I am starting a masters next year and will need to support myself. I would like to find a way to make enough money to get by, but want to primarily focus on my studies. How do I explain this when applying for jobs?

I do not have a job right now and have not worked before (I first studied Computer Science, then I did something else), so it is not just a matter of telling my boss 'Hey I want to focus on my Masters this year and then I am back'. My Masters is also completely unrelated to programming, so I cannot say that afterwards I am going to work for him and have this or that amazing skill.

Ideally, I would work 10 hours a week. Would anyone even be interested in this?

  • 2
    Have you tried checking out employment opportunities available through your University? They often cap these jobs at <=20hr weekly to accommodate peoples' studies (excluding summer internships which often run 40hrs). I'm speaking from the US.
    – CKM
    Mar 24, 2016 at 21:13
  • I am not yet in the city I will be studying in. Also, having studied and finished a degree in CS before, I think I would have to work much less (because my hourly wage would be much better), doing this than working at university in my field. (as of right now that is.)
    – P. Graeber
    Mar 24, 2016 at 21:22
  • 2
    Depending on your field, you could quite possibly get a research or teaching assistantship that would to some extent combine getting paid with work done on the masters.
    – jamesqf
    Mar 24, 2016 at 21:36
  • mturk.com/mturk/welcome Mar 24, 2016 at 21:40
  • 2
    "How do I explain this when applying for jobs?" - don't explain to an employer that you want to "focus on your studies." Instead explain that you're looking for a X-hour per week job. That's it.
    – Brandin
    Mar 25, 2016 at 7:52

3 Answers 3


Short answer yes. The best jobs will be those offered through your university. Ask to look at an internal job board. Look for part-time teaching or type research jobs for students. Sometimes there are project based jobs such as build a website or analyze some data. Your boss won't care if you didn't stick around forever, students are supposed to be temporary.

For instance, UC Berkeley offers 10hr/wk research jobs (though 20hr/wk is more common).

  • From experience, slots for TAs or RAs will exist specifically for graduate students. They often result in a tuition waiver and/or a stipend for expenses. This is something OP will need to inquire about ASAP because deadlines for these are often enforced strictly because they involve funding.
    – CKM
    Mar 25, 2016 at 0:09

Approximately 10 hours a week is a part-time job - and actually between 1/3 and 1/2 the amount of hours typical of a part-time job, so it's a very light part-time job.

These jobs exist, with caveats:

  • They usually pay much less than jobs that require more hours (even half the rate is pretty uncommon, as well as having no benefits at all)
  • If they pay more than the minimum wage in your area, they tend to go to people with advanced specialist skills/experience and are often temporary (less than a year) or in short supply
  • Most jobs that require so few hours have special requirements (so not just anyone is eligible, experience or not), or are labor jobs like cleaning, or require work at late/early hours (like bar-tending)

The main question is: how cheaply can you live, and thus how much money is enough for you? If you need $10 an hour, many cities will have work you could potentially do for this rate and be ok with such a short amount of time. If you are looking for a rate of closer to what is typical of a full-time entry-level programmer based on your degree, that's probably not going to happen - but hats off if you manage it somehow!

The most common jobs that will fit you are ones explicitly designed for students, on-campus jobs especially. You might consider help desk or IT at your future University, as they often have positions that require a bit more experience and thus pay a bit more. However, you may find that many of them prefer undergrads who are working on a degree in the field - and they may or may not even consider you for the positions based on your current degree focus. Won't know until you try, though.

Some might point to "consulting", but generally this takes way, way, more than 10 hours to get established with any degree of regularity and will not generally be something that you can do, be well paid, and allow you to focus on your other unrelated studies. I have no positive opinions towards online freelance groups, and don't personally know anyone who does - they seem more geared for offshore labor or low-paid "just because" tasks (like Mechanical Turk), but YMMV.

Depending on your school, you might be able to check in with the computing-related department and see if there are projects you could work on there (as there just aren't always enough undergrads who want to work and have the required skills). Such assignments and projects usually aren't official research assistants or teaching assistants, don't take a lot of hours per week, but are often not steady work (it might just be a month-long project and then you are effectively unemployed again). The pay can be good, depending on the department - sometimes double the rate of regular student employment, if the department has trouble finding undergrads or grad students who want to work on small projects. These are commonly word-of-mouth or email to department only, so if you don't talk with them you might not ever hear about them.

So all in all it's doable, but you will need to be aware that you are extremely unlikely to find a position that pays a rate similar to what 4-year CS grads make in full-time positions and that allows you to work for such a short amount of time per week.

  1. First find a part-time job opportunity either through your local job fair, job advertising website, newspaper. Many universities offer job fairs with employers that cater to students who would like a part-time job during their studies, this is where I found the job I work during the evenings. 10 hours a week is 2 hours every weekday. Jobs that offer evening shifts with little experience part-time can be hotels/motels, bars, clubs and event venues, and fast-food just to name a few.

  2. At your job interview explain why you would like to work this job including the details of your student schedule and regimen. Most employers are understanding of your situation, however if you are feeling a sense of heightened demand and that the employer would need you to come in during different work-hours/additional work hours, think about it after the interview. You wouldn't want it to interfere with your priorities. Do not take on a job you know you can't handle with your current educational load.

  3. Once you've found and interviewed for the job that works for your schedule see how it feels with your studies. Ask yourself if your studies have been affected by your new part-time job, if not continue working. If it has affected it perhaps consider explaining to your employer these observations and include alternatives. With my schedule I realized some days of the week became quite study-heavy, and I made compromises with my employer such as; "I feel Wednesday is very busy for me with my lab from 2PM-5PM and leaves little room to study and work my regular evening shift, would it be possible to move my shift to either Saturday or Sunday?" or consider eliminating the shift altogether. Gaining a good sense of your employer expectations will allow you to understand if they would be willing to let you move your shifts around to accommodate your study schedule.

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