Four FAQs About Working Part-Time in Graduate School | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
MPH Student Aishwarya Nagar
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Four FAQs About Working Part-Time in Graduate School

​Deciding to work while simultaneously attending graduate school is an entirely individualized decision. 

Part-time employment opportunities can offer a stable source of income and help alleviate the burden of common expenditures (rent, utilities, groceries, tuition, lifestyle, etc.) They can also be used as a way to become more deeply immersed in your field of choice. However, balancing part-time work with the academic & extracurricular commitments that come with graduate school can be an enormous challenge. Here are some questions that we at the Office of Admissions & Recruitment are often asked regarding engagement in part-time work during graduate school

1. Should I work part-time while in graduate school?

It depends! Brown School students should first identify their intended goal in pursuing part-time employment and whether they have a need for it. Do you need financial resources to help with graduate school expenditures? Do you need research (and other) experiences for future pursuits? Do you want to get involved with certain offices and centers because you are passionate about the work they do? If you answered yes to these questions, you may want to complement your academic commitments with part-time work.

Additionally, you need to identify the commitments, barriers, and priorities that are unique to you. Your class schedule may or may not be flexible enough to accommodate part-time work, and other factors like your practicum schedule, family commitments or child-care commitments, and mental health may affect how comfortable you are with the added commitment of work.

The Brown School's Masters-level programs are full time, so finding a balance between scheduling of classes and a work schedule requires strategic planning. Many students choose to set their class schedules first, and then mold their part-time work schedules around remaining availability.

Related Viewing: Part-Time Employment Virtual Info Session

2. How do I find part-time opportunities at the Brown School?

Although part-time opportunities can be found all over St. Louis, it may be more convenient to find part-time and on-campus opportunities within the Brown School itself (especially for international students -- see FAQ #3). The Career Services portal, Symplicity, is consistently updated with postings of full- and part-time employment opportunities that are located on- and off-campus. Incoming students can access Symplicity in June, once they've created WashU credentials. The Brown School's research centers, as well as departments and offices throughout Washington University in St. Louis, often hire graduate or research assistants for part-time work. These opportunities can be found via Symplicity, by contacting centers and offices of interest, attending the annual Part-Time Job Fair during New Student Orientation, and during Brown School Orientation's informational fairs.

Related Reading: Finding Public Health Research Opportunities

The Brown School Students Facebook group is often used by students to share and learn about employment opportunities on campus and around St. Louis. Opportunities across Washington University in St. Louis can also be found on the Washington University Jobs portal. Traditional search portals, like Indeed and LinkedIn, are undoubtedly useful tools for finding opportunities beyond campus.

3. Can I work part-time as an international student?

Yes, but with certain limitations. Check with the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) at Washington University in St. Louis before pursuing part-time opportunities, as employment or training for F-1 students and J-1 students must adhere to specific rules and regulations. For instance, F-1 students must usually find on-campus options and work under 20 hours per week. Additionally, part-time employment requires working through social security and tax documentation. Most part-time positions at the Brown School are open to all students, including international students. It is highly recommended that international students check with their OISS Advisor when considering part-time employment.

4. How do I balance working part-time with my graduate school commitments?

To answer this question, I've sought the advice of my peers:  

Shakena Wallace, 1st year MPH (Generalist): "I was working full-time 9-5 before school started and made the decision to step away from work so I could focus on school. I worked about 20 hours a week after school started. My job didn't interfere with academics or vice versa; school is my priority right now, so I worked around my school schedule."

Rachel Hammer, 1st year MPH (Epidemiology/Biostats): "In order to balance working part-time with graduate school, I consider my class schedule and think about the time range in which I could feasibly fit a shift - while also not consuming what's left of my week. One does need to sleep, eat, and be human! On average, I work around 28 hours a week entirely on my feet at a plasma donation center. The biggest challenges I've encountered are understanding your limitations and capabilities, while professionally expressing your priorities and commitments to your workplace. A mantra that I keep in mind often is that you are a person first, a student second, and an employee third."

Whitney Lynn, 2nd year MSW (Children, Youth and Families; System Dynamics and Policy specializations): "When I first came to St. Louis, my goal was to find a job that was close to campus. I didn't want to do anything too stressful because I knew school was going to be stressful enough. I ended up getting a job at Starbucks at the Olin Business School on campus! It was convenient and super flexible. I dropped from 25 hours to 20 hours per week because I started practicum and was elected into leadership positions within student groups. I think the biggest challenge was finding time for myself so I wouldn't burn out... doing all of these things made it hard for me to engage in self-care and it reflected in my emotions, work ethic, and social life. However, I needed a part-time job to survive!"

Brigid Welch, 2nd year MSW (Mental Health): "I had to be very planned out and live by my various calendars. I worked about 15 or 20 hours a week as a Student Ambassador for Brown School Admissions, and as a co-facilitator for Intergroup Dialogue - an undergraduate class through the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and College of Arts & Sciences. For both jobs, I felt busy all the time and felt like I could always give more. I had to have boundaries and be comfortable saying "no" if I didn't have time. Sometimes that "no" was for an event or opportunity that was fun and tempting to attend. I continually had to be kind to myself and accept the limits of my wonderful and hectic schedule."