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According to the statistics from the OVE (Observatory of student life), eight in 10 students have – or have had in the past – a paid job. More than 40 percent of students work during the university year. This figure has been growing consistently for the past decade. Students’ spending power is going down; rents and food prices are going up.
But is it always possible to work? That depends on the subject you are studying, the year you are currently in and the job you get. It is often not advised for medical students, especially during the very competitive first year. Students who have a full 25-30 hours of lessons per week plus assignments and reading would most likely struggle to work alongside without their grades suffering. Indeed, various studies have proven that over 15 hours of work per week (on top of studies) can have damaging effects such as less sleep, less exercise and a tendency to smoke and drink more. This can of course lead to worse grades and difficulty in concentrating at university. According to the OVE, this situation concerns around 20 percent of students who work and their exam grades are affected.
However, the same observatory found that there is little impact on studies for those who work fewer than 15 hours per week. For some students, it can even have a positive effect as it can make you more independent and gain valuable work experience.
There are a variety of student jobs on offer – from McDonalds (granted, there are more glamorous jobs, but as the company takes on lots of students, it often makes an effort to fit the hours you work around your classes), to giving private lessons (either through a company or self-employed) or working in a museum, hotel or cafe, depending on your hours at university.
According to the UNEF students’ union, 80 percent of student jobs have no link with studies. This is particularly true for students of literature and social sciences. It’s true that not all jobs will be related to your studies or what you intend to do afterwards. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Most skills – such as communication and team work – are transferable. If you’re a languages student, working in any job where you use a foreign language is bound to be beneficial, even if it’s just giving directions to lost tourists!
When it comes to working alongside your studies, a lot depends on the job you get. If you have an understanding employer, he or she might be able to give you more hours during the holidays and fewer when you need to revise or do exams.
There are also alternatives to working during the year. You could work full-time during the summer holidays or other university holidays to save up some money, or even take a year out during your studies in order to work, before coming back to your studies with some cash saved up.
As with everything, the key is balance. What would you gain and what would you lose by working alongside your studies?
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