Federal Work-Study Program Benefits

December 21, 2022

Student participating in the federal work-study program.

The cost of college is often more than just the tuition paid at the start of the semester. Funding college also means covering meals, books, supplies, and other activities. It’s expensive and often stressful. There are some ways to reduce the amount of money paid upfront, such as the use of scholarships, grants, federal loans, and in some cases, private loans. Many students need to use these as a way to minimize out-of-pocket expenses. However, another option to help pay for these college expenses prior to taking out a private student loan is to participate in the federal work-study program.

What Is the Federal Work-Study Program?

Around 3,400 post-secondary education institutions in the U.S. offer the federal work-study program. The program itself, sometimes called FWS, helps to fund part-time employment for college students while they are on campus. It is available to those with demonstrated financial need.

The program enables students to earn money by working on campus or in other approved locations. The total amount of the award granted is dependent on when the student applies for the program, as well as the level of the student’s financial, and the funding available through the school.

There are other benefits of the federal work-study program as well. It helps encourage students to engage in community service work. It may also help students gain core skills in their field of study, which could potentially help improve employment opportunities in the future.

Who Is Eligible for Federal Work-Study?

FWS aims to create part-time work opportunities for students with financial need. There are specific eligibility requirements for the program, which include:

  1. FWS requires enrollment in a full or part-time college program or an accredited vocational school. That school must participate in FWS for the student to use the program.
  2. Students must demonstrate financial need for FWS. For dependent students, the family’s household size, parents’ income, parent assets, and the number of other dependent family members enrolled in post-secondary education are used to calculate eligibility. For independent students, the student’s assets will be used.
  3. Completion and submission of the FAFSA application is necessary to qualify for the federal work-study program.

Benefits of the Federal Work-Study Program

There are numerous benefits to the federal work-study program for many students. One common question many students have is this: What is the difference between the federal work-study program and just getting a part-time job? It’s a solid question.

Most work-study jobs are located on the college campus, which means commuting to and from the job site is easier to do and does not always require transportation. However, FWS includes some off-campus roles as well. For underclassmen that do not have transportation off campus, finding an on-campus job is key.

Another big reason to enroll in the federal work-study program is because it views income differently. Unlike other jobs you may have, the money earned by the student through the FWS program does not apply to your FAFSA application in the following year. Students are able to continue earning money, but those funds are not going to increase their income on the FAFSA application. This means you can still apply for and potentially obtain financial aid at the same income level you are now.

For many students, one of the best benefits of the federal work-study program is that it enables students to gain far more flexibility in their employment. The managers of these positions recognize the need for the student to work short shifts and to have ample flexibility. Most managers work around the student’s schedule far better than what is typical in a standard job.

Many of the most desirable on-campus jobs will be a part of the FWS. Businesses are more likely to fill these positions with FWS participants first, before turning to individuals not in the program. This is because FWS is a federally funded program. Therefore, your paycheck comes from the government instead of directly from your place of employment.

First Steps

As a college student, you can elect to be a part of the federal work-study program if you meet the eligibility requirements. If you want a role that offers ample flexibility and minimal commitment to work hours, consider the work-study program. The program is diverse, with ample options in most areas. To get started, you can apply for the program at Federal Student Aid.


Please note that the information provided on this website is provided on a general basis and may not apply to your own specific individual needs, goals, financial position, experience, etc. LendKey does not guarantee that the information provided on any third-party website that LendKey offers a hyperlink to is up-to-date and accurate at the time you access it, and LendKey does not guarantee that information provided on such external websites (and this website) is best-suited for your particular circumstances. Therefore, you may want to consult with an expert (financial adviser, school financial aid office, etc.) before making financial decisions that may be discussed on this website.