What is Work Study?August 2, 2006
Updated: May 17, 2021
This post was previously published on eCampustours.com. The information provided is subject to change over time.
The work-study program provides part-time employment to undergraduates and graduates to help with college expenses. There are two different kinds of work-study: Federal Work-Study and non-Federal Work-Study.
Federal Work-Study (FWS)
Federal Work-Study (FWS) is a form of financial aid awarded to students who demonstrate financial need and meet certain eligibility requirements. You must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) (and possibly other financial aid documents required by your school) to determine your eligibility for FWS. Be sure to mark “yes” to the question on the FAFSA that asks if you are interested in student employment. If you are eligible, your FWS award will be listed on your financial aid award notification. If you have already filed your FAFSA for this year and did not demonstrate an interest in FWS but are interested now, you should visit your school’s Financial Aid Office (FAO) to determine your eligibility.
You must complete a new FAFSA each year for continued consideration in the Federal Work-Study Program; the money you earn through this program is not used to determine your financial need. Your total FWS award depends on your application date, your level of need, and the funding level of your school. If funds are not available, you may be put on a waiting list as long as you are eligible.
The work-study program encourages employment in community service and in fields related to your major of study. Job positions can be either on campus or off campus. Most off-campus positions will be at private nonprofit agencies or public agencies and will be in the public interest.
For most schools, once you accept the FWS award on your award notification, you will be sent information regarding the steps you should take for securing an FWS job. Generally, you will have to interview for a position. Check with your school’s Financial Aid Office to get a list of available FWS jobs.
At the very least, you will earn the current federal minimum wage, but that amount may be higher depending on where you work and the type of work that you perform. For instance, if you work off-campus, you may earn more money in order to cover driving expenses. Your FWS earnings are considered taxable income.
The amount of money that you earn cannot exceed your total FWS award. When assigning work hours, your employer will consider your total award and your class schedule. Average work schedules are from 10 to 15 hours a week. Check with your school to see what their limit is on how many hours you can work per week. Work-study hours are flexible. Remember: school should be your first priority!
Non-Federal Work-Study (non-FWS)
Non-Federal Work-Study (non-FWS) is not based on financial need. If you do not qualify for Federal Work-Study, you should inquire about non-federal student employment opportunities at your school. Working on campus will give you more flexibility than working at an off-campus job because on-campus employers are usually more understanding of your class schedule and school work.
As with FWS, non-FWS encourages students to work in fields related to their major of study. Most positions require specific skills and/or supervisor recommendations. Non-FWS jobs can be found in dining services, campus libraries, major departments, etc. Check with your major department or with your school’s Career Services department for a listing of non-FWS positions.
At most schools, employment for non-Federal Work-Study is available as funding allows. Your earnings will depend on where you work and the type of work that you perform. Your earnings are considered taxable income; and unlike FWS, the money you earn from non-FWS will be used to determine your financial need when filing the FAFSA.
While you will not have to adhere to a specific award amount for non-FWS, your employer will allot work hours to you as they see fit. When assigning hours, your supervisor will consider your class schedule and the needs of the employer.
For more specific information regarding both Federal Work-Study and non-Federal Work-Study, contact your school’s Financial Aid Office.