Working part-time during a full-time MBA

Working part-time during a full-time MBA

Here are a few interesting reactions you may get from MBA students to the idea of working part-time during their programs:
There’s a lot of school-related work to be done. Where’s the time for a part-time job?
Listen, we have all our lives to work and earn, but we may never get another opportunity to join a full-time, on-campus program. So let’s enjoy the atmosphere while we can.
Yeah, I got into a top-15 b-school and got a reasonably-paying part-time job. But I didn’t exactly top my class!

The thought of working part-time during a full-time MBA sounds like a paradox to many, as a full-time program can be very demanding, with studies, class-related activities, and networking efforts. Some students feel that unless you can manage with just four hours of sleep, you shouldn’t even think of getting a part-time job.

What every MBA student should know about Working part-time


Many cons of working part-time as a student

Sleep is not the only thing students may miss out on. Opportunities to socialize and make meaningful connections may also be lost. At least some students who opt for part-time work feel their jobs are robbing them of at least a little bit of the b-school experience.

If the job demands some mental or emotional commitment, it may affect students’ academic preparations even more. They may end up completing their school projects only at the eleventh hour, often thinking about giving up and going to sleep while still sitting at their desks.

A few former MBA students advise new students to shelve the idea of working part-time, especially during the first year, when the academic burden can be particularly heavy. Much of the experience is derived outside the class, at events and from activities, and students need all the physical and mental energy they are able to muster. They just can’t afford to sacrifice their academic and future career opportunities for a few extra bucks to fund tuition.

Former b-school students say that students are likely going to make enough money from a career in the future to be able to easily repay their debts. In the long term, the MBA degree and the relationships and the networking built at school are what matter.

However, the money question is just too big for a whole category of students and continuously haunts them. Wages from a part-time job are a life-saver for full-time students struggling to pay tuition and meet expenses. Remember that most of the students have left their jobs to attend b-school and are without an income.

Types of part-time jobs for students and the law

There are two kinds of jobs that a full-time MBA student can take up: on-campus jobs and off-campus jobs.

On-campus jobs

In the US, students on F1 visas can work a maximum of 20 hours a week on campus. During a summer term, which is an optional term, and during vacation and holidays, international students can work full-time for 40 hours if they are not enrolled for classes.

Jobs might be library or laboratory assistant, with students helping professors or librarians with small tasks such as taking care of computers and laboratory equipment. Some schools offer teaching assistantships to second-year students, but there is tough competition to get them.

The wages for part-time student jobs depend on the particular state’s minimum wages and can be around $7-12 an hour.

Universities offer tuition waiver for some types of on-campus jobs. Typically, teaching assistantships, graduate assistantships, and research assistantships fetch students fee waivers. Seniors, career centers, and student organizations are good sources of information on on-campus jobs.

Off-campus jobs

As for work outside campus, there are four categories of off-campus employment authorization under the US law:

Off-campus part-time jobs for students pay more — about $10 an hour — but only certain categories of students on F1 visas are allowed to take them up. Only those students on an F1 visa who have been given OPT or CPT authorization can accept off-campus jobs. The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) enforces the rules based on the decisions of international students’ offices of universities.

Under OPT and CPT (see this article to know the difference between OPT and CPT), students can take up off-campus jobs nine months after entering the US. Students of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) courses can get an extended period for off-campus work.

Doing off-campus jobs without the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS is illegal and punishable with deportment. Still, some students do try to dodge the law and opt for jobs such as gas station attendant, cashier at a mall, receptionist at a hotel, or bartender to earn some extra cash.

Students can legally opt for off-campus work if they are certified by their schools that they are facing severe financial crisis. Students for whom practical training outside the campus is a mandatory condition for graduation and those sponsored by international organizations such as the Red Cross, World Health Organization, and the Asian Development Bank can accept off-campus jobs.

Students, if they are keen on off-campus jobs and are legally eligible, need to highlight their personal qualities or work experience that would help them serve customers directly. On their CV, they should stress their academic and non-academic achievements and community service such as volunteering for the Red Cross or blood donation camps.

Some students are able to get part-time offers from venture capitalists, start-ups, and real estate agencies. A small percentage of these students do well enough to impress their employers, and manage to line up full-time job offers after their graduation or at least summer internships.

A good idea is to offer tutor services privately or through a reputed company. Not only do tutors earn decent wages, the schedules are likely to be flexible and the weekly number of hours may be low.

Working part-time in other countries

UK, Australia, and Canada are among the few countries that allow full-time students to work off-campus. In the UK and Australia, they are allowed to work 20 hours a week during semesters and full-time during vacations.

Students working in part-time jobs earn £4-5 an hour in the UK and about $6 in Australia.

In Canada, students are allowed to work part-time during school and full-time during breaks, but a student work permit may be required in some cases.

Part-time work vs internship: What’s the difference

Students wonder whether part-time work is the same as internship. Is internship just unpaid part-time work, more or less?

An internship is different from other types of employment mainly in the fact that it includes a learning objective. An intern acquires new knowledge or skills related to a particular industry during the internship. This type of experiential learning happens outside the classroom, in real-world situations, and not from a lecture.

An internship can be either paid or unpaid, for credit or not for credit. It can be a one-time engagement (for example, a summer internship) or a repeated experience (such as a summer internship every year during a two-year degree course).

Read these related posts on internships:
Summer internship salaries at the top MBA programs
How to convert summer internships into fulltime jobs
How unpaid internships can harm career prospects of international students.

Risky jobs

Students who work part-time have the obvious advantage of being able to make some much-needed extra cash. They can also improve their employability. However, they are also likely to cause damage to their studies and on-campus activities. This is especially true in the case of students taking up jobs in areas new to them. Any part-time job that demands more than a few hours is likely to distract students significantly from their MBA program.

Besides, students should remember that they have come to another country for studies and not to earn. In case there is no pressing need to earn a few bucks more, students are well-advised to keep well away from illegal off-campus jobs, which might prove risky from the point of view of immigration laws.

Always best to check with our university / business schools advisors before starting a part-time job as an international student. They’d be able to highlight issues and aspects that a short article like this can’t.
Image credit: Oklahoma State University

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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

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