Earning & Learning: How to Successfully Combine a Job & Studies

In this article, we hear from a young entrepreneur who loves to write about topics he has encountered on his journey. Here, he explains the benefits of combining earning and learning as a student, and how to make it work successfully.

Side hustle - bike & sidecar

A generation of students have now lived with the reality of accruing debt to study. UK tuition fees are amongst the highest in the world (currently up to £9,250) and the Government has replaced maintenance grants with loans towards living costs. Devolved Government means the financial provision for students varies across the UK.  But many students need to partly fund student life through paid employment.  A recent survey showed that 62% held a part time job alongside their studies. Other research found that 21% of UK undergraduates were working two jobs whilst studying.  And many post-graduate students opt to study part-time to juggle paid work with university and family commitments.  So, what are the tips for successfully handling earning and learning at the same time?


Working & Studying: a Sensible Investment

 Student Loan Piggy bank
It’s important to remember that a UK student loan is not ‘real debt’, in that the amount you repay is based on what you earn not what you borrow and any unpaid debt is written off after 30 years. However, student and maintenance loans will often barely be enough to cover accommodation costs, never mind your other lifestyle needs.
Anything you can do to avoid the millstone of additional debt (such as bank overdrafts and running up credit card bills) can help with future financial security.  Earning whilst studying allows you to offset income against expenses, reducing your reliance on your overdraft (which won’t necessarily remain interest-free once you graduate!)  Having less debt to repay allows you to focus on purchasing your own home, car and to enjoy travel and holidays with greater financial freedom.
These future financial benefits of working and studying can help keep you motivated. Consider your personal long-term financial goals post-university, which will give you a sense of direction and something to aim for, making your student employment more satisfying.
Consider, too, the investment you are making in your own CV:  you are building up valuable life-skills and experience by securing real life work experience. Whilst a ‘typical student job’ in the hospitality or retail sector might not seem like your dream job, you will be learning a great deal about customer relations, workplace etiquette, resilience, and stamina.  These are excellent transferrable skills that can boost your CV and applications for your graduate career. Don’t overlook the power of networking either.  You may well meet people who can support you towards your next career steps.  Keeping your goals in mind can help you recognise the value of combining work and study.


Time & Resource Management

Balancing earning and learning requires careful time-management.  Being late to lectures or forgetting work equipment won’t go down well and may earn you a poor reputation.  Organisational skills will enable you to juggle both commitments successfully.
Invest in a diary or calendar system that works for you.  Online or old-school paper – either meets the task.  The important thing is to note down all your commitments and then use the diary.  Check your schedule each evening for the day ahead and make the necessary arrangements.  Packed lunch?  Uniform ironed?  Resources and notes at the ready?  Bag packed?  These simple checks and routines will ensure you are ready for a streamlined and efficient start to the day.  And, of course, a reliable alarm clock is essential!  Ensure you eat something to fuel you for the day – aim for nutritious and stress-free.
Consider as well that learning how to balance study and work as a student will often be a precursor to balancing family life and working full time so it is good to get the experience now.
Think of time as a resource, and ensure you put it to efficient use.  That includes knowing your limits, so you avoid burnout.  Balancing employment with study may mean you have limited time to socialise.  Of course, it’s important to maintain friendships and to connect with others socially.  But be mindful of wasting time going to social events you don’t want to.  It’s OK, and sometimes necessary, to say ‘no’ to ensure you don’t burn the candle at both ends.  Leave enough time to see people that matter to you and also to thrive in your studies.


Flexibility is Your Super-Power

Many employers want a flexible workforce who can respond to seasonal demand.  Whilst zero-hours contracts are bad news for full-time employees looking for sustainable, consistent income, many students can offer flexibility to employers, in a way that works for both parties.  If you know you are likely to have increased availability for work at given times in the year, look for employment that fits that pattern.  A zero-hours contract leaves you free to pick up shifts as and when you have capacity.
Flexibility is also what attracts some students towards freelance work and self-employment.  Some universities support entrepreneurship amongst their student body.  For example, the University of Central Lancashire offers students and alumni tailored business mentoring for setting up their own business that flexes around study commitments.  Finding flexible options that work for you can make earning an income whilst studying a lot less stressful.


Are You a Lark or an Owl?

Creating a schedule that works around your own body-clock and lifestyle can make life easier.  Some of us are ‘larks’ – we find that focus and energy come naturally to us first thing in the morning.  ‘Owls’, on the other hand, come into their own at night and find they are most alert when the sun goes down.  Reflect on your own natural rhythm and create your routines around this.  If you are a lark, quiet focussed reading and study may be easier in the mornings, with active practical employment suited to afternoons and evenings.  Alternatively, if you are an owl, you may find weekend work suits you best, with weekday evenings reserved for studying.
Whether you are a lark or owl, it makes sense to pay attention to sleep hygiene.  Stay hydrated through the day, avoid blue light-emitting screens for an hour or so before bed, get regular exercise and go easy on the caffeine and alcohol.  Sleep hygiene and self-care can help you to combine employment and education without it impacting your health.

So, if you are one of the many students opting to work and study, consider how you can make earning and learning work for you.  Implement these simple tips to ensure you get the best out of your university experience, whilst also gaining valuable work experience in the process.


Find out more about earning & learning

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Why work experience is important
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Why not to stress over your student loan
A snapshot of the student funding system, explaining why there’s no need to worry about your student loan

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About the author

Finn Pegler is an entrepreneur and full-time digital nomad. His other passions include space exploration, cooking, and the environment.

‘I’m a young entrepreneur who made the transition from a desk job as an engineer to running my own startup from home. I started a local cleaning service called DeluxeMaid  a few years ago. The idea was to save time and create transparency for consumers (particularly for tech-loving millennials) by making it possible to get an instant quote and book a clean online from a trusted professional in just 60 seconds. My girlfriend Jade and I work remotely to this day on this business and we both love to write about many of the subjects we have encountered on our journey. Everything from business and lifestyle to sustainability and the environment.’