Many international students rely on part-time work to help their finances while they study. It might go towards covering the costs of living abroad and all those travel adventures, or you may wish to earn money to send home to your family.
When you are thinking about student jobs you may be asking yourself lots of questions:
This will come down to your student visa and your language ability, rather than your course and skills. So the first thing to check is your study visa restrictions. If you are on a standard student visa to the UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, you can usually work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during the holidays.
In the USA you are restricted to on-campus work for up to 20 hours per week. This could mean working in the college administration office, cafeteria, shops, or within a faculty.
You may be studying a PhD, but you most probably won’t be able to get part-time work in your chosen field. That’s fine – no matter what you end up doing, it will add to your CV experience and understanding of the workplace culture abroad.
International students often find work in fields such as the following:
These are all jobs that offer flexible part-time shifts, so you can take on more work as time and coursework allows. Make sure you feel confident in your local language ability before applying for a job that requires you to talk a lot on the phone or face to face – such as a role in market research!
You won’t be able to start looking for a job until you’ve arrived and settled in to your new surroundings – most employers will want to meet you in person.
Start with your university’s job centre or employment office. As well as current listings of local jobs, they can help you write your CV and job application, prepare for an interview, and be ready for differences in work practices.
Some countries have government-run job centres as well, such as the UK’s Job Centre. Local newspapers are also a great source of convenient part-time work.
Irtaza Waseem Khan, from Pakistan, was able to find three very different jobs during his time in Belfast. First, as a stockroom helper with retail giant Next, he says “lifting heavy boxes was tough but it was the first time in my life I was earning and I was also learning patience, endurance and humbleness.” Then he became an Urdu teacher to kids in Belfast, and finally a call adviser at British Telecom.
Make sure you understand exactly what your terms of work are before you start. Most countries have a minimum wage that all employers must adhere to, even if you’re a casual part-time shift worker. In the UK this is currently £6.50 per hour if you are over the age of 21. In Australia it’s A$16.87 per hour and in the US it’s US$7.25.
You may be paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly, and usually as a direct deposit into your bank account. You will pay tax out of your salary, and you should register for a local tax number (called a National Insurance number in the UK, and a Tax File Number in Australia) as soon as you are offered a job. You may be eligible for a tax return when you leave after your studies.
Even though you might not be paid, it’s still worth taking on voluntary work for a non-profit organisation, or a short-term work experience placement. You will learn valuable work skills. Just check that it’s not a job that a local citizen would be paid to do – don’t take the risk of being exploited.
Lectures, tutorials, assignments, presentations, library study, language classes, exams. Add cooking, shopping, eating, social activities and laundry, and you might be wondering how you’ll find a spare 20 hours a week. Did we mention sleeping?
It’s important to think about your course workload before you take on part-time work. If you have a lot of contact hours and a heavy commitment to group work, you may not want to take on work that will cause you extra stress.
But some jobs can add an entirely new dimension to your student life. You’ll meet new friends, learn new skills and discover your own hidden talents. It could be the highlight of your study abroad experience.
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