One in four students work full-time—and study full-time, too

Few gain experience in their field

The vast majority of college students work, but many of them are not gaining experience in their fields that employers expect upon graduation, according to a new study by the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.

According to the report, 70% to 80% of college students work while going to school. Around 40% of undergraduates work more than 30 hours per week—and about 25% of all students (including both undergraduates and graduates) both work and study full-time. As such, many students are working more than the 15 hours per week accepted as the threshold for harming academic success.

But the biggest problem, say the study's authors, is a mismatch between student jobs and employer expectations. Many employers want to hire entry-level employees who already have experience in the field. However, few students work in jobs related to their chosen career or academic field—so they graduate with no relevant work experience at all.

The report called for aligning work-study positions closer to students' fields of study and for better career education for students.

"When students pick a major or field of study, they need to be told up front what kind of career it likely leads to and how much money they are likely to make, especially if they have to pay back student loans," says Nicole Smith, chief economist at the center and study coauthor (DeRuy, National Journal, 10/28; Smith, Inside Higher Ed, 10/28).

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