What Is Federal Work-Study?

What Is Federal Work-Study?

Help cover your living expenses during college by working part-time. The Federal Work-Study program gives part-time jobs to students who can demonstrate financial need.

Note that the income from Federal Work-Study jobs is exempt from Social Security taxes called FICA but is still taxable. Here is some information regarding the Federal Work-Study program.

What Exactly Is the Federal Work-Study Program?

This is a type of federal financial aid specifically for college in the USA. Eligible students can make money by participating in certain work-study jobs. To find out how much work-study aid you qualify for, read your financial aid reward letter. There is not any minimum or maximum amount of work-study listed within the financial aid letter. Typically, the eligibility amount ranges from $2000 to $5000 each year, however, the specific amount will be dependent on the work-study program offered by your school. Understand that there is no guarantee that you will receive the full amount of money stated in the award letter.

The majority of jobs will be on-campus options including custodial services, the library circulation desk, or food service jobs. This all depends on your school's program. Some work-study opportunities include a variety of part-time jobs that are related to your field of study or public service organizations. There may be roles available in organizations that correspond to your career. 

Generally, the money you earn from a work-study job is similar to money from other jobs. Normally the employer or your school will pay you bi-weekly or once a month, depending on how their payroll is set up.  Your payment will be based on the number of hours worked. If you take any extra shifts, you will earn extra cash.

Who Qualifies For A Work-Study Position?

You need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), to determine your eligibility for a work-study position. Once the application is complete, you will get a letter stating the different kinds of aid you qualify for. Students with financial needs will often see a line item for "work-study."

Note that receiving a work-study award does not guarantee that you will have a work-study job. You will be required to apply for a work-study job and need to complete the work that comes with it. You will need to apply early and be on top of your state's FAFSA deadlines to qualify. Ensure you apply early for the FAFSA to increase your chances of being eligible. 

There are some extremely coveted work-study opportunities where students are paid to research things on the internet or to complete their schoolwork. These types of jobs are few and far between. The majority of work-study jobs will require you to work.

What Is The Pay For A Work-Study Job? 

Most work-study jobs pay close to what a person would earn doing a job for similar kinds of work. The job could pay the current federal minimum wage or it may be as high as $15 in different labor markets. The pay tends to be decent; however, you won't be getting rich. 

Since the hourly wages for work-study jobs are okay and not amazing, college students need to check into supplementing their work-study income in other ways. Look into finding higher-paying work such as offering tutoring lessons. Applying for scholarships is another great way to increase your income.

Is Work-Study Income Taxable?

Yes, the income from work-study jobs is taxable. You will be happy to know that you will avoid the FICA 7.3% taxes which generally are removed for Medicare and Social Security. You will see the majority of your income in your paycheck if you are a low earner. Enjoy these days while they last.

Is a Part-Time Job Better Than Taking A Work-Study Job?

If you meet the eligibility requirements for a work-study program, try to find the best fit that you can. Sometimes, you may find a lower-paying option that allows you to finish your homework during your office hours. This can free up your schedule to allow you to play sports or have an extra part-time job on the side.

Some people may end up using their work-study job as a catalyst to gain an internship or continue a career in the non-profit sector after graduating. 

Usually, the income from any work-study jobs is quite consistent. You will generally get the same number of hours every week. This allows you to balance your job while still prioritizing your studies. The only work-study downside is the cap on earnings. If you want to earn more money, there are ample options to pursue outside of your work-study.


Work-study opportunities are a wise way to earn additional cash while you are in school. Of course, they are not your only option. If you can use a work-study, take advantage of it; however, keep your eyes peeled for extra earning options.