One thing most college students need is a flexible job. College is expensive, and most cannot rely solely on parents, loans or scholarships. Can college students work at home or in their dorm rooms, or is that an impossible dream?
So long as students consider the limitations of their living arrangements, it should be completely possible… provided you don’t do anything against the rules of your dorm or apartment. Check the rules for your residence to ensure you won’t get into trouble.
What Makes It Difficult For College Students To Work At Home?
One of the biggest challenges a college student may face in looking for a work at home opportunity is their need for flexibility. Class schedules vary so much from semester to semester. One semester, all your classes might take place in the morning and early afternoon. The next, you might have one or more classes in the evening.
Finding a job or business which can cope with that isn’t always easy.
Then there are roommates.
Some roommates are great. They’re considerate, and if say you need to work, they’ll keep the noise level down and let you work. Others will be loud and distracting.
If you’re in a dorm or apartment building, it may not even be your roommates causing the problem. Sound travels well in most buildings, and if someone else if having a party, you don’t have quiet time to work.
Don’t forget your homework load. Sometimes college students have a ton of homework, and making time for your work at home job will be difficult. You’d have that same problem with an outside the home job, but being home where you could do homework sometimes makes it feel more like you should do homework rather than work on your job.
What Do College Students Need To Work At Home?
The supplies that a college student needs to successfully work at home are much like what anyone else would need. Much of what you need is the same as you need for your schoolwork.
You aren’t likely to have space for a private home office, but you should do the best you can. Some work at home jobs can be done wherever you are on campus, but others will require a more private workspace.
If a job says you need a private place to work, you have to consider if you have that available when you’re a college student. You might not have a sufficiently private place to work. That means you can’t take a job where you’re handling sensitive or personal data.
You usually need a computer and internet connection, of course. Odds are you have those already.
A desk is a very good idea, both for your job and doing homework. You’ll probably work more efficiently if you have a desk with an ergonomic office chair and at least two monitors.
Trust me on the dual monitors if you haven’t used them before. They’re great. Not an absolute must, but truly wonderful if you can get them. They save a lot of going back and forth on some projects.
Most jobs these days can pay by direct deposit, but a few will send checks in the mail. Some companies will pay by Paypal as well. Pay attention to how employers say they will send payment so you’re prepared to deal with it. Don’t send banking details, however, until you’re positive it’s a legitimate opportunity.
Talk To Your Roommates
If you’re going to work at home or in your dorm while at college, you will need your roommates to understand what you’re doing. Most importantly, they need to understand when they need to let you work and when they can interrupt you.
How strict you need to be will depend on the job you get. Some are super flexible, so long as you get your work done. Others need you to adhere to a strict schedule.
But a flexible job doesn’t mean you should encourage your roommates to interrupt you freely. That’s an easy path to working too few hours. Hold yourself accountable for working a good number of hours regularly even if no one else will.
Who Hires College Students?
So long as you have an appropriate place to work, college students should be able to qualify for a variety of work at home jobs that don’t require a degree. There are even a few companies, such as Apple, that regularly hire college students for work at home jobs.
Any of the companies that I listed as work at home opportunities for teens will probably also work well for college students. Such jobs can work around school schedules and don’t require a lot of experience. The difference is that there are a lot more companies that will hire you once you’re over 18.
The big thing you need to look at when considering a work at home position is if you can set up a workspace that meets their requirements. If you have that and meet their other requirements, you should apply.
Some people will suggest GPT (Get Paid To) sites and survey sites. These are not jobs, of course, but some people do well enough with them. I’m not listing them because very few pay enough to make it worth the time.
Here are some options to consider:
Tutoring is one of the classic college student jobs. It’s flexible and you can share your knowledge with other students. The pay can be pretty good too.
You can go the traditional route for tutoring jobs and look for opportunities to tutor other students on your campus or at nearby high schools. You can put flyers up advertising your tutoring specialties.
But you can also tutor online. This has the advantage of being more flexible, as you can reach a wider range of students.
In many cases, online tutoring involves teaching students in other countries. Helping people learn English is a popular option, as it often involves simple conversations following whatever rules are set up.
One of the most challenging things about being an online tutor can be knowing where to draw the line. It’s pretty easy to work with students who are simply working on conversational language skills. But if you’re tutoring a subject where students need homework help, you may find that some expect you to do their homework for them. You have to learn how to help your students without simply handing them the answers.
You will probably need a webcam and microphone for online tutoring. It’s helpful for your students to see you as you tutor them.
Here are some companies to consider. These require no teaching experience or credentials. Your current GPA may matter:
Customer Service/Tech Support
If you want to do work at home customer service as a college student, you need to be aware of the requirements. Any customer service or technical support position that requires you to talk on the phone will require a very quiet place to work. Even chat based positions where you’ll just be typing your responses will require a place where no one will distract you as you work.
If you have roommates, these can be very difficult jobs to deal with, as roommates are often distracting or loud. Don’t go for a position that requires a completely silent background unless you’re confident you have that available. In general, these aren’t the best jobs for college students who live in the dorms.
AdviseTech: AdviseTech states a preference for college students or retired people. You only need to dedicate 2-6 hours per week, so obviously this isn’t going to pay all of your bills. If you need something to fill in a financial gap, getting only a few hours isn’t a bad thing at all.
Apple: Hires college students for Apple advisor at home positions from participating universities. This is tech support for the various Apple products.
ContractWorld: Hires in the United States and Canada. Positions can be extremely flexible, but you definitely need to have a quiet workspace. You’ll take calls for a variety of companies, depending on the projects you join.
LiveOps: You must be able to have a dedicated business line for this opportunity, as well as a quiet place to work. You can schedule your work in 30 minute blocks, making this nicely flexible for college schedules so long as you can meet the other requirements.
There are a number of other companies that hire people for work at home customer service jobs. So long as their needs fit with your schedule and location, many of them will hire college students.
Website testing is rarely a consistent job, but individual tests should pay well enough to be worth the time. How much you can earn overall depends on the tests available at the time. Pay rates when listed are what I find on the sites as of this writing but are subject to change. Check with the individual sites to see what they’re paying per test when you apply.
You may be required to have a microphone for website testing jobs. They want to hear your thought processes as you go through the site, not just read whatever you type. If your computer has a built-in microphone, that is usually good enough. They may have requirements for operating systems and other features.
If you do website testing, you will probably want to sign up for multiple companies. You probably will not get enough tests to make a significant income, but it’s an easy side gig.
Website testing jobs often pay by Paypal and require that you be at least 18 years old. A few accept users as young as 16. Users under 18 may need to talk to their parents about accepting payments for them, as Paypal has discontinued their student account option, which was how people under 18 could previously get a Paypal account.
Try My UI: Pays $10 per test. Each takes about 20 minutes.
User Testing: Pays $10 per 20 minute testing video you create.
Testbirds: Pay averages about 20 Euros. Usability tests pay based on the complexity of the test, while bug tests pay based on how many bugs are found and how severe each bug is.
UserFeel: Pays $10 per 10-20 minute test.
Userlytics: Pay is mostly from $5-20, but they say some projects go up to $90. This site allows testers as young as 16 years old. Tests take 20-40 minutes on most projects.
WhatUsersDo: Pay appears a bit lower than many other testing sites – the site says it’s $5 per test right now.
MyCrowd: Another site that says users can be as young as 16 years old. MyCrowd has testers submit bugs to a list on their application and expects testers to check for duplicates so a given bug is not listed more than once. Pay comes from finding bugs, validating test scripts, or reviewing results reported by others.
Testingtime: Testingtime is a little different from some of the other testing sites. Some tests are done in person at a client’s site. Others are done while speaking with the client on Skype. Tests pay up to 50 Euros, depending on how long the test takes.
UserTest.io: Pays £8 per review. You must be at least 16 years old to sign up as a reviewer.
Intellizoom: Pay ranges from $5-10, depending on the type of study.
uTest: uTest is one of the few online website testing sites where I see reports that some people can make a full time living at it. This is true only for the best of their testers. Most people will not make anywhere near that much, and it will take time to reach that level, even if you’re good at software testing.
Validately: Tests can pay from $5-10 dollars for regular tests, or more for longer tests.
I started working in medical transcription back when I was in college. It was a good job. Once I had my skills built up, I could earn a respectable hourly rate from most recordings, although a few doctors were incredibly difficult to understand at best.
But you don’t have to go into medical transcription. You can do general transcription, which takes much less training. Some get into it without any training at all, but I believe that getting a little helps.
The Transcribe Anywhere course is a great resource for anyone considering working as a transcriptionist. You get a free mini course first, so you can decide if it’s worth paying for the whole thing before you risk your money. It’s a good way to find out if being a transcriptionist is a good choice for you.
I have a lot of transcription companies listed in my post about finding remote entry level jobs. I won’t duplicate it here.
While mystery shopping often involves going to a store or restaurant and evaluating their services, it is sometimes also done over the phone. Either can be good when you’re going to college, especially if there’s a lot of shopping in your area.
It is difficult to get enough work as a mystery shopper to make a decent income, but it can be a fun extra. If you do mystery shopping in person, it can be an easy way to get the occasional meal out.
Be careful of scams related to mystery shopping. One of the classics is for a company to send a cashier’s check or money order to you, tell you to cash it, keep part and send the rest to them. Trouble is, the check is fraudulent and leaves you on the hook for the entire amount. Banks and places that wire money are fairly aware of this scam these days, but you should be aware of it as well.
If you want to really get into mystery shopping, you may want to visit the MSPA website. You can access some things for free, but other features require a paid membership. You can see a list of member companies for free, which can help you find legitimate mystery shopping opportunities.
A Closer Look: Shops may be for a variety of services. They also hire schedulers and editors as independent contractors.
BestMark: Requires shoppers to be at least 19 years old. They also hire exit interviewers who talk to customers as they leave a retail establishment.
Call Center QA: Pay $5 per telephone mystery shop and likes to work with students over the age of 18. They emphasize that this is not a part or full time job, just something for a little extra money. I like that kind of honesty.
Intelli-Shop: Shops may include going to a store, calling a business or visiting a website.
MarketForce: Has opportunities for mystery shoppers and theater checkers.
Perception Strategies: Focuses on healthcare telephone mystery shopping. They list the markets they’re hiring for on the application page.
Depending on your skills, freelancing can be a great way to earn money from home when you’re a college student. It takes time to find enough clients to keep the money coming in, but freelancing is as flexible as you make it.
Obviously, you have to balance how many clients you take on with your course load. You don’t want to get poor grades because you spent too much time on a client project. Likewise, you don’t want unhappy clients because you needed to focus on your schoolwork.
Freelance sites can be picky about who they allow to sign up. Many will decline to add you to their site if they have too many people signed up already with the same skills. But once you’re in, you can try for projects using whichever skills you choose.
Freelance writing is one of the most popular options. You may find that some sites are overloaded on freelance writers. On the plus side, there are lots of freelance writing opportunities out there.
Fiverr: Fiverr took its name from the price people would pay freelancers on its site for projects. That’s no longer a strict limitation. Freelancers can have addons and higher priced services now on Fiverr, although you have to prove that you do high quality work to use some features. You can offer a wide range of freelance services here, from the traditional to the strange.
There are also more typical freelance job sites such as:
Being a virtual assistant is often a type of freelancing. You usually have multiple clients. The work can range from scheduling appointments to social media management to answering phone calls or emails, and beyond.
I’ve written a post on how to become a virtual assistant, so you can check that out if this might be of interest to you. There are a lot of factors to consider in starting this kind of business.
The great part about a business like this is that you can add to your offered services as you learn more in college. It can also help you build a great resume for your future career or be something you keep doing long after college.
What About Microtask Sites?
There are a lot of websites, such as Amazon’s MTurk and Clickworker, that offer payment to people who do microtasks, that is, tasks that take a few seconds or minutes to complete. Are those worthwhile?
I’m not a fan.
While some people earn a decent hourly rate once they get going with these sites, it’s difficult to get paid that well. Tasks that pay more than a pittance aren’t always available. These sites aren’t necessarily a scam, as they pay you what they say they’ll pay you, but in many cases you’ll struggle to earn even a few dollars an hour at them.
You have better things to do with your time, even if it’s your downtime.
If you want to learn more about microtask sites, here are some review’s I’ve pulled up for you to consider:
If you’re one of the lucky ones who can make microtasks work for you, great. But if you can’t earn enough money at these, move on.
What you really need to consider along with the low pay most people get from doing microtasks is the opportunity cost. What else could you have done with that time that might have given you a greater benefit in the long run?
You could have spent that time looking for a better work at home job or starting a blog or other home business. These may not pay off as fast as microtasks can, but the income you earn in the long run will probably be greater.
Sure, a few people do well with microtasks, such as this fellow. But that’s the exception, not the rule.
If you really want to do microtasks, fine. Do them. But make sure they’re really worth your while.
While there are no guarantees that you will earn anything as a blogger, I still like it as a work at home option. It can always be a side gig while you do more reliable things. Then, when/if you build your blog up into a profitable business, you can spend more time on it.
The great thing about a blogging business is that the costs are low and you can do it entirely on your own schedule.
Don’t go for a free blog. The limitations often come back to bite you later.
Paying for your domain name and hosting is quite affordable. I use A2 Hosting, which starts as low as about $4 a month. I don’t use the lowest level of hosting but I still get a really good deal from them.
The great thing about blogging is that you have so many options. You can blog about almost anything that interests you.
The hard part for some is monetizing. A blog isn’t a business if you don’t make money from it.
You have a lot of options to make money from your blog, however. Consider these:
- Affiliate marketing
- Selling ads
- Working with brands
- Selling ebooks
- Selling physical products
What will work for you depends on what you’re blogging about and what you’re comfortable doing. Some things will come more naturally to you than others.
Don’t assume you will have huge success as a blogger, no matter how many ebooks you see trumpeting how this blogger or that makes six figures or more annually. They’re the exception. Take what advice from them that works for you but don’t assume you will get the same results.
Beware Of Scams
You’ll probably be very eager to find a way to earn money from your home or dorm room when you’re in college. Don’t be so eager that you’re an easy target for scams.
The basic rule of thumb is “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” This won’t keep you from falling for all of the scams, but it will help.
Even with opportunities you believe to be legitimate, be careful. Some work at home scams steal the name of a legitimate opportunity and set up their own, very similar website. These can be very difficult to spot, but if you’re careful, you can find the right one in most cases.
When in doubt, ask around. There are a lot of places where you can ask the opinions of other people to work at home if you aren’t getting enough information from your own searches.
Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.