There are a number of financial aid programs designed to help students finance their college educations, including grants, student loans and scholarships. Much of this financial aid, however, goes directly to the institution to cover the cost of tuition, books and boarding. Some students who seek part-time employment while in school can also apply for a work-study job to help make ends meet. A work-study job is generally funded through either federal or institutional programs, and is considered part of a student's overall financial aid package.
A work-study job is usually assigned through an institutional department connected with financial aid. Various job openings in different areas of the campus are matched with students eligible for the program. A student may receive a work-study job based on his or her career interests, such as a culinary arts major working for the campus cafeteria, but not all work assignments are so career-oriented. Some work-study assignments may be routine clerical or labor jobs, such as working for the campus bookstore or for the school's janitorial services.
Because the employee is also a student, the hours of a work-study job may be very flexible. A student worker may have to work a certain number of hours per week to remain eligible for the program, but he or she may have the flexibility to determine which days and times to work. Others in a work-study program may not be able to choose their schedules, but they are also protected from working more than 20-25 hours per week. Many students on work-study programs do not work for the school directly, since funding is provided through federal and private sources.
Not all work-study jobs are campus-based or entry-level "make work" positions, however. Some colleges offer their students an opportunity to take on a work-study job with real world responsibilities off-campus. Pre-law students may work for local legal aid centers, for example, or medical students may work in a free clinic. Students with specific interests may be matched up with local employers through a privately-funded work-study job bank or institutional program.