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Work-Study / Frequently Asked Questions

Work-Study and What to Know

Work-Study is a smart and experiential way to go about financing your education at Berkeley. Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the program and the ability to find a job that is right for you.

The Basics

1. What is work-study?

Work-study is a need-based federal student aid program that gives you the opportunity to earn money through part-time employment. This program pays a portion of your wages, so this subsidy makes you very desirable to employers! For example, if a department pays you $16.50/hour, it costs their budget a net $8.25/hour. There are three advantages for the work-study student:

The subsidy makes you a highly sought-after employee.

Work-study earnings do not count against your aid eligibility when you fill out next year's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Work-study gives you the opportunity to earn part of your college costs rather than increase your loans. The less debt you graduate with, the more choices you'll have in life.

2. Who is eligible for work-study jobs?

Students who receive financial aid from Berkeley and have work-study as part of their financial aid package are eligible to apply for work-study jobs. In order to begin earning work-study funds you must have a complete financial aid file (no missing documents) and your financial aid awards must not be conditional. Check My Finances in CalCentral to review your awards and to make sure there are no missing documents.

3. Can a Dream Act student receive work-study?

Undergraduate Dream Act students who have completed a California Dream Act application, been awarded an official financial aid award, and who have been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) can request up to $4,000 in non-federal work-study. To do so, please open a case here. Be sure to include your Student ID (SID) number, how much work-study you want, and mention that you are DACA-approved.

4. Can graduate students receive work-study?

If you have filed a FAFSA for the current academic year, are eligible to receive federal financial aid and have financial need, you may be eligible for work-study. Review My Finances in CalCentral to see if you can convert loans to work-study.

5. Can I keep working if I'm not enrolled or graduate?

Unfortunately, you can’t continue to earn work-study if you are no longer enrolled. If you withdraw, are dismissed, or graduate, your last day to earn work-study funds is the last day of your enrollment. If your employer wants to continue your employment they may choose to do so, but they are responsible for paying you 100% of your earnings without the work-study subsidy. This arrangement would be between you and your employer and any earnings after enrollment will not be work-study eligible. You must immediately notify your employer of changes in your enrollment.

6. I’m an athlete, how can I keep my commitments?

Check with your coach to see if there are work-study positions related to your sport or within the athletic department. If not, search for jobs with multiple positions to see if you can find something that may allow absences because others can cover for you. Another option is to search for jobs wherein the employer is looking for short-term commitments, such as assistance for a one-day or weekend conference.

7. How can I get the most out of the work-study program?

Big picture: work-study jobs give you an edge to help pay for college and graduate with less debt.

Bigger picture: work-study jobs help you develop your resume, network with employers, obtain major/career-related work, and assist you in becoming a savvy, aggressive job hunter.

Biggest picture: One day, you'll be in a position to set-up a contract with Berkeley's Work-Study Office and save your company/organization money by reaching back and hiring your fellow Cal Bears. Your work-study experience will have traveled full-circle.

8. Is work-study mandatory? Do I have to get a job?

No, you are not required to work. You may have the option of converting your work-study to loans. If you do not use work-study, it is less likely you'll receive it as part of your financial aid the following year. If you don’t convert your work-study to loans or don’t earn it, be sure not to include it as a resource in your personal budget.

9. Do I have to work at a work-study job?

No, but one of the advantages of work-study is your earnings are not counted as additional income on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you work at a non-work-study job, you will need to report your earnings as income on your FAFSA. This is better than not working…but not as good as working at a work-study job.

10. Is there summer work-study?

No, there is no summer-specific work-study. Work-study awards from your 2019-20 award package cannot be earned after the spring 2020 term ends, or after you are no longer enrolled, whichever is earlier. However, if you have work-study as a part of your 2020-21 award package, you may begin earning these funds as early as July 1, 2020, provided that your 2020-21 financial aid file is complete (no missing documents) and your financial aid offer is not conditional. Check My Finances in Cal Central to review your awards and to make sure there are no missing documents.

Although your 2020-21 work-study funds can be earned during the summer, they are specifically designed to meet your expenses during the 2020-21 award year. Earning your work-study award during the summer deducts from your 2020-21 award package. Save these earnings to pay your expenses once the 2020-21 academic year begins.

There is no option to convert summer loans to work-study. Work-study is not available for Summer Abroad Programs, Education Abroad Programs (EAP), or Intercampus.

What is the Hiring/Referral Process?

This is the most important question you can ask!

When hired by an employer, your work-study is activated and applied to that specific job through the online referral process.

If you have a work-study award as part of your financial aid, have a complete financial aid file (no missing documents) and your awards are not conditional, the employer can take these steps to refer you to the work-study job:

Log in to the work-study site as an employer 

Select "Jobs" and then "Job Listings"

Scroll down, find the job in question, and select the 10-digit job number (far left)

Scroll down and select "Refer Student to this Job," enter your Student ID (SID) and follow the prompts

You must then log in to accept or decline the job offer. Once complete, confirmation emails are sent.

If you already have/ had an existing work-study job during this award year and you’ve now been offered another position, you will determine how to allocate your work-study award between the jobs as part of the acceptance process. Remember to leave enough money in each existing job to cover 100% of your past and, if any, future anticipated earnings.

Your referral is valid from the work-study referral effective date we assign after you accept the offer until either you are no longer enrolled (graduating in December, for example) or until the last day of the spring semester. 

Very Important: If you work in a work-study position before the referral process is complete, your employer will not receive the work-study subsidy. Any time worked prior to your referral effective date is not considered work-study and the employer is responsible for 100% of your earnings. Non-work-study earnings are treated as additional income on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).


How Do I Find a Job?

1. Am I assigned a job by the work-study office?

No. You get to review job openings and apply as you would for any other job. The application process will give you an opportunity to develop your resume, which you’ll include with your application, along with a cover letter, and it will often include an interview. The employer chooses how students apply and the employer does the hiring through the referral process.

2. When can I begin applying for jobs?

You can begin applying for jobs when you can log in to the work-study website. Though you may see work-study in your "My Finances" in CalCentral, if your financial aid offer is "Conditional," your file is incomplete, or you have holds, you won't be able to log in. 

Whenever you begin, speed is crucial in the job hunt. Imagine an employer posts the job and the next day receives a resume and cover letter addressing their specific position. Very impressive! Also, do not wait to hear from one employer before applying to other positions. While you're waiting to hear from that employer, those other positions are getting filled.

3. When can a spring admit start working in a work-study position?

Students who begin at Berkeley in the spring term can start working in a work-study position as early as December 1st, before the spring term begins.  

4. When is the last day that I can find a job?

Work-study positions are available throughout the year except between the last day of the spring semester and July 1st. From mid-August to early September the number of available jobs peak between 250-300 listings per day, many with multiple positions. At the beginning of the spring semester, a smaller peak occurs and just before summer the number of positions increases again. In between you'll usually see about 100 job listings. If you click the "Begin Date" heading twice, you'll see jobs posted weeks/months in advance.

We suggest that you look for a job as early in the year as possible. If you wait until May, you may not get hired before the end of the year. If you want to work during the summer, you need to be planning to enroll in the upcoming fall semester and you need to have a work-study award for that term.

5. What types of work-study jobs are available?

There is a huge variety of work-study jobs, both on and off campus, available. A quick way to see is to sort the job listings by clicking on the link. Note: If you have work-study, always view the job through your log-in area. The "sample list" hides information needed to apply to the job.

6. Will I find a job relating to my intended major/career?

We encourage you to apply for jobs related to your major or career. There is an extensive off-campus employer presence to provide you with lots of opportunities. If you are a freshman, we suggest that you not worry about a major-related job in your first year. You could be competing with upperclassmen and grad students, and it is a transition year for you. Your academics come first…so consider less-demanding jobs to get started.

Consider what works well with your schedule and pays well. Also, think in terms of networking. If you want to work in a particular major-related area, but don't have the required course work yet, see if you can get any kind of job in that department. Do a great job and make contacts. Networking, networking, networking. Those major/career-related jobs will come.

7. How do I find a work-study job?

Go to the work-study website 

Select "Work-Study Student Log-In"

Select "Job Listings"

You can search for a particular job category or you can sort according to the job headings. "Rate" is the most popular sort option. Click once, lowest to highest, click again, highest to lowest. But here's a better job tip: do a comprehensive search first, going through all the jobs listed and apply to any and every job that interests you. The next day, log-in and click the heading "Posted On" once and click it a second time. That will sort the selection according to the latest jobs posted and save a lot of time.

For job details, click on the 10-digit job number (far left).

Note: some students review the "Qualifications" and say, "Oh, they want blah blah. I don't know blah blah. That rules me out." In other words, they focus on reasons not to apply. Focus on reasons to apply. The employer may be willing to train you in an area where you don't have experience, especially if it says "prefer blah blah experience." Of course, if it states "must have blah blah experience" you'd be right in not applying. Don’t confuse the term “prefer" to mean "must have."

8. I have a great six-page resume, and my cover letter tells the employer how much the job will help me. Why haven't I gotten one interview?

More is not better in the job hunt! Your resume should be one page and your cover letter should not focus on why the job is good for you, but why you are good for the job. You do so by relating your skills and experiences to the job's specific qualifications. And remember, those experiences do not need to be from previous paid jobs; your volunteer, sports, community service, and classroom experiences have given you a wealth of marketable skills! Not sure where to begin? What to cut? The Career Center can help!

I Have Questions About My Award

1. My financial aid is listed as "Conditional." Can I be hired in a work-study job?

You cannot earn work-study or be referred to a work-study job until the "Conditional" status is removed. Review My Finances in CalCentral to find out what you need to do to resolve your conditional award.

2. My message reads "File Incomplete." Can I be hired in a work-study job?

You cannot earn work-study or be referred to a work-study job until your file is complete. Be sure to review My Finances in CalCentral to find out what you need to do to complete your file.

3. I have work-study in My Finances, my offer isn’t “Conditional,” and I don’t have a “File Incomplete” message; how come I can’t log-in at the work-study site?

This is very important: things that may seem unconnected to your financial aid (and thus, work-study) will indeed affect it. Here’s what can stop you from being able to log in to the work-study website:

Your grades are poor and your department enters an academic hold on your record.

You owe the university money and billing and payment puts a financial hold on your record.

You have an administrative hold per the Registrar’s Office. 

These holds can affect your financial aid eligibility. If you have a hold, you will not be able to obtain a work-study job.

Try to avoid the domino effect of one problem creating another. Pay the bills owed to the university, make sure all required documents have been submitted, and always, always, put classes and grades first! You’ll feel better, you’ll sleep better, and you’ll have more time to pursue things that are more important to you.

For financial and administrative holds, contact the office that placed the hold, as indicated on your CalCentral dashboard. For academic holds, contact the dean's office of your college or school.

4. How can I get work-study as part of my financial aid or increase the amount of work-study in my award?

Depending on your financial need (as determined by your cost of attendance (budget) and the expected family contribution (EFC) from your FAFSA) and your financial aid awards, you may be able to convert a portion of your offered loans to work-study.

You can view your current work-study and/ or loan awards by logging into CalCentral and navigating to your Financial Aid Award Details under the My Finances tab. From here you can submit a conversion request by selecting the appropriate convert link next to your award(s) and following the instructions displayed. If the amount available to convert is greater than $0, then you’ve got eligible loans to convert!


5. Why did my work-study amount decrease?

Work-study can decrease because financial aid in another area increased, e.g., an outside scholarship check arrived. Your financial aid package is a zero-sum game; you can't receive more financial aid than you're eligible for. Or it decreased because you requested that it be converted to a loan. Or it decreased because you withdrew, were dismissed, or graduated (students who are not enrolled cannot continue in their work-study position). Students who are on academic probation may have their work-study eliminated.

6. Do I need to accept loans to convert them to work-study?

No, if you plan on converting loans to work-study, leave that amount as "Offered" and not as "Accepted." You can accept a lesser amount and hold the difference in reserve to convert to work-study.

7. What does my work-study dollar amount mean?

If your financial aid includes the initial maximum of $4,000 in work-study, that is the total amount you can earn in a work-study position (it takes into account both the work-study share and the employer's share, anything earned over your $4,000 limit is 100% owed to you by the employer). Your financial aid offer splits it into $2,000 fall and $2,000 spring but as far as work-study is concerned, you can earn any or all of that amount at any point during the program year (July 1st until the last day of the spring semester) while enrolled and as long as you are going to be enrolled for both semesters.

8. Is it possible to exceed the limit of $4,000 in work-study per year?

Yes. If you have eligible loans and you have earned at least 70% of that $4,000 you can request to convert additional loans (up to $2,000) to work-study via the conversion link in CalCentral. Note: Until those earnings are reflected in CalCentral you will be unable to submit a request. If you know you have additional loans eligible to convert (i.e., subsidized loans), make sure you do not accept the amount that you plan on converting.

Now That I've Been Hired

1. How many hours per week do I need to work?

It depends on the hourly wage. For example, if you have $4,000 in work-study for the academic year and you find a $16.50/hour job, figure on three months of solid work for the Fall: September, October, and November to earn $2000. That's $~670 per month ($2,000/3), which equals $167.50/week ($670/4), which equals 10.15 hours per week of work ($167.50/$16.50 per hour). This, by the way, is right in the optimum range of hours to work during the week while going to school. A national study showed that students who work 10-15 hours per week have a higher graduation rate than the overall student body. However, the graduation rate begins to decline as the number of hours worked increases above 15 and students who try to work more than 20 hours per week and go to school full-time have the highest dropout rate.

2. Will a job hurt my studying time?

It takes time management but it can be done. Money savvy students are preferring to work part-time or full-time during the summer rather than take out more loans. A few years ago a student who worked 15 hours per week each semester, was involved in extracurricular activities, and had a great GPA, told us her secret: "no TV."

3. Once hired, do I have to stay in that job?

You can leave a job. You want to try to do it on good terms, give two weeks’ notice, and never take any displeasure out on your job duties. But if you have to quit on short notice, quit. Do not, however, include that three-day job on your resume or include that supervisor on a list of references (it is highly unlikely you'd get a good reference).

Think in terms of the big picture: you don't want to wake up in a cold sweat one night fifteen years from now, wondering if your life would be different, if your career would be different, if you'd gotten into a better grad school, if your GPA as an undergrad had been higher, if you'd had a higher grade in that one class, if you had more time to study for the midterm instead of giving in to an unsympathetic employer who demanded that you work.

Conversely, employers are not obligated to keep you employed if you are not performing your job duties.

4. Can I work more than one job simultaneously?

Work-study does not limit students according to hours or jobs. As long as you haven't earned your award amount, you can split it between two or more jobs. For campus positions the university usually limits students to a maximum of 20 hours per week (adding up all your campus jobs) during the fall and spring semesters. Check with the hiring department's payroll administrator.

5. Can I move money from one work-study job to another after I've accepted each of them?

You can move unearned money from one job to another. To do so, please contact us. Be sure to include your Student ID (SID) and provide dollar-specific instructions (such as "...move $xxx from job A to job B").

6. Can I work after the last day of the Spring semester?

There are no work-study-subsidized jobs between the last day of the Spring semester and July 1st. If the employer allows you to work during that time, they are responsible for 100% of your earnings.

If you have work-study as part of your Financial Aid for the following Fall semester, the employer can repost/register the job through our website to reflect the new program year via a July 1st or later begin date and refer you to the position. This is because you receive a new financial aid award each year and possibly work-study as part of that award. The new award needs to be activated, applied to the specific job, and tracked for our federal audits. New and continuing students can begin earning their Fall work-study award as early as July 1st.

7. What happens on the last day of the Spring semester?

The work-study program year is over. Any work-study award amount left unearned is gone. It does not carry over into your financial aid for the next program year.

What About Getting Paid?

1. How much does a work-study job pay?

From minimum wage to upwards of more than $20/hour (usually graduate student positions). Employers set the rate and the highly skilled/greater responsibility jobs tend to pay more.

2. If I don't work, do I have to give the money back?

Since you don't receive the money until you earn it, and you can't earn it without having a work-study job, there is no money to give back. The answer is "no."

3. Do my earnings go to my student account?

No, work-study earnings are not disbursed to your student account and do not reduce your tuition bills. They are earned wages through employment that you’ll receive in the form of a paycheck. You will need to budget earnings towards your college costs.

4. Who do I contact to be set-up on payroll?

Contact the Human Resources administrator where you work. If unsure, ask your supervisor. Note: Payroll does not go through the Work-Study Office; students are paid directly by their department/employer.

5. What do I need to be set-up on the UC Berkeley Payroll?

To be set up in payroll, you will be asked to complete your New Hire Paperwork using DocuSign, an electronic system where you will sign most of the paperwork online. You will also need to provide two forms of ID in order to complete the Federal (I-9) Employment Eligibility Verification Form which you must do in person, after completing the paperwork. Your supervisor can assist you with questions about coordinating this and will work with Berkeley Regional Services (BRS) for these actions.

6. How do I get paid and how often?

You are paid directly by the department or your off-campus employer. Off-campus employers pay according to their own schedule. In a campus position, you will most likely be paid bi-weekly. Please visit the Controller's website, https://controller.berkeley.edu/central-payroll, for general payroll information. Please refer here for direct deposit/Electronic Fund Transfer instructions. For specific questions about your pay, please direct them to payhelp@berkeley.edu because the Financial Aid Office Work-Study unit is not part of the payroll process.

7. Are my work-study earnings taxable?

Yes, generally work-study earnings are taxable, just like regular work earnings. Please refer to your payroll department with specific questions about how your income is taxed. For on-campus employment, you can email your questions to payhelp@berkeley.edu . Note that off-campus employers are obligated to deduct FICA taxes. You will be required to complete a W-4 Employee Withholding Allowance Certificate when you start working, which will determine how much income tax is withheld from your work-study earnings. Here is a link to the W-4 form for you to review prior to completing it.

8. How do I receive my W-2 form?

W-2 forms are usually provided to you by your employer at the end of January. If working off-campus and being paid directly by your employer, your employer provides the W-2 form to you. If paid by the University, your W-2 will be provided by UC Path. You can read FAQs about UC Path W-2s, or contact payhelp@berkeley.edu for more information.


1. Are there any restrictions with work-study jobs?

Yes, federal regulations restrict work-study from being used to:

Displace a regularly-hired or budgeted employee - for instance, we can work with for-profit companies, but the job needs to be created for a student and be directly related to a student's major/career goals. Summer internships are great for that. On the other hand, we couldn't allow an employer to hire the subsidized work-study student as part of its counter help, because the employer would be displacing a regularly hired/budgeted employee.

Promote organizations that restrict membership, such as a union.

Campaign for a political candidate or issue.

Lobby legislatures.

Recruit members for a religious organization or construct/maintain a religious building.

Work outside the United States unless with a branch of the campus or the U.S. government (an embassy, for example).

2. Can any employer be a work-study employer?

Any campus employer can be a work-study employer and we also work with off-campus employers who set-up a contract with us. We have a large off-campus presence and in the past have had employers ranging from Juneau, Alaska, to New York City, to Washington, D.C. See our List of Off-Campus Employers