Being an international student in the United States may be one of the most expensive experiences that you go through. With visa restrictions, the easiest option for many international students to find work and make money early in the college experience, is by working on campus. With flexible hours, limited regulation, and proximity, these types of jobs offer a great opportunity for international students, to not only enhance work ethic, but to also gain more financial liberties.
For international students, on campus employment is the least restricted form of employment by the regulations of the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services, or USCIS. Even if a student works the maximum number of hours offered per week, F-1 and J-1 visa holders should continue being full time students in order to maintain their status.
According to employment regulations, international students can work up to 20 hours a week while school is in session. When school is on break, these students can work full time in their on-campus position. Since F-1 visas do not allow for off campus employment during the first year of study, finding a job at your college or university is the best option for making money and gaining experience.
It is important to think of the work opportunities on campus when deciding which college to attend. A school’s career and international student service offices are the best resources to help navigate the employment process and are the first places international students should go.
When an international student from Mexico, Andrea Thompson Guiza was able to obtain employment at her school, the University of Portland in Oregon, the international student services office aided in getting her a Social Security number through the United States Social Security Administration. Obtaining an SSN is a requirement once receiving employment, therefore another positive reason as to why international students should take advantage of on-campus employment opportunities.
While a school’s international student service office can help with requirements like an SSN, a school’s Career Services Office can also be extremely helpful. While this office is usually geared towards assisting you with planning your career after you graduate, they may also have information on positions currently open on campus. While you are here, also ask them about tips to create a resumé for yourself.
A Resumé: a list of your qualifications, work experiences, and education credentials described and organized on a single sheet of paper to give to new job opportunities. As you join clubs on campus, or work at a new job, it is important to add them to your resume in preparation for finding a job after graduation.
Know the Rules
As a visa holder, it is your responsibility to understand the legality of your employment. Depending on the size of your school and how widespread its campus is, there may be a blurry line between what is considered “on campus” work versus “off campus” work. Don’t hesitate to discuss this with the international student services office. Remember, when it comes to your terms of employment, you have more to lose than your employer does.
The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement defines on campus employment as work that must be for the school or for a company that contracts with the school to serve students directly, for example a contracted food service company. An F-1 student cannot work in a position that is for a company physically located on a school property but not contracted for work with the school. An example of this would be a construction company working on the college campus.
Your Designated School Official, or DSO, is the best resource on campus for employment advice and verifying the legality of a position. This role on campus is authorized through your school and are the ones to assist you with obtaining a license, a social security number, altering your major, program, or degree level. If you are an F-1 student and wish to pursue curricular practical training (CPT) or optional practical training (OPT), then your DSO can help you understand your school’s policies for each. Click here for additional ways your school’s DSO acts as a resource for you.
The Top Places to Look for Work on a College Campus
1. Academic Department Offices
Most schools hire student aides in department offices to answer phones, direct questions, organize paperwork, and perform other administrative/office tasks. Stop by different departments to see if they are in need of additional office support that you can offer.
2. The Library
The same goes for a school’s library. These jobs are most likely ones to be Federal Work Study jobs, but even if you are not in the program, you may be hired as a student aide at the library’s resources such as the circulation desk, tutoring center, periodical desk, etc. These jobs are typically most ideal for students, as oftentimes you can work on your schoolwork while sitting at the desk.
3. Tutoring Center
Many schools have a tutoring center in their main library, however sometimes specific academic departments have their own tutoring center. For example, if you enjoy math, visit the Math Department to see if they are hiring math tutors, or if you can be a student aide in their department office.
4. The Fitness Center
Most schools have a gym/fitness center that is open to the student population. Stop by and ask to speak with a manager to see if there are any student positions, like working at the front desk.
5. Teaching or Research Assistant (TA or RA)
These types of positions are usually for students in their Junior or Senior year and are oftentimes offered to students by professors of a class that the student took. When a student does exceptionally well in a class, the professor may ask for them to act as a resource for future students of the class to guide study sessions or ask any questions they may have. The position is usually compensated through a stipend by the specific academic department of the class the student is a TA or RA for.
A Research Assistant (RA) is a position working even closer with a professor, on their specific work/research. It requires high academic performance, as well as for the student to take great initiative. It is probably the most competitive student position on a college campus and the work can be time-consuming. Depending on your university’s policy, a student working in this position, when meeting particular guidelines, may be granted in-state tuition. If you are sought out for this type of position, make sure you inquire about all its details.
6. Café or Food Spot on Campus
Some schools do not allow students to work within or near food on campus, however many do. If your school allows it, then ask to speak to a manager to potentially get a job taking orders at the coffee shop on your campus, or cleaning dishes in the main dining hall.
7. The Bookstore
All schools have some form of a bookstore, usually paired with the school’s apparel. Working with clothing as well as school supplies, and books creates the need for students to fill these retail positions on campus. Stop by, ask for a manager, and see if they are hiring.
Become More Involved on Campus
Not only is getting a job on campus a great idea in terms of making money and improving one’s work ethic, but it also allows students to become more involved members of their community on campus. Working on campus will allow you to meet new people, create a greater network of friends, and learn new things that you would not have been exposed to otherwise.
Coming from Mexico, Andrea Guiza, a junior at University of Portland, has had continually positive outcomes from her position on campus. When asked about it, she comments, “I feel lucky to go to a university where I can hold two jobs, make some money, grow my resume and learn how to be a better employee and leader.” These types of positive experiences can also be yours if you seek employment on your college campus. Click here to read more about her story, as well as other international students thriving in on-campus positions.
- What is a DSO?