How to make money at university

Fretting about your finances? There are ways to earn while you learn … without flipping burgers. Lucy Tobin looks at some of the options

Start a business

How do you do it? Spot a gap in the market or think up a great idea, then bingo, set up a company filling the niche. Michaela Drake set up My Travelling Nanny, a childcare agency matching students with families needing holiday childcare, while studying biomedical science at Sheffield University. She graduated this summer. "The idea stemmed from my own experiences finding temporary work as a nanny in my holidays," says Drake, 21. "I realised that students and teachers with long breaks were often looking for temp work to supplement their income, and became aware of the need for childcare for family holidays that didn't involve relying on crèches or resort babysitters." The idea took off. "Some weeks, I get as many as 10 bookings."

How much can you make? Unlimited: you could be the next Richard Branson. "I make enough to pay my living costs and tuition fees and also have some money in the bank," says Drake.

Any downside? "Lack of time to do much else. During my final year, I dedicated three hours a day to the business." It's difficult to come up with a stellar idea, and tricky to get a start-up off the ground. You'll need to learn to keep accounts and follow business regulations.

CV skills? Entrepreneurialism impresses employers. "I do my own accounting, use a wide range of computer software, and have gained huge confidence in customer service, communication skills and negotiation," says Drake.

Online work (in your pyjamas)

How do you do it? Fire up your laptop and sign up for online money-making opportunities. There's mystery shopping (check out, or tons of small project work – from translation to graphic design – on, which matches students with small companies and individuals who need short-term or project work done. Saskia Gregory, 22, who has just graduated with a BA in popular music from the University of Gloucestershire, registered on studentgems and found a writing job for online fashion site MyCelebrityFashion. "I completed a number of articles at £10 each, and couldn't believe my luck that I'd found work that was fun, easy to do and could be done from my bedroom. I checked studentgems every day hoping to find another project. I've done logo design, presentation design and even the layout for a science textbook. My hours haven't clashed with lectures or social events, because I get to decide when they are. I've done most of my work in my pyjamas."

How much can you make? Depends on the time you put in. More skilled works pays better: a mystery shopping trip to a pizza restaurant might only pay £6, but provides free dinner.

Any downside? After essay-writing, you may not want to spend more hours hunched over your laptop in your bedroom. Unlikely to make you a millionaire.

CV skills? "I learned how to interact with clients, negotiate payment, and built up a CV including working for easyJet holidays," says Gregory.


How do you do it? You know those people handing out freebies or demonstrating new gadgets at train stations or shopping centres? Many are students. Look up specialist operators such as iD Staffing ( or ask your campus job shop about promotions or flyer work. "I signed up with Warehouse Demo Services, a promotions company based at Costco stores around the country, while studying media, culture and society at Birmingham University," says Amanda Shoffman, 23. "My brother did it before me, so I followed him into the role. The shifts were 9am-4.30pm. There were weekly rotas and you could come back in the holidays, plus there were lots of students, so I made friends."

How much can you make? Anything from national minimum wage up. "I earned £48 for each session. Each month I was making around £750-£820," says Shoffman.

Any downside? "Facing secret shoppers, plus sometimes you want to go out late clubbing, but have to work the next day."

CV skills? Marketing ability, customer service and organisational knowhow.


How do you do it? Get paid to pass on your knowledge about your degree subject, A-levels or GCSEs to younger students. Sign up with an agency such as Keystone Tutors or Bright Young Things, or put up notices in local schools or community centres. Take measures to be safe, like only meeting in public places. Ben Martin, 20, teaches subjects including A-level economics while studying politics, philosophy and economics at Brasenose College, Oxford. "After my parents hired a tutor for my little brother, I got in contact with the agency they used, Keystone, in 2009," he explains. "The best part is that the work is rewarding and diverse – every kid is different, so the challenge is constantly changing."

How much can you make? From around £20 an hour. Martin makes £30 to £45 per session, totting up to £2,000-£3,000 a year.

Any downside? "Sometimes you have to tutor children who do not want the extra work, and that can be quite tricky and discouraging." Take into account the time you'll spend preparing for lessons when working out the potential income.

CV skills? Teaching experience, reliability, responsibility, organisational skills. "I have become more patient," Martin adds.

Work for your uni

How do you do it? Universities often need students to host open days, take tours, work on phone banks to lead fundraising campaigns or work on admin. An on-campus boss is likely to be more sympathetic to lecture crises. Debbie Greenwood, 31, graduated as a mature student from the University of Derby last year. "Having a home to run, I had to work part-time to help finance everything, so during my second year of studies I interviewed with Aimhigher Derbyshire," she explains. The government initiative was set up to encourage learners from under-represented groups to go to university. "I'd go into schools to talk to students – from primary age to sixth-formers – about university life, both the learning and social aspects, and discuss their career options." This specific scheme ends this summer, but many universities run their own versions.

How much can you make? Depends on how much time you put in. Greenwood earned around £9 an hour, working between five and 20 hours a week. "I would often be able to pay all my bills when working less than part-time hours," she says.

Any downside? No guaranteed hours or set contract, making it difficult to plan or budget.

CV skills? Experience with children and students, communication and presentation skills.

Corporate summer internships

How do you do it? If you're prepared to sacrifice a couple of months of your summer, working at a bank, law or accountancy firm can be lucrative – but competition is tough. For an internship in summer 2012, you'll need to apply this autumn via a lengthy online application form, followed by at least one interview. Joel Minsky, 23, was an intern at accountancy giant Deloitte during the summer of his second year studying economics at University College London. He graduated last year and now works at rival firm KPMG. "It was the job prospects that most attracted me to the post, but earning great money for seven weeks was a definite bonus," he says. "I applied to three companies online in October, and after a long wait got an offer from Deloitte in February. After training, I worked for three weeks in the audit department, followed by three weeks in tax."

How much can you make? The top banks pay as much as £10,000 per summer. "I earned around £450 a week, and spent some on a holiday after I finished and the rest on my last year at uni," says Minsky.

Any downside? Long hours, spending summer commuting to an office while friends bum around Thailand … "I knew it was my last long summer, so going from student hours to spending two months getting up at 6.30 was also pretty tough."

Useful skills for your CV? Huge potential, ranging from team work to professional skills. "Having the name Deloitte on my CV helped a huge amount – it was one of the things that got me my job at KPMG," says Minsky.

Campus brand manager

How do you do it? Apply to one of the corporates that pay students to get their name known at universities. Those offering schemes include accountancy giants such as Ernst & Young, drinks firm Red Bull, plus banks and law firms. You'll have to attend freshers' fairs, put up posters, create events and possibly also lead social media campaigns. Sam Boynton, 22, graduated in history of art at the University of Bristol last year. He secured a position as a student brand manager for youth marketing firm Campus Group ( from his university job shop and now works for the firm full time. "I was drawn to the position because it looked a bit different to standard bar work," he says. "I was a brand manager for Jack Daniels Whiskey, organising a battle of the bands competition on campus, as well as other events such as pool tournaments. I was also responsible for establishing promotions – free harmonica when you purchase two JD drinks – at local gigs and off-licences, as well as putting up flyers and posters."

How much can you make? A few hundred pounds for a year's work, depending on workload. Boynton was paid £8 an hour, or about £600 for the campaign.

Any downside? Some positions may impinge on studies.

CV skills? Managerial and communication skills, responsibility. "Working for Campus Group entitled me to a Chartered Institute of Marketing award, which proved to be really helpful after graduation," says Boynton.


Lucy Tobin

The GuardianTramp

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