SMU Student Employment

Being a student at Southern Methodist University (SMU) is already a full-time job, but thousands of SMU students seek part-time employment throughout their college years.

SMU students work for an abundant of various reasons. Some students work to pay their own tuition while others work to afford rent for off-campus housing (apartments and the like) or on-campus room and board. These payments are hefty and are rising steadily.

“Tuition has recently grown the fastest at public and private non-profit institutions, for which tuition has gone up 65% and 50%, respectively, since 2000,” said USA Facts in a 2019 analysis.

While some students work just to be able to stay in school, others work for extra spending money or to be able to join other student organizations, such as Greek life or other clubs.

The top five reasons why college students work include: to help meet their financial needs, to gain experience in their field, to build up an employment history for use on resumes, to do something productive and for social and personal connections, said an article from The Tab.

“Each student is different, and it is part of our mission to help students balance their academic goals, social activities and part-time employment,” said SMU’s Student Employment Office (SEO).

Considering SMU’s reputation for having an ambitious and extremely busy student population, it isn’t much of a stretch to say that most students work while in school.

In fact, a 2018 US Department of Education report indicates that 43 percent of all full-time undergraduate students and 81 percent of part-time students were employed and worked at least 10 hours a week while enrolled.

We can assume the various reasons why SMU students work throughout their college careers, but where are they working, and how many hours are they working?

Working to Help Meet Financial Needs

Mikayla (Kayla) Hernandez, a senior at SMU majoring in Biochemistry with minors in Spanish, Mathematics and Neuroscience, has held five jobs since starting at SMU nearly four years ago.

Her first job was working at SMU, serving as a writing tutor in the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC). Hernandez worked up to ten hours a week, and her duties consisted of making herself “available either in-person or online to assist other SMU students with different pieces of writing. These pieces could be anything from resumes to class assignments or applications,” said Hernandez.

Kayla Hernandez is a senior SMU student that has worked five jobs since beginning her college career.
“Working and being a full-time student has taught me that the world is extremely fast-paced and relatively unforgiving. In general, it is up to you ,and you only to work hard enough to keep up with the demands of life,” said Hernandez. | Photo by Kayla Hernandez

Being a tutor isn’t her only employment opportunity provided by SMU. For the past two years, Hernandez has worked as a Resident’s Assistant (RA) in McElvaney Commons, one of 11 on-campus Residential Commons. You may consider Residential Commons to be SMU’s form of dormitories, as many other college institutions call them.

“As an RA, I am required to monitor the state of the building and ensure the safety of residents while upholding SMU’s Student Code of Conduct,” she said. “This job has odd hours, as I am expected to perform my duties at all hours of the day, but I would classify this role as a 20-hours-a-week commitment.”

Finally, Hernandez has worked up to 10 hours a week as a lifeguard at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas (JCC), served as a youth swimming instructor, also at the JCC, for up to 10 hours a week, and is currently working as a private tutor for a local high school student for 10 hours a week, of course, while still serving her McElvaney Commons community as an RA.

“I chose to work during college as a way to earn extra spending money for myself and as a way to gain experience for my resume,” Hernandez said. “As someone looking to enter the medical field it is important to show your experience working in teams and with and for other people in a variety of capacities.”

It’s a lot of work being a full-time SMU student with multiple jobs, said Hernandez. Kayla is part of the 11 percent of full-time college students who has worked 10 to 19 hours each week throughout school, according to a 2018 National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) report on college student employment. As of 2018, 53 percent of full-time college students work while in school, said the NCES report.

“On top of my paid work, I also volunteer for organizations on campus, so I often find myself spread very thin. That being said, it is an extremely rewarding experience being able to push myself and earn my own money while I study.”

Working part-time while in school allows college students to have a more structured schedule. In college, there is a lot more “down time,” as some students may only have class for a couple hours on some days. With all that extra time not in class, college students find themselves still wishing to be productive and contribute to their school or community in some manner.

Working to Do Something Productive

Molly Lipsett is a junior at SMU majoring in Engineering Management, Information and Systems (EMIS) as well as Mathematics and is minoring in History.

Molly Lipsett is a junior SMU student working as Equipment Manager for the SMU Mustangs Football team.
“Being a full-time student and working can be stressful, especially if I have to work over 20 hours,” Lipsett said. “Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have enough time to finish everything and sleep but, typically, I really enjoy it.” | Photo by Molly Lipsett.

Lipsett works 15 to 20 hours a week, Monday through Friday, as Equipment Manager for the SMU Mustangs Football team. In her role, she is paid to organize and distribute gear and equipment as well as help set up for football games.

“I chose to work because I wanted to have a more structured schedule. I am more successful when I have structure and less free time,” Lipsett said. “Working and being a student has really taught me time management and how to work on a structured schedule; both have contributed to my success as a student.”

Working to Build Up an Employment History for Use on Resumes

Listen to Abba Yaney as she expresses the lessons she’s learned from working while in college.
Abba Yaney has recently started her first career job, working for the City of Plano as a marketing specialist. | Photo by Sarah Blaze Photography.

Exemplifying another one of the top five reasons why college students choose to work throughout school is Abigail (Abba) Yaney, SMU senior majoring in Public Relations and Strategic Communication and Psychology.

Yaney has held numerous jobs throughout her college career, including nannying for multiple families, working in SMU’s Office of the Provost and other paid internships that weren’t for credit.

SMU students choose to work part-time while enrolled as full-time students for a variety of reasons, but it is becoming more common for students to choose to do so. It is likely that this trend will continue, especially considering the recent pandemic’s financial impact on families and students alike. Two-thirds of college students have said the pandemic has changed their outlook on their financial future, according to CNBC’s Michelle Gao and WalletHub’s 2020 College Student Financial survey. “Most college students are working as they study, but the amount and type of work varies widely. And the forces behind those variances aren’t random,” said Inside Higher Ed.

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