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The Impact of Part Time work towards Academic Performance

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 5363 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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1. Introduction

Most of MCAST students work part-time. Does this affect their school performance? If work is related to their studies this would definitely be beneficial. What if work is not study-related? After all, do students really need to work? Is a students’ life becoming boring?

Curtis and Williams (2002) states that combining paid work and study, has become a norm in the UK. Vickers et al. (2003) report a similar situation in Australia, highlighting the global significance of this trend. According to Labour Force Survey carried out in the UK, it states that between 1996 and 2006 the amount of student engaged in part-time employment increased by 50%. According to the Journal of Organizational Behavior (1998) 50% of the full-time students in the U.S. have a part-time job.

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Part-time work can have a positive impact on the students especially if the work is course-related. Students can have a glimpse of their future job and determine whether they actually like that particular career path. Also, part-time jobs can help students improve time management skills and become more efficient. Parents and educators are in favour of employment amongst students because they believe that employment ‘builds character’ (Greenberger and Steinberg, 1986). Dwyer et al. (2001) argue that combining work and study promotes a ‘pragmatic perspective on education’

On the other hand, an excessive workload can have a detrimental effect not only on the students’ academic performance but also psychologically and physically. Combining work and study can also have negative effect on the students’ mental health such as stress and fatigue, leading to worsening performance in class. Rolfe (2002) reports that UK students believe that the excessive and unsocial hours of part-time work sometimes lead to tiredness and depression.

If we had to look at higher education around the globe, say in the UK, students would have to pay approximately £3000. In Germany, universities now charge €1000 enrolment charge per year. In the USA the tuition fee varies around $9000 per year.

Malta is one of the few exceptional cases were students are paid to study. MCAST students are entitled to €83 per month and €233 at the beginning of the academic year.

Out of which students are entitled to pay €372 BTEC registration fee.

When I started university 6 years ago I never felt the need to do a part-time job (except in summer). Obviously, my budget was very tight and luxuries were inexistent. Nowadays, I started to believe that students prefer working part-time than keeping away from buying expensive mobiles, laptops and cars.

This study examines two types of part-time work. Research has been preformed for students who work in the IT industry and the other research was carried out on students whose part-time job is not study-related. The purpose of this research is to find out whether these two types of part-time work affect the students’ performance and well-being.

In this research we find that part-time jobs for student have a positive impact on their studies as long as the number of hours worked does not exceed twenty. Section 4 provides a background on the apprenticeship scheme at MCAST and other non-IT related jobs. Section 5 analyses the common part-time jobs amongst respondents and the main reasons for engaging in part-time work. Section 6 evaluates the effect of part-time work on students’ performance. In Section 7 the students’ well being is analyzed when compared to work and study commitments.

Discussion, Future Limitations etc..

2. Literature Review

The literature reviewed below examines the popularity of part-time work amongst students, how employment is affecting students’ performance and how part-time work is effecting the students’ life. Some of the issues discussed in this research are the number of hours a student works, whether they still have time for study and leisure and how does this effect their academic performance and well-being.

The prevalence of part-time work:

According to ‘Social and Economic Conditions of Student Life in Europe’ over 40% of the students from Spain, Sweden and Finland have work experience prior to entering into higher education. In general, more students from lower education backgrounds have work experience than students whose parents attained a higher education degree.

It has been reported that poor students in countries such as Bulgaria, Ireland and Switzerland receive additional grants to compensate for the missing base funding via state support. For example, Irish students from low-educated families receive 93% more state support and high-educated families 44% less than the average student. In Malta students who come from families where the total household income is less than €5,000 per year are eligible for a supplementary grant of €42 every four weeks, which is additional to their regular stipend.

In Netherlands and Estonia more than two thirds of the students have a part-time job. In Australia half to three quarters of the students work. According to the report of the French Conseil Economique et Social on students’ employment (2007), 15% to 20% of students work regularly while studying in France. ‘Statistics Canada’ states that, in Canada more than 48% of the students work part time. Full-time students working more than 35 hours per week has almost doubled since 1990. According to the Canadian Undergraduate Survey Consortium, more than 50% of the students work during their least year of their degree than the first.

In Austria, Czech Republic and Estonia there is a comparatively high rate of employment and a relatively close relationship between students’ jobs and students’ courses (‘Social and Economic Conditions of Student Life in Europe’).

Analyses of the Eurostudent survey indicates that the lowest level of students working part-time is in Southern Europe (especially Portugal and Italy) and the highest rate is in Netherlands and Ireland. Potential reasons for such outcomes may be due to the nature of the labour market and availability of jobs suitable for students. For example, in Greece the majority of students do not engage in paid employment due to lack of job opportunities (Dimitros and Karaliopoulou (2005)). Whereas, in the U.S. part time employment has become the norm amongst students (Bureau of Labour Statistics 2005).

In the past few years employment among post-secondary students has been increasing rapidly.

The effect of part-time employment on students’ performance:

Ronald D’Amico (1994) states that part-time employment “provides opportunities to assume greater responsibility, authority and cooperative interdependence”. Students who work part-time will develop networking skills; contacts and references will be valuable for future employment opportunities. Employers may prefer students who held part-time jobs while at college because it indicates stronger management skills. Also, there is high probability that students who worked part-time will be employed on full-time basis once they graduate with the same company.

Green (2001) also stated “that they[students] had gained job skills, experience, knowledge of a variety of jobs, a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of responsibility, and money for personal and school expenses” (p. 329).

Employment can have a positive effect if balance working hours and study are balanced (Cheng 1995).

Research done by the University of Canberra shows that paid employment did not have a large effect on grades. Results show that some paid employment improves grades slightly, but working more than twenty-two hours per week has a negative effect.

On the other hand, most of the research indicates that employment negatively affects students’ academic achievements especially those who work more than fifteen hours a week and they are more likely to drop out (Stern 1997).

According to Furr and Elling (2000), 29% of the students working 30-39 hours per week and 39% of those students working full time indicated that work had a negative and frequent impact on their academic progress. (Dallam & Hoyt, 1981) anticipated that there will be negative effects on school performance because of part-time employment.

Juggling work and study may also lead students to put forth less effort into both because they are spreading themselves “too thin” (Astin, 1993).

According to Canadian Social Trends, 1994 shows that student who worked more than 20 hours had 33% dropout rate whereas students who worked less than 20 hours had a 16% dropout rate.

Young and immature students tend to find it difficult to mange working hours and study than older students (Barone 1993). Therefore, age also pays an important role in the students’ decisions.

A March 2009 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that students with part-time work reduce the time spent on homework, sleeping, and socialization by 84%.

McInnes (2001) stated that “compared with those who do not work, younger first year students who work part-time are more likely to spend fewer days on campus, to not work with other students on areas of their course, and to have studied inconsistently through the semester. They also tend to anticipate getting lower marks, and are more likely to seriously consider deferring at an early point of their student experience … We “also know that these negative factors are amplified the more hours students work, and they feel seriously burdened by overcommitment. (p. 5). “

The effect of part-time employment on the students’ life:

Too many hours spent at work could also affect the student’s lifestyle such as participating in extracurricular activities.

Greenberger and Steinberg(1986) argued that instead of instilling work habits, many students who worked part time at an early age were more prone to cheating and dealing with boring work.

Students who are unable to manage their part-time income or have never been given the right advice on how to save money will find it more difficult to make budgets and are more prone to overspending. This will eventually result in increasing the number of working hours.

Research also indicates that too many hours of work increases fatigue and may cause lower academic performance. Carskadon(1999) states that students who work more than 20 hours changed their sleeping patterns resulting in later bedtimes, shorter sleeps, possibility of falling asleep during class, late arrivals at school or missing lectures.

Many students who work part time find have limited time for their hobbies and extra-curricular activities (Hope 1990).

According to researchers Barling, Rogers and Kelloway, “Labour force participation by high school students, especially more than 20 hours of part-time work per week, is linked to poorer school performance, increased drug and alcohol use, decreased family contacts, and cynical attitudes toward work”

On the other hand, Tannock (2001) and (Li-Chen & Wooster, 1979) pointed out that student works tend to have low skilled jobs, such as a cashier, fast food worker or retail. It is assumed that these jobs have a negative effect whereas high-quality part-time jobs seem to develop career-related skills. Also, these jobs are more likely to be flexible and work with students’ schedules (Healy, O’Shea, & Crook, 1985).

A number of researchers, for example, found that hard work built stronger academic character because it taught the students time-management skills, gave them experience outside of the classroom, more confidence and provided them with more satisfaction in college (Pennington, Zvonkovic, & Wilson, 1989).

According to Smith and Green (2001) student who work learn a lot and they develop self-efficacy especially the low-achievers. In her research Singg (2002) found out that students who work part-time tend to show more responsibility in their daily personal situations and have greater career maturity than those students who do not work.

Stern (1997) states that students will develop a more positive attitude to work when gaining work experience whilst studying. Managing to work part time during the studies will also be beneficial on the resume. Employers look for students who are capable of managing time, working in teams, able to communicate and work on their own initiative.

Research by the University of New Hampshire shows students who have a lot of free time they are more prone to make use of drugs and other substances. Therefore, the benefits of having a part-time job will keep the students occupied during their free time.

Moreover, students who work part-time become financially independent and learn how to effectively manage finances.

3. The Research Context

MCAST-BTEC National Diploma in Computing (Software) is offered at Malta College of Arts, Science & Technology (MCAST). This course is Level 4 and the duration is 1 year Full-time or 2 years part-time on an apprenticeship. The course specializes in Software Development and the modules are relevant to the needs of the industry.

Students who opt for an apprenticeship will still cover the same modules but over the duration of 2 years. ETC assists apprentices in finding an employer with whom they can perform their on-the-job training during the apprenticeship period. Apprenticeship will be required to work 27 hours a week and attend lectures twice a week.

During 2009/2010 academic year I have noticed a 3% drop out and 25% failure rate. It has been found out that students are not dedicating enough time to practice programming mainly due to part-time work commitments. This study is targeted towards this group of students.

The major questions of this research are:

What factors influence students to seek part-time employment?

How do students juggle study and work commitments?

Do students set priorities if study and work commitments clash? If yes, how?

Does part-time work have an impact on the students’ academic performance?

Does part-time work have an impact on the students’ social life and well-being?

Do the types of jobs students’ work have an impact on their academic performance?

Do the number of hours worked effect the students’ performance?

Research Methods:

A questionnaire was compiled for students enrolled in the second year of the Diploma (specializing in Software). Questionnaires were distributed to two classes (one apprenticeship and the other non-apprenticeship) during one of the lectures. I taught both classes the same modules, i.e. Programming Concepts/Practice and mentoring their end-of-year Software Projects.

Students were asked to complete the questionnaire anonymously. The data was collected two months prior to the end of semester when the student attendance was high.

A total of 35 students completed the questionnaire. The average age of the students interviewed was between 17 and 21 years.

Questionnaire Structure:

The questionnaire comprised of four sections as follows:

General information including Age, Gender and indicating whether they are apprenticeship students or not.

Students’ engagement in part-time employment, including type of job, number of hours worked per week, number of days worked per week and the average hourly rate

Students’ distribution of income

Students’ experiences in balancing work, study, personal development and leisure.

Students were asked to indicate whether they worked during the academic year and, if so, the number of hours and days they worked per week and the hourly rate. To evaluate the impact of part-time work on education, students had to specify how many hours they spend studying and the frequency of missing lectures or assignment deadlines due to work commitments.

Ethics Procedure:

Students were advised that participation was voluntary and refusing to participate will not affect their academic report. Students were informed that completed questionnaires will be stored in a secure location and treated with strict confidence. The questionnaires did not include any confidential data such as parents’ income or whether the students’ family receives government social benefits and grants.

4. Overview of the students’ background:


ICT students at MCAST can opt to form part of the Apprenticeship Scheme during the second year of the National Diploma. They will spend 2 days at the college and 3 days at the work place.

Apprenticeship students work 27 hours a week and are paid €200 per month (besides the monthly stipend). The course will be completed within 3 years (1 Year Full-Time and 2 years part-time on an apprenticeship).

The benefit of students working as apprentices is that they are exposed to the working world and therefore they can better relate theory to practice. These students are led by professionals thus gain training and a learning experience. Apprentice students are more likely to be recruited by the company after they have completed their studies.


The option is that students can decide to complete the National Diploma in two years full-time. They will only benefit from the monthly stipend as stated in Introduction Section. These students will be allocated seventeen hours of lecturing per week. Most of the ICT students opt for this choice mainly because they complete the Diploma within 2 years.

5. The prevalence of part-time work:

Non-IT related part-time jobs:

Employment is the only way students can earn extra cash. Since most of the students are under qualified it is very difficult to find course related jobs therefore they opt for other part-time jobs.

According to the Labour Force Survey carried out in the UK, nearly half a million full-time students work in the retail sector and nearly quarter of a million students work in hotels and restaurants industry. This survey shows the complete opposite. Only 11% of the students interviewed work in the retail sector and nearly half the respondents’ work in the catering industry.

Besides the 43% of the students who work at an IT company (apprentices), this survey shows that the most popular part-time jobs amongst MCAST students are the following:

Figure 1: Survey Question: What type of job do you have?

The most popular non-IT related jobs were waiters/waitresses at fast food outlets, crepe makers, selling fast food at stalls and serving drinks in bars and clubs. In general, there were more male students than females engaged in these types of part-time jobs. The least most popular were cashiers at retail shops, telephone assistants, receptionists and entertainers. On the other hand these types of jobs were more popular amongst female students.

These jobs require the minimal responsibility, flexible hours and few qualifications. Conversely, companies prefer people who are committed and work long hours because of the short-term and long-term projects they will have to complete within a stipulated deadline.

Reasons for engaging in part-time work:

Students at MCAST receive €83 per month as stipend. Is this amount enough for a student? Why does a student need to work?

The main reason why students work is because they want to buy a car and maintain it. A car gives students independence and a social status. In February 2009 InsiterOnline.com [1] carried out a survey showing that 85 out of 170 students own a car and 22 out of 85 have a car bought to them by their parents. This clearly shows that Maltese students’ priority is that by the age of 18 they own a car.

The second most popular reason for working is having money to spend during the weekends. The minimum amount a teenager spends every weekend is €20 including alcohol, transport and fast food takeaway. The third most popular reason for working is to buy clothing. Over the years I have noticed that students have become more conscious about their appearance. Most of the students wear expensive brand clothing and accessories. Other students prefer to do a part-time job to buy computer games and the latest gadgets. Keeping in mind that 99% of the students live with their parents therefore they do not have any accommodation expenses (besides a small percentage of the students who are expected to contribute to family expenses).

The diagram below shows the statistics of this survey:

Figure 2: Survey Question: How do you spend your part-time money?

The most unexpected result was the 28% of the students who spend their part-time money on clothes. Research by the (Wheeler, 2001)states that in the U.S. an average student spends $57 weekly on clothes. To make matters worse, Malta is one of the most expensive countries in the EU to buy clothing. Evarist Bartolo [2] , ex-Minister of Education stated that, Malta’s prices are the second highest in the Eurozone (after Slovakia). They are 150% relatively more expensive than EU average. Footwear in Malta has the highest prices in Eurozone: 164% relatively more expensive than EU average. Consumer electronics in Malta are the second highest in the Eurozone (after Slovakia): 186% relatively more expensive than EU average.

Case studies: Reasons for students engaging in part-time jobs

These case studies mostly suggested that students working long hours were doing so because of money.

Working to earn extra money:

David* is 19 years old and his obsession is cars. Similar to the majority of Maltese teens by the age of 18 years their first investment would be a car. This gives them independence and social status. David is not satisfied with buying a cheap second-hand car but his dream is have a modern sports car. David also believes that further education is mandatory in today’s world, therefore he does not intend to stop studying. To be able to buy his dream car he estimates it would cost him around €14,000. Since David is a student he can only apply for a loan of up to €5000, therefore the only option left is to sacrifice his free time and work.

Working to pay for accommodation and living costs:

Sarah* is 21 years old and comes from a middle-class family. During the last year together with her boyfriend they decided to rent a basic apartment and move in together. Although she comes from a middle-class family her family decided to assist her financially with school expenses but not for accommodation. To cope with the expenses, Sarah works as a shopkeeper between 4 and 7 during weekdays and between 9 and 12 on Saturday morning.

Working to pay for leisure activities:

Rebecca* is a fashion enthusiast and loves parties. She is always wearing brand clothing and accessories. The stipend is not enough to buy expensive clothing and go out in the weekends. Therefore, Rebecca works 10 hours a week at a clothing shop to make up for the extra expenses.

Working to gain experience:

Nathan* is one of the brightest students I have ever taught. He is 21 years old and an apprenticeship student. Besides working at an IT company he also works as a freelance web designer. During his free time he is always researching new technologies and enhancing his programming skills.

*The names mentioned in the above case studies are fictitious.

6. The effect of part-time work on students’ performance:

Evaluating Students Income:

Students living with their parents have a higher amount of income when compared to others who have to maintain their own households. In other European countries students have to spend one third of their income on accommodation.

In general, MCAST students spend most of their daily expenses on transport and food. The following table evaluates a student’s daily expenses; assuming that the majority of the students do not own a car but use public transport.

Breakdown of an average student daily expenditure:

Public Transport: (€1 each way)


Lunch & Soft drink:


Total Daily Expenses


If we had to make some calculations:

An MCAST student receives €83 per month. S/he spends on average €5.50 a day at the college.


Monthly stipend

€ 83

Less Monthly expenses (€5.50 * 20 days)


Remaining Balance

– €27

The above calculation shows that a student who commutes to school using public transport and buys lunch from the college canteen everyday the stipend will not be enough to cover these basic expenses. The student makes a loss of €27 monthly.

Paid Work:

Few working hours will unlikely have an impact on the studies, but the more hours worked the more there will be an impact on the students’ academic performance.

This section will take into consideration 4 factors; pay and conditions for students working part-time, time spent in paid employment, time spent at college and time spent studying.

Pay and Conditions for Students working part-time:

According to the Part-time Employees (Amendment) Regulations, 2010- L.N. 117 of 2010, published on the 12th March 2010, part-timers should be paid €4.75 per hour during weekdays and on Sundays and Public Holidays the rate is €6.50 per hour.

It is more likely that students from low-income families engage in a part-time job during their studies. Research shows that nearly half of the respondents earn €3 to €4 per hour, which by and large is the minimum wage. Only 5% of the respondents earn €6 to €7 per hour.

This survey assumes that the statistics are based on the net pay.

Figure 3: Survey Question: How much money do you earn per hour (net pay)?

Time spent in paid employment:

Furr and Elling (2000) and Dallam & Hoyt, (1981) agree that the number of hours worked effect the students’ performance. There is a negative impact when students work more than twenty hours a week.

Figure 4 shows that more than fifty percent of the interviewees work more than twenty hours a week. The majority of these students work as bartenders, waitresses or waiters, therefore it is quite common to work long hours because of the opening hours. Their shifts are usually from 5 pm till late at night. Such part-time jobs do not only entail taking orders and serving food but they are also generally requested to clean the place after the establishment closes.

Figure 4: Survey Question: How many hours do you work per week?

Nearly half of the respondents work between four to five days a week. The majority work on Friday evening and Saturday. Wednesdays and Sundays are also common working days. Students prefer not to work during the weekdays because of school commitments but if they are asked to work during the weekdays the majority of the students admitted that they would not refuse work. This clearly shows that students are eager to make money.

Figure 5: Survey Question: How many days a week do you work?

Time spent at college:

Students are timetabled seventeen hours of lecturing. The following is a timetable of one of the classes interviewed. On average they spend six and a half hours at the college. Out of which they have four and half hours of lecturing. Overall, students wait ninety minutes between lectures.

Figure 6: Sample Timetable

Time spent studying:

ICT students at MCAST spend 8 hours weekly in a computer laboratory. During these hours students will be thought programming concepts and they will also have hands-on sessions where they can practice under the teacher’s supervision. 8 hours are not enough to learn programming. Students have to practice at home to succeed.

According to an article issued by Monash University (Faculty of ICT) states that programming students should spend at least 10 hours per week studying and practicing.


This section will describe the outcome of this research. Figures in section 4, 5 and 6 have been analyzed and evaluated.

The table below calculates the number of hours remaining after deducting the total number of lecturing hours and hours allocated for studying, working and sleeping per week. The following calculation is based on a student who works 20 hours a week


Lectures per week


Working hours




Sleeping (7 hours * 7 days)


Total Hours Remaining (168 hours – 95 hours)


Total hours in a week: 24 hours * 7 = 168 hours

Total appointed hours: 16 + 20 + 49 + 10 = 95 hours

The above estimations illustrate a breakdown of the number of hours in a week. As a result a student who works part time can only utilize the remaining 73 hours for study time and leisure. According to the EuroStudent survey, in most of the countries the average time spent on personal study time ranges between 30 to 35 hours per week.

According to the EuroStudent document, the national averages for study-related activities (i. e. for taught courses and personal study time) range between 25 hours per week in Slovakia and Estonia and up to around 40 hours a week in Romania and Bulgaria. In most of the countries time spent on studies clusters around 30 to 35 hours per week.



Number of Students







Type of student


Number of Students







Working hours for non-apprenticeship students (i.e. not IT related):

Number of Hours


Number of Students

More than 20 hours



Less than 20 hours



Do not work





Number of Students













Breakdown of grades:

Working Scheme

No. of students – Pass

No. of students – Merit

No. of students – Distinction

No. of students – Fail




> 20 hours



< 20 hours



Do not work





The above statistics show that students who do not work or have a course related job are the most successful. The highest number of students who achieved a distinction are the apprenticeship students.

With regards the group of students who work more than 20 hours a week, only one out of eight managed to achieve a pass the rest failed the module.

The group who worked less than 20 hours a week managed to obtain a Pass and half of the group even managed to obtain a Merit. This shows that if students manage to balance work and st


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