Working part-time whilst studying

Hi, I’m Emily! I am a second year student at the University of Worcester studying Media and Culture. I have been working part-time in retail for just under three years, half of this time whilst studying at university:

For me, working whilst in college or university is second nature, but for some, the idea can be quite overwhelming. It’s understandable and you’re not alone, as less than 50% of students work part-time alongside their studies. You may be wondering how to balance a job, assignments, preparations for lectures, social life and seeing family/loved ones. This post hopes to give some tips on managing workload and stress, along with providing motivation to take on more responsibilities!

I started first year working two days a week, –roughly 12 hours- once on a weekday and once on the weekend. I found this manageable and continued to work 12 hours part-time through to the end of the first semester of my second year. These days (semester two of my second year) I only do a Saturday shift, working for around 6-8 hours a week to focus on my assignments and mandatory placements.

Plan Ahead

I use my calendar and to-do lists religiously to work out when my deadlines and lectures are and to break down my university work into weekly manageable chunks. Besides this, I note what shifts I am working a couple of weeks beforehand so I know which days I can focus on my assignments and which days I cannot. This also lets me know what days I can take on extra shifts if they arise. The university’s A3 semester planner available from the student’s union will come in very handy for this or a standard planner from your local store.


Keeping an up-to-date budgeting sheet can both stop you from overspending money from payday and also help you understand if you need a part-time job in the first place. I knew from the first month of first year a part-time job would be necessary to keep me afloat by documenting my student finance payments and spending habits onto an Excel spreadsheet. To this day, up keeping my budgeting spreadsheet allows me to see what months I may need to take on more shifts at work –most likely due to silly spending the month before- and where I can make cuts to my spending. Firstpoint on St. John’s campus have paper budgeting sheets for you to take away and fill out, or you can find digital spreadsheets here.

Know when enough is enough

Know your limits and keep an eye on your mood. Don’t push yourself too far. If you feel your workload is piling up substantially or you are feeling more stressed than usual -perhaps you have loads of assignments due in one week and have taken on two extra shifts- then don’t be scared to talk to your lecturers and your boss at work! They will be more than happy to listen to your struggles and you will hopefully get some great advice out of it too. Also, don’t forget about your friends and family members in your close network who can provide you with guidance and a breather from all the work.

Allow for ‘me’ time

This is extremely important for your well-being. Some people thrive off continuously working and never press the pause button, but for others, doing this may cause extreme burnout. Take a couple of hours out a day to wind down and do activities you enjoy, whether it is gaming, watching TV, drawing or listening to music. You may want to treat ‘me’ time as a reward for completing some work towards an upcoming assignment or as motivation/a mood lifter before starting work. Don’t see it as a waste. There is more information on the benefits of ‘me’ time here.

I hope these tips help with managing various aspects of your life and also aid your decision in taking up a part-time job when studying at university. I understand for some, part-time work isn’t possible due to the amount of study the course contains and continuous work placements. Focus on what’s important to you. Remember, if you do decide to take up a job, the majority of universities recommend 10-15 hours of part-time employment per week during term time.

Understand your limits and stay motivated!