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Studying as a working student: How to manage the work/study balance

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As a student, whether you’re studying for your Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhD, your degree has to come first. That means if you need to work, you’ve got to find work that can work around your studies. Here’s my guide to being a working student.


What type of work is best suited for student life?

I have found that he best lines of employment for students are jobs in the hospitality and retail sector. This is because they employ so many workers they frequently have job openings, and many give on the job training, meaning they require little to no experience to be initially employed.

Whatever you’re searching for, make sure the job is:

  • Part-time (consider ahead of your interview how many hours a week you want and need)
  • Flexible (you can work around your timetable, with different days and hours each week)
  • Seasonal (you’re able to go home for the holidays)

Where should I go to get a job?

You can apply in a variety of different ways, but I have found one of the best methods is going into the business directly. When a business employs many part-time students, the demand is so high that your application is easily ignored. Going into the business itself allows them to put a face to your application, gives it a personal advantage, and shows good initiative and work ethic, increasing the chances of employment.

There are also lots of part time jobs advertised via the SU jobshop and the Careers service CareerConnect site, where you’ll also find advice and support to help with your job search.


When you’re working alongside your studies, time and energy are reduced, making it harder to study. Here are some study tips to balance the university workload alongside a job:

  • Study on the morning, work in the evening: After a shift at work, you’re going to be exhausted, so it’s less likely you’ll be able to study afterwards. Take up shifts in the afternoon or the evening, and get in some hours of studying in the morning before work.
  • Have work days and study days: Separate your working and studying per day. Work longer shifts on one day, so you can have a free day the next, which you can save for studying. This helps maintain energy and ensures you will not over exhaust yourself by doing too much on one day.
  • Study on campus: Make the most of your time on campus when you have seminars and lectures, and study at the library. This will help you be more productive on your days off work, when you have time to study.
  • Sync up your deadlines: Plan out your deadlines and/or exam seasons in advance. Work more when you have no deadlines, to save up on money, and take some time off from working when you have a busy part of the semester.


Amongst all the studying and working, you need to schedule in time for your personal life. Dedicating time and energy only to your work and studies will leave you exhausted and leave you at risk of developing mental health issues, or worsening existing ones.

How do I create a social life when I’m so busy?

Maybe you’re too busy to attend freshers week, or your work schedule means you can’t go on night outs, and you’re left feeling like you aren’t part of the ‘social hub’ at university. The best ways to make friends on a busy schedule are:

  • Societies: Societies are great ways to make friends because you share common interests. Societies also tend to run once a week, so they’re not a large time commitment when you’re juggling two schedules.
  • Course mates: Make friends with the people in your seminars or lectures. Like societies, course mates also share common interests with you. They also don’t demand a time commitment because it coincides with your university schedule.
  • Flatmates: If you live in shared accommodation, or halls, don’t forget about your flatmates. You spend a lot of time together in close quarters, so these are easy people to make friends with. This is a good way to get the social metre in quickly, because you can bond over breakfast, dinner, or a cup of tea after university, and doesn’t require you getting ready and going out, which can be exhausting after a work shift.

How do I maintain my social life?

If you’re in a time when you find yourself too busy to spend time with friends (maybe it’s deadline season, exam season, or you need to pick up extra shifts at work because rent is due), you can still find time to be sociable by:

  • Low-energy activities: After a busy work week, the last thing you want to do is a big social event, so opt for low-energy activities. This could include going for coffee, having a movie night, getting lunch together in between seminars, or even a morning walk to start the day.
  • Sociable studying: Instead of studying alone, study with friends. Book out a pod in the library, or meet up at a coffee shop. This makes studying less stressful, and also lets you spend time with friends without missing those deadlines.
  • Sociable working: Pay attention to who you work with, and see if there is anyone similar to your age, or that you share common interests with. Making friends with co-workers is a great way to help the social metre, because it makes working more enjoyable and is beneficial when you have a busy week.
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