How to Find Jobs & Internships in College
Last updated October 24, 2023
Looking for a job or internship while 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 for you! In this piece, we’ll break down everything you need to know about jobs and internships in college– how to find them, what you need to apply for them, and how to prepare for and succeed in your job interviews!
Benefits of a job or internship
Having a job or internship while in college can come with many benefits. First, it provides you with real-world exposure and hands-on experience of the concepts you’re learning in your classes. Watching how high-level concepts and theories are applied to everyday work can deepen your understanding and prepare you for your future career. Working a job or internship is also a great opportunity to expand your network, which can open doors to potential job opportunities and references in the future. By interacting with professionals in your field of interest, you have a chance to really explore and determine if a specific career path is right for you. Lastly, balancing your work with academics can teach you valuable life skills, like time management and work-life balance.
Before you apply
Knowing what kind of opportunity you’re looking for, or at least being informed about the different options out there, can help you narrow down your search.
Do you want a 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 or organization in return for job experience, networking, and mentoring.
Schedule: A part-time job can last indefinitely; meaning, 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 intended, but it’s usually up to the company or organization to decide the time frame.
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 want a work-study job?
Work-study is a federal program that offers part-time job opportunities to college students with financial need. Those who qualify for work-study typically work on-campus jobs, such as in the library or student union building. The money you make in these jobs is paid directly to you. To qualify for work-study, be sure to select “Yes” on question 31 of the FAFSA when you’re filling it out or renewing it.
Note: Because work-study eligibility is determined by filing the FAFSA, undocumented students unfortunately do not qualify.
How will you get there?
This is an important consideration when searching for jobs! Do you want a remote job? 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 you 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 should consider looking elsewhere.
Do you want the job or internship to align with your future career?
Do you want to focus only on jobs 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 in college is that it pays you, it’s easy to get to, and it 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.
No matter what stage you’re at in your career, your resume matters! Most jobs or internships you’re applying for will require you to submit a resume. Your resume is your first impression on employers when applying for jobs, so it’s essential to make sure it’s well-written, well-organized, and has relevant information about your work experience.
Don’t worry if you have no previous work experience when creating your resume! You can add any previous volunteer or extracurricular activities to it instead. This still helps employers learn a bit more about you and your commitment to trying new things.
Creating your first resume? Use one of our free resume templates to begin! Finished your resume and need a second pair of eyes on it? Send it to us for a free review! We’ll have it back to you within a week with personalized feedback.
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 first introduction to an employer. It should show your interest in the position and highlight the skills that make you the best candidate for the job.
It’s important to note that you will usually need to write a different cover letter for each job 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 sales associate would. We recommend drafting a basic cover letter that highlights your basic skills and abilities, and tweaking it for each job you apply to.
Letters of recommendation & references
Some employers may require you to submit letters of recommendation or references when applying to a job or internship. Both, while slightly different, are a way for employers to hear from other people in your life about your work ethic, skills, and experience.
Letters of recommendation are typically written by former educators, bosses, managers, or any other people that you knew in a professional capacity (usually called your network). They give these letters to you once they’ve completed them, which you can save and use when applying to jobs. If some time has passed between when you received a letter of recommendation and when you plan to use it, be sure to check in with the person who wrote it and make sure you still have their permission to use it.
Professional references are people who can speak positively about your work skills and qualifications. Most employers will ask you to list references on your job application. If you’re selected for an interview, they will call or email your references before or after 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 it lets them know to look out for a call or email from the company you applied to. This will better help them prepare to talk about how awesome you are!
Where to look for opportunities
Your college’s career center
At your college’s career center, you can find jobs to work as a student, learn about internship opportunities, prepare for the beginning of your professional career, and get access to several resources to help you along the way– like resumes, cover letters, and interview help. We recommend starting your search for jobs here! They might have information about great opportunities that may not be listed online or that prioritize applications from students at your school.
Your college's job portal or job board
Most colleges have a formal online portal for students to find job and internship opportunities, like 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. The people or companies posting to these boards know the main audience is students, and are open to hiring students who don't have as much job experience as the average job seeker.
Use your network!
Your network is essentially anyone you know - friends, former coworkers, roommates, former educators. Your network can help you find job and internship opportunities - both by word of mouth and Linkedin! Check LinkedIn frequently to make new connections, or send a text or email to those in your network to ask about any job openings they know about. This is definitely a bold move– but so worth it if you learn about your next job opportunity!
Don’t think you have a professional network yet? Learn here how to build one!
Looking for an internship?
Specifically looking for an internship? We made a list of the best places to find your next internship!
Use our JobLaunch tool!
Want even more places to look? Use our FREE JobLaunch Tool To begin your search, all you need to do is enter your zip code. You can narrow your search based on the kind of opportunity you're looking for.
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.
- Become familiar with the 5 most common job interview questions
- Learn how to look and feel great at your interview
- Read about our top phone and video interview tips
- See the top questions to ask employers in job interviews
- Learn why asking for feedback from an employer after an interview matters
Have any questions along the way about finding and applying for jobs and internships in college? Text us! Send #Jobs to 33-55-77 to speak with one of our job advisors - they’ll help you out and answer any of your questions.
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