What Is Work Study? Your Go-To Guide

Have you ever heard of a work study? Whether you’re a recent graduate, prospective student, or currently in school, then perhaps you’ve heard about this program that can help students work while they study in order to cut down on their tuition and college expenses. If you’re concerned that the cost of attending university will be too expensive, consider learning about work study and whether or not it’s right for you. And, if it is, how to go about applying.


What is Work Study?


Also known as Federal Work-Study (FWS), is a way for students to earn money in order to pay for education expenses. This is through the federal government and is an option for most students who qualify for federal aid based on their financial need.


Through FWS, both undergraduate and graduate students are able to seek out part-time jobs on or off-campus. Not only does this help to earn money to off-set expenses, it also gives students an opportunity to gain valuable work experience that they can add to their resume once they graduate and it comes time to pursue a full-time job.


What Should You Know About Federal Work-Study?


Before beginning work through a Federal Work Study program, you may have a lot of questions about what to expect, how much you can make, your work schedule, and so on. Though every work study situation may be unique, there are some general FAQs to help you understand more about how the program works.


Funds Are Not Applied Directly to Tuition


One question many students ask is whether or not your work study funds are applied directly to tuition, or if you get the money in your hand. Just like a regular job, you will get the money paid directly to you, and you decide where you want to put it.


For instance, you can decide whether you want to allocate to your tuition or you want to use it to help you with expenses. However, in some cases, students who are afraid they may not be that disciplined once they get paid, may request that the money is paid directly to tuition.


Work Study Jobs May Be Few and Far Between


Work study may seem like a no-brainer to any student who wants to earn some money while in school, and you’re right. It is! Many students who know about work study will want to get into the program as soon as they can, but this means that a lot of work-study jobs are limited. If this happens, you may still be able to find a job on campus that’s not through work study, but will still help you earn money in the same regard. Likewise, if work-study jobs are no longer available on campus, you may be able to secure a work-study job at a location off campus.


FWS is Not Guaranteed Each Year


Not only are work-study jobs limited, they are also not guaranteed from one year to the next. This is because each year when you fill out the FAFSA, your eligibility depends on your financial need and your family’s income. If these numbers change, you may or may not be eligible again. It also depends on how much funding your school has for this program.


Pay and Hours May Vary


Work-study jobs are typically part-time, but the pay you’re able to earn will vary based on many different factors. But, in general, you can work 10 to 20 hours a week, and your employer should work with you to find hours that revolve around your class schedule.



What Kind of Jobs are There?


Typically, students can get work-study placements related to their field of study so that they can have relevant experience in addition to earning money. But, having an idea of what types of jobs are out there — especially if those jobs are not in your field — can help tell you what to expect in terms of what kind of jobs are out there. The website answers a lot of these questions.


Are Work-Study Jobs On Campus or Off Campus?


Most of the time, work-study jobs are on campus, which is great for students who would not be able to get to an off-campus job due to lack of transportation. Yet, schools do sometimes have relationships with for-profit employers or non-profit organizations if you do want to work off campus for whatever reason.


Where to Find an Eligible Job


So, now that you know what type of job you can get, where do you find an eligible work study job? To start, you should contact your financial aid office, because they can tell you which work-study jobs are available and can potentially match you with one as well.


Being Awarded Federal Work-Study Does Not Guarantee You a Job


Just because you’re eligible for Federal Work Study doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get a job. Because jobs are limited and your hours need to work around your class schedule — and because some jobs are off campus — it may be hard to find a placement that fits your needs perfectly.


It’s also worth noting that in many cases, once you’re matched by the financial aid office, you’ll also have to apply and interview for the job yourself just as you would with any other job. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared as the job will not just be given to you.


How Will I Be Paid From Work Study?


With a work-study job, you will usually be paid hourly or salary like any other part-time job. However, it’s important to understand how you will physically be paid, where that money will go, and what you can do with it once you earn it.


How Much Can I Earn From it?


Every work-study job has to at least pay you the average federal minimum wage. But you can get paid more depending on the job, the level of funding, and your individual financial need. It also depends on how much you are eligible to earn based on what your FAFSA awards through work study. For example, you may be eligible to earn $5,000 a semester, so that will give you an idea of what you can earn.


How Will I Be Paid From it?


When you receive your earnings, it’s required that you be paid at least once a month. You can have this money sent directly to your bank account, or you can request that the school pay your tuition, room and board, and/or other education-related expenses. If you go with the first option, remember that it’s your responsibility to allocate your funds the way you intend them to be allocated.


Work-Study Earnings are Removed From Your FAFSA Calculation


When you apply for FAFSA, you’re doing so in order to get your financial aid. The good news is whatever earnings you get from your Federal Work Study does not count against how much you get approved for from your FAFSA the next time you fill out an application. On the FAFSA form, there will be a question that asks you about how much you’ve earned from work study, which you should answer honestly because it will not impact you.


How to Qualify for Work-Study Programs in College


If work study sounds like something you might be interested in, you must first see if you qualify and/or if your school offers it. In order to qualify for work-study programs in college, you must fill out the FAFSA form and show that you meet the general requirements for federal student aid, show your individual/family’s financial need, and be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as an undergraduate or graduate student.


Some additional requirements are:


  • Must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen
  • Must have a valid Social Security number (some exceptions apply)
  • Must have a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent




How to Apply

In order to apply for federal work study, you must follow a series of steps before you can see if you’ll be awarded eligibility for federal work-study:


  • First, fill out the FAFSA form. On the application, there is a box that asks “Are you interested in being considered for work-study?” Select “Yes.” – Link to FASFA form here.
  • In a few months, you’ll receive your financial aid letter which will tell you how much you’re eligible for through loans, grants, and work study.


Sometimes, even work study, grants, and loans are not enough to cover school expenses. At University of the People, not only are we tuition-free, but we offer scholarships to students who need help with the assessment fees or the application fee.




Although applying for federal work study may seem rather straightforward, it’s understandable if you still have a lot of questions about how it works. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about federal work study.


Do I Have to Accept Aid?


Note that just because you’ve selected that you’re interested in work study on your FAFSA form, does not mean you’re guaranteed a work-study award. Likewise, if you are eligible, you do not have to take it if you don’t want to. Remember, if you have any questions, you can call your school’s financial aid office.


Does it Affect Future Financial Aid?


No. Whatever you earn from work study one year does not affect how much you’ll get from financial aid the next year.


Can I Work as Many Hours as I Want?


Because work-study jobs are between 10 and 20 hours a week (part-time), you can usually work with your employer to understand their expectations they have for you alongside the financial aid office, and how you can manage your hours with your class schedule. Keep in mind, though, that you can only work up to a certain amount because you’re not allowed to earn more than FAFSA deems you’re eligible to earn under work study.


Sometimes, it may be worth considering working a regular part-time job that can pay you more than work study, depending on your financial goals. Just remember that a job like that may be harder to accommodate your class schedule.


Is Work-Study Right for You?


Federal Work Study is a great way for students to earn extra money while in school in order to offset some of the expenses that come with attending college. College is a very expensive venture, and every little bit can help.


Unfortunately, for many students, work study is still not nearly enough to cover tuition and the other costs associated with attending college. Therefore, it may be a good idea to explore other, more affordable options.


UoPeople is a tuition-free accredited university that’s entirely online. Not only can you earn your degree tuition-free, but you can do it on your time, and work another job without being limited to a certain number of hours.

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