How to earn while you learn

Most full-time students have to make a living somehow – but can a busy coursework schedule be combined with a worthwhile job? We say 'yes'

Studying full-time shouldn’t mean that you can’t also enjoy the opportunity to earn extra cash. In fact, although some students prefer to shun the hassle of working and instead focus purely on their exams, many can’t afford not to work. But is it really advisable?

Reap the rewards

Working part-time does more than simply help pay your rent and course fees. Those students and passed finalists who have gained work experience have something incredibly useful to put on their CV, ready for when they want to enter full-time employment.

And even if you don’t actually undertake finance work, there are plenty of other skills you’ll learn that you’ll be able to offer your first employer after you qualify as an accountant – such as time management, teamwork, communication, and problem solving. And should you be lucky enough to land a job in accounts while you are studying, you’ll really underline your commitment to a professional finance career – plus, you may have invaluable opportunities to apply what you are learning at college in a ‘live’ environment. Either way, what will be important to employers isn’t just what you have done on a day-to-day basis but what you can show you have learned – and can therefore contribute from the start. People who can hit the ground running require less hand-holding with the basics – and are more attractive hiring prospects.

Factors to consider

Think carefully about how much time you can realistically afford to give up for work. What are your existing classroom and study commitments? How flexible can you be? Is there anything you could try to negotiate with your tutor or college, in terms of moving deadlines or re-scheduling individual meetings?

Also consider the actual work itself. Are the jobs for which you are applying likely to leave you exhausted or stressed? What about the commute – are you going to end up in no mood to study when you get home? The financial lure of many jobs will be appealing – but remember your priority is to pass your exams and ultimately gain permanent employment.

If you are studying abroad, check what conditions are attached to your student visa. Some countries place restrictions on the hours you can work, or even prevent you from working at all. Breaking those conditions may result in your visa being withdrawn. Also, make yourself aware of your employment rights (such as the minimum wage). Ask your college for advice; the staff will have years of experience helping students in similar situations.

Use as many resources as you can – local newspapers, online job sites, and recruitment consultants, even your college or national ACCA office. And don’t forget to send direct speculative applications to those employers you really like the look of.