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How to Find Jobs & Internships in College

Last updated July 2, 2024

Looking for jobs or internships in college? Many college students work at least part-time to help pay for tuition, class fees, and general living expenses like groceries and rent. Whether you have previous work experience or are looking for a job or internship for the first time, there are plenty of opportunities out there! We’ll break down everything you need to know about jobs and internships in college– where to find them, what you need to apply, and how to prepare for and succeed in your interviews!

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Benefits of having a job or internship

Having a job or internship in college can be very beneficial! These experiences can help you build and grow your professional network, which can potentially open doors to job and mentorship opportunities in the future. Additionally, depending on the type of job or internship you take, you can get a feel for career paths that interest you. For example, if you’re studying journalism and get an internship at a local newspaper, you can gain real-world exposure and hands-on experience in being a journalist, applying concepts you’re learning in your classes to your real life. This can deepen your understanding of what you’re learning and help you decide if this career path is a right fit for you. Lastly, balancing work with academics can teach you valuable life and career skills, like time management and work-life balance.

Before you apply

Being aware of your options and knowing what you’re looking for can help you narrow down your search.

Job or internship?

Unsure of whether to look for a job or internship? Here are some key differences between the two.

Pay: Jobs are paid opportunities. When you’re a part-time employee at a job, you’re typically paid an hourly wage. Internships, on the other hand, may or may not be paid. While many companies offer paid internships, you might come across some that don't. An unpaid internship means that you would be doing free work for a company in return for job experience, networking, and mentoring.

Schedule: A part-time job can last indefinitely; once you accept the job, you can most likely work there as long as you want. An internship, on the other hand, can have a set time frame– like a quarter, semester, or a year. There may be potential for renewal or extension, meaning you could stay longer than you'd originally planned, but it’s usually up to your company to decide.

Remember: School takes priority! Be sure that no matter what job or internship you accept, you are still able to focus on and succeed in your academics.

Do you qualify for work-study? 

Work-study is a federal program that offers part-time jobs to college students with financial need. Those who qualify for work-study typically work on-campus jobs, such as in the library or the student union building. Eligibility for work-study is determined by completing or renewing the FAFSA. If your college participates in the work-study program, and you meet their eligibility requirements, you’ll see “Work-Study” listed on your financial aid award letter.

Note: Because work-study eligibility is determined by completing the FAFSA, undocumented students unfortunately do not qualify.

How will you get there?

This is an important consideration when searching for jobs! If you find an off-campus job or internship, how will you get there? Do you have a car or reliable public transportation to get there? Even if you find a great opportunity that aligns with your interests, if it’s not realistic to get there on a consistent basis, you may want to consider looking somewhere else.

Do you want the job or internship to align with your future career?

Do you want to focus only on jobs or internships that align with your future career, or are you focusing more on just finding a paid opportunity? Some college students work jobs that typically don’t relate to their desired career path, while others take internships to try out career paths they’re interested in before graduating. Both are totally great! The most important thing about taking a job or internship in college is that it’s providing you with valuable experience, is easy to get to, and works with your schedule. 

What you need to apply

Now that you’ve decided what kind of opportunity you want to apply for, it’s time to get your application materials together.

Resume

Most jobs or internships you’re applying for will require you to submit a resume. Your resume is your first impression on employers, so it’s essential to make sure it’s well-written, well-organized, and has relevant information about your work and extracurricular experience.

Creating your first resume? Use one of our free resume templates to begin! Finished your resume and want a second opinion? Send it to us for a free review! We’ll have it back to you within a week with personalized feedback.

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Cover letter

While not every position you apply for will require you to submit a cover letter, doing so anyways can help you stand out from other candidates. A cover letter is literally a letter– written in a few paragraphs– and is another important introduction to employers. It should show your interest in the position and highlight the skills that make you the best candidate for it.

It’s important to note that you will usually need to write a different cover letter for each position you’re applying for. For example, a cover letter for a barista job most likely won’t highlight the same skills that one for a lab assistant would. We recommend drafting a cover letter that highlights your skills and abilities, and tailoring it to each position you apply for.

References

Professional references are people in your network who can speak positively about your skills, experience, and qualifications. When applying for either a job or internship, you most likely will be asked to list references on your application. When you make your way further through the interview process, they will call or email your references to learn more about you. If you list someone as your reference, be sure to give them a head’s up– it’s the respectful thing to do and lets them know to be prepared to be contacted.

Where to look 

Your college’s career center

At your college’s career center, you can find jobs to work as a student, learn about internship opportunities, and access several free job resources, such as resume and cover letter support, interview preparation, and more. We recommend starting your search here! Your career center may even have information about great opportunities that might not be listed online, or that prioritize applications from students at your school.

Your college's job portal or board

Most colleges have an online portal for students to find jobs and internships, such as Handshake. When visiting your school’s career center, ask how to create an account for the portal, and begin searching for opportunities that interest you. 

Use your network

Your network can consist of anyone you’ve worked with in any capacity– bosses, coworkers, members of clubs you’ve been in, teammates, coaches, or educators. When you’re ready to start your job or internship search, be sure to check in with your network first. You never know what opportunities are out there!

How to prepare for interviews

You’ve sent in your applications and heard back from employers! Here’s how to rock your interviews– both in-person and virtually.

Have any questions along the way about finding and applying for jobs and internships in college? Text #Jobs to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

Find a Job

Internships

How to Make The Most of Your Internship
Where to Find Internships

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