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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Postsecondary Education

College Student Employment

(Last Updated: May 2020)

The percentage of full-time undergraduate students who were employed was lower in 2018 (43 percent) than in 2000 (53 percent). Similarly, the percentage of part-time undergraduates who were employed was lower in 2018 (81 percent) than in 2000 (85 percent).

Many undergraduate students ages 16 to 64 are employed at the same time they are in enrolled in school. In 2018, the percentage of undergraduate students who were employed was higher among part-time students (81 percent) than among full-time students (43 percent).1 Being employed can help a student pay for classes and other living expenses; it can also be associated, either positively or negatively, with a student’s academic performance.2,3 Thus, it is important to examine employment patterns among undergraduate students and how these patterns vary by student characteristics.

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Figure 1. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and hours worked per week: 2000, 2010, and 2018
Figure 1. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and hours worked per week: 2000, 2010, and 2018

NOTE: Students were classified as full time if they were taking at least 12 hours of classes during an average school week and as part time if they were taking fewer hours. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons in the military and persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities). Detail may not sum to totals because the percentages of hours worked per week exclude those who were employed but not at work during the survey week. Includes students ages 16 through 64. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October, 2000, 2010, and 2018. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 503.40.

Figure 2. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and race/ethnicity: 2018
Figure 2. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and race/ethnicity: 2018

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

‡ Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater.

NOTE: Students were classified as full time if they were taking at least 12 hours of classes during an average school week and as part time if they were taking fewer hours. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Reporting standards for Pacific Islanders were not met; therefore, data for this group is not shown in the figure. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons in the military and persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities). Includes students ages 16 through 64. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October, 2018. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 503.40.

Figure 3. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and age group: 2018
Figure 3. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and age group: 2018

NOTE: Students were classified as full time if they were taking at least 12 hours of classes during an average school week and as part time if they were taking fewer hours. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons in the military and persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities). Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October, 2018. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 503.40.

Figure 4. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and selected student characteristics: 2018
Figure 4. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and selected student characteristics: 2018

1 Householders are persons in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented. Never-married students living away from home in college dormitories are not considered householders.

2 Own children are never-married sons and daughters of the student who are under 18, including stepchildren and adopted children.

3 Students with no spouse present are all students who did not live with a spouse, including students who are single, divorced, separated, or widowed.

NOTE: Students were classified as full time if they were taking at least 12 hours of classes during an average school week and as part time if they were taking fewer hours. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons in the military and persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities). Includes students ages 16 through 64. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October, 2018. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 503.40.


1 Students ages 16 to 64 were classified as employed if they worked during any part of the survey week as paid employees. Those who were employed but not at work during the survey week were also included.

2 Dundes, L., and Marx, J. (2006). Balancing Work and Academics in College: Why Do Students Working 10 to 19 Hours per Week Excel? Journal of College Student Retention, 8(1): 107–120. Retrieved January 6, 2020, from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2190/7UCU-8F9M-94QG-5WWQ.

3 Pike, G.R., Kuh, G.D., and Massa-McKinley, R.C. (2008). First-Year Students’ Employment, Engagement, and Academic Achievement: Untangling the Relationship Between Work and Grades. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 45(4): 560–582. Retrieved January 6, 2020, from https://naspa.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2202/1949-6605.2011#.W4an6c5KhhF.

4 Householders are persons in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented. Never-married students living away from home in college dormitories are not considered householders.

5 Own children are never-married sons and daughters of the student who are under 18, including stepchildren and adopted children.

Supplemental Information

Table 503.40 (Digest 2019): Percentage of 16- to 64-year-old undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status, hours worked per week, and selected characteristics: 2000, 2010, and 2018
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College Student Employment – November 2015
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