You might think the typical college student lives on ramen noodles and caffeine. You may picture someone scrimping and saving every penny to pay for tuition, books and housing. Many college students are working 30 hours-per-week or more. They work to pay for school or to support their families. Since college students work in a variety of occupations and industries, the average college student income varies. The majority of working college students earn between $7,500 and $42,000 per year.


The majority of working college students earn between $7,500 and $42,000 per year.

Job Description

College students need work that accommodates their class schedules. To find that flexibility, many students work in food and personal services. These positions may include food preparation, serving food, bartending or working as a cashier.

Many college students also work in office support and sales positions. Though these jobs may have less flexible schedules, they provide experience in an office setting, which may help students find employment after completing their degrees. These positions may include data entry, word processing, filing and customer service.

Education Requirements

College students typically work in jobs that require no more than a high school or GED diploma. As college students gain experience and earn credits, they may qualify for management positions within their field.

College students who have earned an associate degree may qualify for positions within their field of study. Many early childhood education positions, for example, require an associate degree for entry-level jobs.

Internships are positions specifically designed for college students or recent graduates. They may be paid or unpaid. Internships provide experience in the student’s field of study, which makes them more appealing to employers after graduation.


College students work in a wide variety of industries. Younger college students (ages 16-29) tend to work in sales, office support, food service and personal services. Older college students (over age 30) tend to work in sales, office support, managerial positions and in education.

Years of Experience

As college students complete coursework and gain work experience, they qualify for higher salaries. The median weekly income for someone with a high-school diploma, for example, is $692. Those who have completed some college, but with no degree, have a median weekly income of $756. The median income for someone with an associate degree is $819. Those with a bachelor’s degree have a median weekly income of $1,156. Median is the mid-point where half earn more, and half earn less.

Job Growth Trend

The availability of jobs for college students depends on the industry. Sales and office support positions are expected to grow by 14 million jobs by 2020. This is due to the creation of new jobs along with the retirement of baby boomers. The food service and personal service industries are also expected to add over 9 million jobs by 2020. Managerial and professional office positions are expected to grow as well, with over 8.2 million new jobs by 2020.

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