The reality of college can be pretty different from the images portrayed in movies and television. Instead of co-eds who wake up late, party all the time, leisurely toss footballs around, and intermittently study for exams, many colleges are full of students with pressing schedules of not just classes and activities, but real jobs, too.
New research from Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, Michelle Melton, and Eric W. Price of Georgetown University, finds that this is the norm, with nearly 14 million Americans working while taking classes. They make up about 70 to 80 percent of college students, and nearly 10 percent of the overall labor force.
This isn’t a temporary phenomenon, the share of working students has been on the rise since the 1970s, and one-fifth of students work year-round. About one-quarter of those who work while attending school have both a full course-load and a full-time job. The arrangement can help defray tuition and living costs, obviously. And there’s value in it beyond the direct compensation: Such jobs can also be critical for developing important professional and social skills that make it easier to land a job after graduation. With many employers looking for students with already-developed skill sets, on-the-job training while in college can be the best way to ensure a gig later on. And with the rising cost of tuition and declining share of summer jobs going to young adults, working throughout the year can be a necessity in order to make college possible at all.