computer you plan on using and whether you have high-speed internet access.
• Flexibility — you will likely be able to control when and where you work.
• The money can be good for a side gig.
• You can make a real difference in students’ lives.
• Internet issues and technical glitches can disrupt your tutoring.
• Working with students in different time zones may be challenging.
• Many online platforms have strict policies against canceling tutoring times.
Freelance Web Designer
Developing and managing websites for clients can be a good fit for college students, especially those who prefer to work independently or are looking for jobs for introverts. You can find customers by listing your profile on websites for freelance designers or through recommendations from family, friends, and colleagues.
• You’re your own boss, which means you can determine when and where you work.
• The hourly rate is higher than other summer jobs.
• You can work on a variety of interesting projects.
• The work typically requires you to sit for long periods of time.
• You’ll need to keep up on new developments, which may be easier if you’re already studying web design in school.
• You may need to juggle multiple projects at once.
Retail Sales Associate
In many ways, a retail sales job can be an excellent summer gig. Often, the work is fairly straightforward, work hours are scheduled, on-the-job training is usually provided, and you usually don’t need a college degree. Students with a friendly, upbeat attitude and strong customer service skills may find a sales job particularly rewarding.
The average hourly rate of a salesperson is around $14, but this can vary based on your company, the store’s location, and how much experience you have. Some companies also offer extra perks, such as employee discounts.
• Work is often indoors and may not be as physically demanding as other jobs.
• Having a work schedule means you know when you’ll have free time.
• You have opportunities to develop your people skills.
• Your take-home pay can fluctuate if you earn a commission.
• Dealing with difficult customers can be stressful.
• Depending on where you work, you may need to be on your feet for several hours.
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Though there are ways to make money during winter break, the summer is commonly when many students get a short-term job. A summer gig allows you to earn extra cash and potentially gain valuable professional experience, especially if you’ll be working in the field you’re studying. Your college career services center, professors, family, friends, and former employers may be able to provide you with potential leads. Three types of jobs you may want to explore are online tutoring, web design, and retail sales. Online tutoring and retail sales typically allows you more chances to interact more with people, but web design tends to command a higher hourly rate.
No matter what summer job you choose, a money tracker app like SoFi can help you monitor and manage the money you earn. The app makes it easy to see where you are financially at any given time. Plus, you can keep tabs on your credit score, see what you’re spending, and view the progress you’re making toward your goals at no cost — just for being a SoFi member.
What should college students do with their summer?
As a college student, you can get a job or internship, go on a vacation with friends or family, volunteer at a non-profit agency of your choice, or go to summer school to potentially graduate more quickly. Starting to think about life post-graduation? Here are some intriguing things to do after college.
Where do most college students work in the summer?
Whether you’re planning to work outdoors, in a store or restaurant, or for a company, there is no shortage of summer job opportunities for college students. To help you narrow down your options, look for roles that match your interests and skills.
How can college students make money over the summer?
Many summer jobs pay by the hour, and that rate might depend on factors such as location, the type of work being required, and your experience and skills. Looking ahead? Here are the most rewarding jobs in 2023.
Photo credit: iStock/AndreyPopov
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