Let me be clear from the start, I have student loan debt. But I would have even more student loan debt if I hadn’t worked multiple jobs in college. Freshman year, I had no savings and no parental funds. My financial aid was limited because of where my parent’s income sat. I had to get creative about making money, and this meant taking on 4 jobs while in school.
My goal was to find jobs that would work with my school schedule and paid a little more than minimum wage. I was fortunate enough to have my Aunt close to campus. She let me live with her and always had food on the table for me. I still needed to pay for books, supplies, and the portion of tuition not covered by scholarships and student loans.
1. Vet Tech/Receptionist
I started working at a veterinary clinic in my last year of high-school. I began as a cleaner, which was a less than glamorous job of cleaning up blood, guts, and lots of poop. I quickly wriggled my way into other positions.
I asked a vet tech if they would train me and approved it with the practice owner and lead veterinarian. They agreed and I learned how to draw blood, assist in surgery, medicate animals and give vaccines. This wasn’t the only position I asked to be trained for. Since my college class schedule would soon be a big factor in the number of hours I could take on, I tried to learn every job possible. I was trained for the front desk as a receptionist, including closing shifts. I was also trained to be a room technician. This meant I escorted patients and their owners to a room and did the initial stats.
I was paid well over the minimum wage after a few months, and I had made myself a flexible person to schedule. It’s common for vet clinics to have staff who wear more than one hat. If you have a passion for animals and are willing to start by cleaning up the worst of it, then it could be a great job to have in college.
2. After School Art Teacher
I was pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Photography and a minor in Art History. I knew I would go on to grad school and pursue teaching. This meant I needed to have some kind of classroom experience to get into some of the better programs. Not to mention, I needed to figure out if I was any good at teaching the thing I loved most.
I applied for an after-school art teacher position that paid $22 an hour. The lead teacher asked me to bring a portfolio of work when I came for the interview. I packed up my giant drawing and painting bag from college classes and got the job on the spot. The classes were held at a Chinese and Indian immersion school that offered all kinds of after school enrichment. It was the perfect job for a college student. I taught 3 nights a week from 4pm-9pm. If my semester classes changed, the lead teacher allowed me to switch the nights I taught. After school programs are always looking to hire people who have expertise to share with students, making it a great college gig.
3. Studio and Lighting Manager
My concentration in photography put me in contact with many local artists and that is how I landed my 3rd job. I met a photographer who was looking for help on a Saturday afternoon. She said her assistant had come down with a cold and she needed someone in the studio to help position lights and change the scene. I jumped at the opportunity to get into a much larger studio.
We really hit it off, and she asked me to continue helping with studio work. It wasn’t the most consistent work. I was only called when she had a client or a major shoot booked. This was fine with me since I was already juggling several jobs and school. The job paid $10 an hour and I always met new people which expanded my network.
4. Curatorial Assistant
My 4th job was classified as Work-Study. When I first was enrolled at school, I didn’t qualify. After the first year, I knew I needed to do something to bring in more money because tuition had increased. I went to financial aid and asked. It was as simple as that.
First, I explained my situation. I told them I had no family help and had not lived at home for some time. I also explained the multiple jobs I had and exactly how short I was going to be for tuition. The school was small and private, so they let me meet with the head of financial aid that day and we negotiated my financial aid package, which included adding in Work-Study.
Related: I went to college for free at 15. Your kid can too
I was tasked with being a curatorial assistant for the art gallery on campus. The work was fun and utilized the skills I was building. I made systems for organizing inventory and created various graphics and handouts for shows. They soon had more hours open up and I ended up being in charge of closing up the Art Department building. If you’re not given a work-study opportunity you may need to apply or go in and ask directly. It can be a great way to beef up your resume, gain helpful professional contacts and get paid while in college.
These jobs were not easy but paid off (literally)
Every job I took was more experience under my belt. It also allowed me to make ties in the Pacific Northwest with more than one industry. Taking on these jobs during college was a smart decision and helped pay for my tuition, supplies and living expenses. If you are strategic, you can find some jobs that are out of the norm and pay more than minimum wage to fund your education.