Understanding Your Work-Study Options

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has taught University level psychology and mathematics courses for over 20 years. They have a Doctorate in Education from Nova Southeastern University, a Master of Arts in Human Factors Psychology from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Flagler College.

Work-study programs can help people gain part-time work experience and earn money while doing it. Explore the work-study options such as the process of finding a position, eligibility requirements, available work-study jobs, and restrictions. Updated: 10/01/2021

Why Work-Study?

Would you like to earn money for school and get job-related experience at the same time? Sounds great, doesn't it? Being accepted into the Federal Work-Study Program, or simply getting a work-study job, can help you earn money for:

  • Tuition
  • Books
  • Room and board
  • Any other expenses related to your education

Work-study programs can also help you gain work experience while you earn extra money.

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  • 0:01 Why Work-Study?
  • 0:32 The Process
  • 1:21 Eligibility
  • 3:36 Work-Study Jobs
  • 5:06 Restrictions
  • 6:51 Lesson Summary
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The Process

I bet you are interested now! So, what exactly is a work-study? A work-study program gives students a way to earn financial funding through part-time work.

And how do you get a work-study position? Good question! The process is fairly simple, but positions and program funds are limited, and there are deadlines to consider, so you have to get in early if you want to get a spot.

First, you must determine your eligibility. Once you know if you are eligible for a work-study position, you have to find a job through your school's financial aid or work-study office. Finally, you must make sure that you fully understand the restrictions involved with a work-study program position. Let's look at each of these steps in more detail.


Eligibility begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, or FAFSA for short. While Federal Work-Study programs require the FAFSA, other work-study programs (such as state or institution funded work-study programs) may not actually require the form. These non-federally funded programs may still ask you to fill out the FAFSA form to determine your level of financial need. Ask at your institution's financial aid office for more information.

Work-study positions are all need-based and can be funded by the federal government, the state, or your institution. For any federally funded work-study position, you must fill out the FAFSA form and be awarded federal student aid to be eligible for a Federal Work-Study position at your institution.

Make sure that you check the box indicating that you would like to be considered for a work-study program on the form. If you forget to check the box, don't worry. It isn't too late. Each institution has its own application procedures and deadlines for funds. Make sure you talk to your financial aid office for your institution's procedures.

Another requirement to be eligible for a federally funded work-study program is that you must also be eligible to work in the USA. That means you are either a U.S. citizen or legally allowed to work in the U.S. on a visa permit.

Remember, funds are limited and institutions work on a first come, first serve basis - so even if you are eligible and have been awarded a work-study amount through FAFSA, it is not guaranteed that you will get a position.

After filling out the FAFSA, you will receive a financial aid award notice indicating how much financial aid, if any, you qualify for. This notice also tells you if you qualify for the Federal Work-Study Program. Pay close attention to the amount of aid you have been awarded; this indicates how much money you earn in a semester through the work-study position.

Work-Study Jobs

Now the types of jobs available depend greatly on your institution. As a general rule, all Federal Work-Study Programs must include at least 7% community service jobs. These would include things like early literacy programs, math tutors for high school students and other services that directly serve the community. Non-federally funded work-study programs may have similar rules; you should see your financial aid or work-study office for specific information from your institution.

Some schools match your degree major to your position, some schools assign your work-study position based on the school's needs, and still other schools work on a first come, first serve basis. Sometimes, you get to apply for positions you find on a general list of available positions.

The location of your job could be either on campus or off campus, working for your school, a federal, state or local agency, a private non-profit organization or even a private for-profit organization. With all of these, you will earn at least the current federal minimum wage. Earnings are usually paid directly to you by your institution once a month. Any alternate payment must be negotiated between you and your institution.

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