A guide to part-time jobs while studying in the UK
Suphanida Thakral (Simran) is a student from Thailand studying BA Politics with International Studies at the University of Warwick who has been selected to be a student journalist for the Education UK website. Here she describes how to get a part-time job while studying in the UK.
There is a common misconception in the UK that international students are rolling in money. While it is true that international students generally tend to fall within the upper echelons of wealth in their respective countries, a sizeable majority of us have a budget to stick to as well and many even opt for a part-time job.
It’s quite common for students to have a part-time job here in the UK as not only are they a good way to earn some extra income but they’re also seen as a sign of responsibility, maturity, and accountability. The first paycheck I received from my position as a Freshers’ Helper, I recall, felt so great not only because I had more to spend but because I had earned it. If you’re also planning to work alongside your studies but don’t know where to begin, this guide is for you.
Step 1: Check your visa restrictions
If you hold a valid Tier 4 Student Visa, chances are you may be able to work up to 20 hours per week during term time.
Yuen Lim studies Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Warwick while juggling a part-time role as a customer assistant at Boots. She warns that it is your responsibility to let employers know your restrictions.
When asked whether being an international student affects your prospects, Yuen is reassuring. She tells me:
'I don’t think it does- especially not in the retail sector. As long as you can do your job and communicate well, they’re happy to have you'. She’s probably right seeing as most firms in the UK pride themselves for having an equal employment opportunity policy.
She also advises that it is not necessary for you to work the maximum hours you’re allowed to. Yuen says she only works on Sundays and that’s more than enough for her- anymore and it will probably interfere with her studies.
Step 2: Opening up a bank account
In order to work, you will almost definitely need a UK bank account to receive payments as employers, especially large organisations, are reluctant to pay in cash.
Mallika Vaznaik, another PPEist at the University of Warwick, suggests finding a bank account that does not have fees for international students.
If you attend orientation for international students at your university, most banks will usually come and promote their services. The easiest option is to just to get an application form and book an appointment directly at their booth.
Step 3: Get a National Insurance Number
British citizens get a National Insurance Number when they turn 16 as the number is used for registering for voting, income tax, and claiming benefits. To be able to work in the UK, you will need to get one as well.
It’s pretty straightforward to apply for one. You will need to call Job Centre providing your details and they will send you a form by post. Fill in the form, mail it to the address provided, and within a few weeks your number will arrive.
If you wish to work in Term 1, you should ideally apply for a National Insurance Number as soon as you arrive in the UK. Check out GOV.UK for more information.
Step 4: Know your options
In terms of paid opportunities, your options are countless: working part-time at your university or university’s students’ union, working part-time off campus, working seasonally, or even working as a campus brand manager for companies.
Most universities have a job portal in which they advertise available positions while off campus opportunities can be easily found on student-catered websites.
Shivani Bagdai, an Economics and Politics student at the University of Warwick, works on campus as a Student Caller. Her job entails taking part in a telephone campaign with a fundraising initiative for Warwick charity projects.
She definitely recommends a job on campus. Shivani tells me:
'As it’s a university job, its flexible as they are aware of the coursework deadlines and do try to accommodate as much as they can.'
Ultimately, however, it depends on your priority. Some, like Yuen, find an off campus job appealing as it allows them to work in a truly professional environment with people of different backgrounds and ages as opposed to just students.
For an on campus job, be sure to apply as soon as you arrive as the deadlines are pretty early on in the term, while off campus jobs are more likely to be available throughout the year.
Step 5: Balancing Work and Studies
It’s easy to get carried away with the thrill of earning and as a result neglect your studies. Finding something that works for you is probably the best bet.
Bhavya Dutt, a Psychology student at the University of Warwick works as a Brand Manager for Magnet Me, and previously worked as a waitress. She tells me that while working with a start up like Magnet Me is a lot slower in terms of earning money, it works well for her.
Bhavya explains that her role is to get as many people at her university to sign up to the Magnet Me network-a job search platform for graduates and students.
'It works well for me' Bhavya says 'It so easy and convenient to just use social media frequently to get the name out there so I can do that while focusing on my studies.'
Yuen and Shivani both agree that your degree comes first. Shivani advises that one possibility is to reduce social commitments to avoid being overburdened.
However, I personally agree with Bhavya when she says that ultimately the reason you’re here is to get a degree and enjoy university life so work should be kept to a minimum. Plus, if needed there’s always the possibility of working full time or getting a paid internship during the summer.
Register with Education UK today to take the next step in your UK course search.