The basics
THE USA: Once you arrive

Working as a student in the US

Can you work while studying in America as an international student? Find out in our guide to working while studying in the US, including how to find jobs and what you can work as...


Studying in America can be expensive. While ensuring you have the required finances is part of the admissions and visa application process, many international students wish to work part-time while studying to supplement their funds. But can you work part-time while studying?


Can I work?

There are strict rules handed down by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding whether you can work while studying in America. Read our full guide to rules for working while on an American student visa to get a clearer idea.

Broadly speaking though, yes there are opportunities to work while studying though there are terms you must meet. Most notably for those on an F1 visa, you can only work 20 hours per week during term time and this must be on-campus e.g. at a campus bookstore. In cases where off-campus work is permitted, usually this work must be related to the course or programme which the student is enrolled in.

We recommend that you closely read our guide ‘Visa conditions for working while studying in the US’.


First year

Those on an F1 student visa and in their first year of study are only permitted to work jobs which are located on campus and/or which are affiliated with the university. This might seem limiting but remember that US universities can be large in terms of organisation and space with lots going on; so you’ll be surprised just how many positions and opportunities are out there if you just look out for them. These might include working in bookstores, cafes, shops, gyms, restaurants and school offices which serve students and the university community.

Note, that unlike in the UK where the legal drinking age is 18, in America this is set at 21; so you won’t be able to work in campus bars or in jobs where handling alcohol is required.


After your first year

After one year of study in America, you will be allowed to apply to the USCIS to work in a role which is not affiliated with your university. This will give you more options to find employment in the area surrounding your campus. If you are near a large shopping centre (or ‘mall’ as it is called in the States), there will be a lot more possibilities for finding employment, especially in big cities like Chicago and Seattle. However, this allocation is considered case-by-case and not everyone is granted permission.

There are also work opportunities which are more academically-focused; these involve supporting teaching staff and professors with their teaching duties and their own research & projects. Such assistantship and researcher roles are often reserved for post-grads and those in the latter stages of their studies. Because these roles may require assisting other students with their work, English proficiency is a key factor when being considered for such a role. The advantage of these is that they look particularly impressive if you wish to proceed on to further study at Doctorate level or wish to pursue an academic profession.

If you are struggling financially or if your financial situation has dramatically changed suddenly, there are hardship allowances for students to obtain permission to work.



Remember that it is up to you to ensure you are not breaking the terms of your student visa when embarking on any kind of work, so be aware of these terms early on. It is NOT the responsibility of an employer to do this (plus many unscrupulous employers may fail to do so even when they really should – there have been many cases in the States of employers illegally hiring international students). It can be confusing to determine what is considered your campus, and what isn’t, particularly when campuses stretch over different streets and properties. You can always check with your university’s international office or a designated school official (otherwise known as a ‘DSO’).


How can I find work?

As most visa restrictions require students to undertake either on-campus or programme-specific work, students should first seek out employment options with their host institution. Even if there are no jobs vacant, or your visa doesn’t allow you to accept the positions available, student services will be able to help you apply for training programmes and point you in the right direction in finding internships and work experience in accordance with your visa requirements.

You can still search externally for volunteer or internship placements within your major field of study, but will often need to liaise with your university for approval at some point in the application procedure. All universities have different faculties with separate websites and careers services, and students are strongly urged to take advantage of all the campus-based resources that will be at their disposal.

F-1 students who have completed their first year of study at their host university are able to search for jobs using any external search website or agency, just as local students might.   

Just like you would look for off-campus accommodation, local newspapers and websites like Craig's List are a treasure trove of possibilities.



Read more:

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'Visa conditions for working while studying in the US'

'Applying to study in the US'


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About Author

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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