Grad school awaits, and with it, the opportunity to level up your career as you achieve your most ambitious academic goals. If, however, you intend to work while you strive for your next big degree, remember, you don't need to take the first job that comes along. Positions for graduate students often diverge considerably from stereotypical undergrad gigs — and that's great news.
Don't settle for just any position that comes along. Instead, determine as early as possible how working will move you towards your long-term goals. We've helped by compiling a guide to the best jobs for graduate students.
Pros and Cons of Working While in School
Graduate school is rigorous in and of itself, but employment adds to the challenge. As such, many students are reluctant to work on a full-time basis. From a practical perspective, the long hours at work are sometimes too much to juggle with a jam-packed course load.
Thankfully, a middle ground is available: part-time jobs for master’s students. These positions tend to require far less commitment than full-time work, but they still provide many perks in terms of pay, experience, and networking.
To clarify the value of holding part-time jobs while in grad school, we've highlighted a few key pros and cons to bear in mind:
- Time management. Grad school represents a huge commitment regardless of your work schedule, but exceptional time management is crucial to success for those who juggle both academia and full-time employment. The jam-packed schedule of the working student can be stressful, but it also provides an excellent opportunity to prepare for the rigors of balancing high-level work with family life and other obligations. By the time you complete your graduate program, you will know how to make the most of every minute.
- Develop important skills. In addition to promoting effective time management, flexible side hustles for grad students aid in the development of other soft skills. Empathy and emotional intelligence, for example, can quickly be gained while working as a resident advisor or tutor. Freelance writing is a great option for boosting written communication, while working as a teaching assistant can improve verbal skills. Employers increasingly cite these and other soft skills as prized qualities, so it's important to take advantage of every opportunity to develop these abilities.
- Hands-on application of graduate-level knowledge. The lessons learned in your graduate classroom or readings can be applied in all walks of life, but they're often most readily exercised in targeted positions such as teaching or tutoring. The more you're able to apply new concepts, the better you'll understand them and the more impact this knowledge will have later.
- Impressive resume. Some employers find resume gaps suspect — even when these occur while enrolled in graduate school. Typically, employers prefer candidates who possess high-level credentials and impressive experience. Flexible side hustles for grad students make it possible to achieve both. The result? An exceptional resume that instantly stands out.
- Networking. There's a grain of truth to the cliché "it's not what you know, but who you know." Yes, targeted skills are vital to success in high-level careers, but their development is pointless if you lack a thriving professional network. Thankfully, both aspirations are possible when you work your way through grad school. Through your classes, you'll build close relationships with instructors and fellow students, both of whom can steer you in the right direction as you seek full-time work after graduation. Meanwhile, you can take advantage of further networking opportunities through your job. Your supervisor, coworkers, or clients could all play a role not only in your current work, but also your future career.
Good Jobs to Have While Attending Graduate School
Some jobs for graduate students are far more conducive to a busy academic schedule than others. The best jobs provide limited, flexible hours that enable you to dedicate enough time to your coursework while also equipping you with the experience and strong professional connections you need. All this may seem like a big ask, but it's possible if you take on the following jobs while in grad school:
1. Gain Work Experience in Your Field of Study
The best jobs for graduate students serve as more than a source of income; they also build on knowledge gained from upper-level coursework. Hence, the appeal of working as a research assistant. In this role, you'll dive deep into today's most compelling and impactful studies.
Your tasks as a research assistant will depend on the scope of the study, but the following responsibilities are common:
- Recruit subjects for studies and handle screening logs
- Track communication with study participants
- Design and optimize survey tools
- Collect and organize data
- Enter data into relevant computer systems
- Synthesize findings and help present study results
If your main goals for working during grad school relate to your academic career, a research-oriented job should not be passed up. Few employment opportunities are better-suited to passionate students with a clear desire to make a difference.
2. Teaching in Your Subject Area
As a graduate student, you may be qualified to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) for many courses in your niche of choice. When possible, this should be your go-to solution for earning an income as a graduate student. Not only will you be highly qualified, but you will also work closely with experienced instructors and could gain exposure to valuable opportunities within your department.
The scope of your work as a TA will depend largely on the type of course and the size of the class. Some instructors grant TAs greater autonomy and oversight than others. In general, however, this quintessential grad school job involves the following responsibilities:
- Take attendance and maintain class records
- Facilitate small group discussions or activities
- Assist individual students during office hours
- Distribute reading materials and other class resources
- Grade exams or papers
- Maintain the course website
If you love helping fellow students and have a knack for certain college courses, you don't necessarily have to work as a TA to have a discernible impact. When TA opportunities are scarce or you're simply not able to commit, an excellent alternative exists: tutoring.
In this important role, you'll provide much-needed support and motivation to those who are struggling with challenging coursework. This is a great opportunity for anyone who prefers to work with students in a one-on-one capacity.
Tutoring can also serve as an excellent refresher as you brush up on essential skills. This is your chance to cement your knowledge from important classes you've previously taken, rather than allowing your newfound understanding to escape.
Many graduate students prefer to tutor at the college they currently attend. This is often one of the most convenient solutions, as your tutoring home base could be mere steps from your in-person classes. Like graduate coursework, however, tutoring opportunities are also available online. These jobs are available through colleges and also through online tutoring services aimed at students in high school, college, and beyond.
4. Freelance Writing
If you're on the hunt for an incredibly flexible option that allows you to focus exclusively on projects you find compelling, you're in luck. Freelance writing provides an enjoyable and potentially lucrative means of earning an income without getting in the way of your graduate-level coursework.
Freelance opportunities abound, with most available on a completely remote basis. You can take as much or as little work as you want. And with a little effort, you just might score clients in your field of choice. In some cases, freelance writers who impress their clients with exclusive projects are later able to turn these clients into full-time employers.
Writing is just one of several excellent options for earning an income on a freelance basis. While this tends to be the most accessible option for graduate students (and also the best for developing relevant skills), you may also be able to earn an impressive income with these alternate freelance pursuits:
- Graphic design
5. Become a Resident Assistant or Advisor
The on-campus lifestyle is a valuable part of the college experience, but it wouldn't be nearly as rich or rewarding without resident assistants or advisors (RAs) leading the way.
If you live on campus, this side hustle could help you save money on housing while also producing a significant stipend. The satisfaction that accompanies this gig is also worth considering, as you'll enjoy the opportunity to provide much-needed support for fellow students.
No two days as a resident assistant look exactly alike, but in all likelihood, your work will encompass the following:
- Help new students feel welcome as they adjust to campus life
- Plan ongoing activities for residence hall students
- Inform students of—and, when needed, enforce—university regulations
- Moderate disagreements between residents
- Make referrals when concerns go beyond the scope of the RA position
While your work as a resident assistant will help you develop a variety of important interpersonal and leadership skills, this position is especially relevant to anyone hoping to one day work in higher education. Few part-time jobs for master’s students provide as in-depth a look at the realities of campus life and the full spectrum of the modern college experience.
Aspiring therapists and counselors can also obtain valuable experience while working as resident advisors, as they interact extensively with students facing a variety of major concerns. While resident advisors do not serve in a clinical capacity, the role is helpful for building empathy and learning to communicate effectively with students during good times and bad.
Discover Exciting Grad Student Opportunities
No matter where you work while attending grad school, your commitment to your academic career will pay off. As you explore potential graduate programs, seek a degree that challenges and excites you while also providing the freedom to pursue opportunities such as the side hustles mentioned above.