Why Work Study Programs Are a Good Thing


An obvious sign that summer is almost at an end is when you see commercials for Back to School shopping. Parents are scrambling to get their kids ready for school. Teachers are busy organizing their classrooms, while students are dreading going back and trying to enjoy what little of the summer is left.

For me, it doesn’t make much of a difference, because I’ve been working all summer.

While I have taken many in-class and online courses, it has been quite some time since I have been in school full-time. If I could go back in time, I probably would have majored in something else (not sure what). I also would have taken a year off to figure out what I wanted to do or taken a year after I graduated to figure what I wanted to do. Heck, if I could I would take a year off now, because I’m still not exactly sure what I want to do for the rest of my life.

One thing I did figure out was what I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. My school offered a work-study program for many majors and working in different jobs made me realize what I liked and what I didn’t like. Since your work terms alternated with school terms, you would end up graduating a year later than if you had done the regular program.

One traditional school of thought is to graduate as soon as you can, so you can earn an income as soon as possible, hence your “earning power” will increase as soon as possible. I believe a more realistic school of thought is to invest in education, even if it ends up delaying your earning power (by a few years), as long as you will end up having that earning power in the long run.

Or how about this: “Learning is earning.”

I ended up switching programs, which delayed me one year. I also ended up choosing to do the work/study option, which delayed me yet another year. (Yes, I am kind of like Van Wilder, but a much more nerdy version).  So even if I did end up going back in time somehow and choosing a different major, I still would have chosen to do the work study program.

Why?  Wouldn’t that be wasting a year?

Au contraire.

we are hiring sign

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the great things the work study program did was provide a database full of jobs to apply to that were somewhat relevant to the program you were in. There were some jobs that covered many disciplines in that they were considered to be jobs that had a science AND a business aspect to it. Landing a co-op job, especially when the work term was in the summer meant I didn’t have to worry about applying for jobs with the rest of the students who either graduated or were looking for summer work. If I was thinking about applying to a certain job, sometimes there were students who had already done the placement and could give you the dirt on what the job, work environment and boss was like.

Not only did I get paid, but I also got relevant work experience. Work experience with government organizations and research facilities, which in my opinion, sounded more impressive than students with just service or retail experience. Each of my work terms was at a different location, with a couple of them being out of town.

It was also a nice break from the stressful, hectic school semester.  However, it was a HUGE pain in the ass to move home for a bit, and then move to the workplace, then move back home for a bit, and then move back to school.

(My dad was smart in keeping the minivan during my school days).

Upon graduating, I had 1.5 years of work experience that I could add to my resume. And isn’t that what employers want? The experience?

I should note that with my school, I did have to pay a co-op fee (I think it was a couple of hundred dollars) each semester. I should also note that just because I was accepted into the co-op program, didn’t mean I would automatically get a job each work term.  Most work terms were only four months. The last one work term for my program was eight months, then the final eight months of school.

Sometimes students have the option of going back to the same workplace each term, but I wanted to get the experience having a variety of jobs, at a variety of workplaces. With that being said, I had to apply for jobs during the school term for the upcoming work term (Which was crazy stressful. Just imagine trying to get your assignments done, studying for exams WHILE applying for jobs, prepping for interviews, going through interviews and figuring out your living arrangements if you have to move to the work location). That ran the risk of possibly not getting a job for the upcoming work term, but thankfully it didn’t happen to me.

Did you do a work study program for your major? Why or why not?





    • makinthebacon says

      It’s all about the experience. I think having that experience shows employers that your serious about creating a career for yourself.

  1. says

    Work Study how I’ve always heard it used (middle of US) is when you take an easy on-campus job that is so easy you can spend most of the time studying. Like signing people into the gym or helping checkout books in the library.

    I never had one of those. I hustled out of college ASAP to make money. Worked out pretty well!
    William – First Quarter Finance recently posted…My RestauRANT: 900% Markup?!My Profile

    • makinthebacon says

      I suppose the term is different depending on where you are and what university you go to. It was officially called a co-op program at my university.

      I think because I felt I worked so hard in university, I wasn’t in such a huge rush to hustle like crazy. I wish I did take the time to travel more extensively though.

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