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Eligibility, Application & FAQs: What Is Work Study?


Post-secondary education is pricey, and unfortunately, it just gets more and more expensive every year. According to reports on college pricing trends as tracked by the College Board, in 2021-22, the average tuition and fees for full-time undergraduate students are:

  • $10,740 for public four-year in-state schools
  • $27,560 for public four-year out-of-state schools
  • $3,800 for public two-year in-district schools
  • $38,070 for private nonprofit four-year schools

So, as college prices continue to soar, many students, especially ones who haven’t earned any lucrative scholarship, have to rely on outside help to manage their bills, such as the federal work-study program. But, what is work study? What are its benefits? Would you be eligible for it? And if so, how do you apply? Read on to find out these answers and more.

What Is Federal Work Study?

Federal Work-Study (FWS) is a need-based program that provides part-time employment opportunities for students to aid with the costs of post-secondary education. The federal funds cover 75-90% of the wages through this program, whereas the institutions subsidize the rest.

The program was first introduced in 1964 as part of the Economic Opportunity Act as one of the earliest arrangements of federal financial aid for students. Its success continued for years, and now over half a million students across the United States benefit from it.

Who is eligible for the federal work study program?

An American student currently pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree and is in financial need can be eligible for the program. This eligibility is demonstrated through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. In the record, students must prove financial need through information about them and their family’s finances, including tax returns, records of untaxed income, checking and savings account balances, investments, and any other assets.

Application for the federal work-study program

Now that we have answered the question ‘What is a work study?’ and gone through the eligibility let’s see how you would apply for the program. Once you complete the Financial Aid Application, you should follow your university or college’s work-study application program and select your school in the FAFSA form. So, as mentioned, to qualify for the work-study program, you must first fill out the FAFSA form, and there you can point your interest in the work-study program.

Keep in mind that generally, schools that participate in this program disperse their funds on a first-come, first-serve basis. So, it is wise to gather the information you need and fill out your FAFSA application as soon as possible, preferably sometime close to October 1st of the year before attending college.

Benefits Of Work Study

To understand the answer to the question ‘What is work study in college?’, you must understand its advantages and how you can benefit from such a program. From the funds you earn to the people you meet along the way, let’s see how the program can help make college life easier for you.

Financial assistance

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Through the work-study program, you will be directly given money which you can spend however you want. The financial assistance provided through this program does not limit you to spending your earnings on school-related issues. Although it is recommended that you prioritize your education, you can spend your earnings on whatever area of life you need assistance with.


From fellow students to your teachers or others from the school’s staff— you will meet people who can help you in your academic and professional life. College is a great place to start networking, and working in one of the jobs we mentioned will provide you with excellent opportunities to meet and talk to people.

Building up your resume with experience


With every passing day in college, you are getting closer to earning that degree and beginning your professional life. Regardless of your career aspirations, building your resume with job experience can only help you in the long run. Working while pursuing a degree is already an accomplishment, but listing the many skills you develop on that job is what will set you apart from the other candidates.

Flexible schedules

The whole point of the federal work-study program is to help students, which is why all the jobs are part-time. Having a flexible working schedule will provide you with enough time to work so you earn money and juggle your studies simultaneously.

Personal development

Lastly, putting yourself out there and starting to work while in college will help you grow. You will learn how to fight for yourself and your education, make new friends, and have life experiences that might last even once college is over.

Available Jobs On And Off Campus

Once you are approved for work-study, you will have to search and apply for positions on campus or outside, just like any regular job. Most universities will provide a list of the work-study job positions available for on-campus employment, and it could be anything from tutoring to working in the school library. On the other hand, you will have to do research on your own about jobs available outside of campus. So, to make it easier for you, we will still go through some of the most recurring roles of work-study students.

Community service jobs

As a community service worker, you will most likely work for a government agency, group home, school board, or other organization. Your role and responsibilities as a community service worker will relate to providing your clients with different community services they need and dealing with any personal or social problem they usually encounter.

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Reading and math tutor

If you are good at math and even better at explaining things to other people, consider pursuing a work-study position as a reading and math tutor. It will be easy to qualify for such a position since you are a student, constantly immersed in lectures and learning across various academic fields. Who you work with can depend on your preference and current level of education; it can be anyone from elementary students to high schoolers and even other college students.

Research assistant

Many universities and colleges offer students work-study positions as research assistants in the school’s laboratories or other research settings. This work-study opportunity can be extra beneficial for you if the research projects you help with are related to your major or are in an area you are interested to know more about.

Work on campus as bar attendant or waiter


Working as a bar attendant or waiter on campus is an excellent position while still in college. Not only will you meet plenty of other students, but you can save even more money as workers tend to get discounts on food and drinks from the cafe, plus you will not have to commute far since your workplace will most likely be a few minutes walk away from your school.

Work on campus as students’ guide

As a student guide, you will help with administrative and technical tasks assigned by a supervisor. Although it depends on what area you are employed in and assigned duties, you will generally help guide and mentor other students. Through this position, you will get the chance to develop your communication and organizational skills and get to know some of the school’s staff.


If you have prior experience or are good with children and taking care of them, working as a babysitter will be an easy job for you. Although you have to be very involved with your role, you will benefit significantly from the multitasking and organizational skills you develop when taking care of children.


You might have an answer to the question ‘What is federal work study?’ but what other questions do you have? Let’s quickly go through some of the most frequently asked questions about this topic and learn more about potential earnings as a work-study employee.

How much can students earn in a work-study program?

As federal work-study team members, students receive a standard federal minimum wage of $ 7.25 per hour. However, they may earn more depending on their role and employer.

How are students paid in a work-study program?

Work-study programs do not apply student earnings directly to their school tuition or fees. Instead, the students are paid through paychecks, like any regular job.

Can students work as many hours as they want?

To put it simply, no. You will work part-time, and the exact number of hours are allocated in compliance with your class schedule.

The Federal Work-Study program is an excellent opportunity for students struggling to cope with the high fees of college. It is always wise to make use of the resources offered to you. So, if you are in need of financial assistance and are eligible for the program, apply now!

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