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Indicators

This is a supplemental indicator. Unlike core indicators, which, for the most part, are updated yearly, supplemental indicators may only be updated periodically.

College Student Employment
(Last Updated: February 2019)

The percentage of full-time undergraduate students who were employed was lower in 2017 (43 percent) than in 2005 (50 percent). Similarly, the percentage of part-time undergraduates who were employed was lower in 2017 (81 percent) than in 2005 (86 percent).

Many undergraduate students ages 16 to 64 are employed at the same time they are in enrolled in school. In 2017, 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.


Figure 1. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and hours worked per week: 2005, 2010, and 2017

Figure 1. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and hours worked per week: 2005, 2010, and 2017


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, 2005, 2010, and 2017. See Digest of Education Statistics 2018, table 503.40.


The percentage of full-time undergraduate students who were employed in 2017 (43 percent) was lower than in 2005 (50 percent) but was not measurably different from the percentage in 2010. Similarly, among those enrolled part time, the percentage of undergraduates who were employed in 2017 (81 percent) was lower than in 2005 (86 percent). However, in 2017, the percentage of part-time undergraduates who were employed was higher than in 2010 (75 percent).

In 2017, some 7 percent of full-time undergraduates were employed less than 10 hours per week, 8 percent were employed 10 to 19 hours per week, 17 percent were employed 20 to 34 hours per week, and 10 percent were employed 35 hours or more per week. A lower percentage of full-time undergraduates worked 10 to 19 hours per week in 2017 than in 2005 (8 vs. 9 percent), and a lower percentage worked 20 to 34 hours per week in 2017 than in 2005 (17 vs. 20 percent). Among undergraduates enrolled part time in 2017, 4 percent were employed less than 10 hours per week, 5 percent were employed 10 to 19 hours per week, 25 percent were employed 20 to 34 hours per week, and 46 percent were employed 35 hours or more per week. The percentage of part-time undergraduates who were employed 35 hours or more per week was lower in 2017 than in 2005 (55 percent).


Figure 2. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status, sex, and race/ethnicity: 2017

Figure 2. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status, sex, and race/ethnicity: 2017


‡ 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 and American Indians/Alaska Natives were not met; therefore, data for these groups are 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, 2017. See Digest of Education Statistics 2018, table 503.40.


Among undergraduates enrolled full time in 2017, there was no measurable difference between the percentages of female students (45 percent) and male students (41 percent) who were employed. However, among undergraduates enrolled part time, a higher percentage of male students than of female students were employed (84 vs. 78 percent).

In 2017, the percentage of full-time undergraduates who were employed was lower among Asian students (29 percent) than among students who were Black (39 percent), White (45 percent), Hispanic (46 percent), and of Two or more races (49 percent). In addition, a lower percentage of Black than of White or Hispanic full-time undergraduates were employed. The percentage of part-time undergraduate students who were employed did not measurably vary among racial/ethnic groups.


Figure 3. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and level of institution: 2017

Figure 3. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and level of institution: 2017


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.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October, 2017. See Digest of Education Statistics 2018, table 503.40.


In 2017, the percentage of full-time undergraduates who were employed was higher at 2-year institutions (50 percent) than at 4-year institutions (41 percent). Conversely, the percentage of part-time undergraduates who were employed was lower at 2-year institutions (78 percent) than at 4-year institutions (83 percent).


Figure 4. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and age group: 2017

Figure 4. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and age group: 2015


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, 2017. See Digest of Education Statistics 2018, table 503.40.


In 2017, the percentage of full-time undergraduates who were employed was lower for those ages 16 to 24 (41 percent) than for those ages 25 to 29 (54 percent), ages 30 to 39 (58 percent), and ages 40 to 49 (64 percent). Among undergraduates enrolled part time, the percentage who were employed was higher for those ages 16 to 24, ages 25 to 29, and ages 30 to 39 (82 percent each) than for those ages 50 to 64 (65 percent).


Figure 5. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and selected student characteristics: 2017

Figure 5. Percentage of undergraduate students who were employed, by attendance status and selected student characteristics: 2017


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 refers to 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, 2017. See Digest of Education Statistics 2018, table 503.40.


In addition, the percentage of undergraduates who were employed varied by the characteristics of the households in which they lived. For example, among full-time undergraduates in 2017, a higher percentage of householders than of non-householders were employed (57 vs. 39 percent).4 The percentage of full-time undergraduates who were employed was higher for those who lived with one or more of their own children (57 percent) than for those who lived with no children (42 percent).5 Also, the percentage of full-time undergraduates who were employed was higher for those who lived with a spouse (59 percent) than for those who did not live with a spouse (42 percent). Among undergraduates enrolled part time, the percentages of those who were employed did not measurably differ either by householder status, the presence of own children, or the presence of a spouse.


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 August 29, 2018, 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 August 29, 2018, 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.


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