The best and worst student jobs

pouring out coffee beans

If you're looking for a part-time job, you might want to hear what these students had to say first

Your first job during college or university should be a great experience: you’re meeting people, learning new skills and building your confidence. But not everyone gets that lucky…

We asked the TSR community about their favourite and most-hated part-time jobs. Here’s what they had to say.

debit card being passed to shop assistant

Retail (high street shops, supermarkets and other stores)

Ah retail. Standing all day, crack-of-dawn starts on a Saturday (which should be illegal) and non-existent Christmas holidays. It’s no walk in the park, as Sr90 explains.

"I worked for a well-known high street fashion retailer as a sales assistant and then a supervisor. Never again. I met some lovely people but the job was awful. Constant 6am starts, being scheduled for shifts they knew I couldn't do, impossible to book any time off…"

“Don't get me started on working Christmas in a retail job. For three years I had to wake my mum up at the crack of dawn on Boxing Day to get her to drive me 200 miles, then immediately leave me and drive back home."

“I’ve worked three weeks straight without a day off, dealt with some REALLY rude customers, babysat uncooperative temps and worked with an assistant store manager stricter than the music teacher in the film Whiplash. I think I'd rather sign up for Job Seekers Allowance than ever do that again.”


But don’t let that put you off. After all, some members had only positives to share:

“My best job was being a till operator at a large supermarket. I essentially got paid £8.20 an hour to talk to people while scanning their shopping. I made some awesome friends and would happily go back again.”


“My favourite job was working in a card shop: you got trained well, staff were lovely and management were friendly and always there to help. I worked as a temp over Christmas, so it did get stressful at times, but most costumers were pretty understanding too.” 


But then there's the dark side of retail that anyone who’s ever worked in the industry can relate to...

“I worked in retail somewhere that shall not be named... Honestly that place. My managers were nice, but it was the people. The CUSTOMERS. I worked there for two years and handled more human poop than a retail worker should ever have to.”


Well... that says it all really.

waitress with a tray

Hospitality (bar, restaurant and event jobs)

Working behind a bar or waiting tables is another favourite industry for busy students. After all, chatting to customers as you serve food and drink can’t be too stressful, right? Think again…

“I work in a bar at my local golf club, and it’s the worst. It’s minimum wage (even though I'm a keyholder and handle the tills) and horrible middle-aged men constantly complain when you don't make their drink within two seconds. My lazy manager does no work, which means other people (me) have to do her job for her. I've been there over two years now, but it’s only for the tips...”


Of course, the tips! Easily the best thing about the industry, sometimes you can be taking home 20 or 30 quids’ worth of change a night. Just so long as that’s not ALL you’re getting paid…

“I worked in a cafe, which got VERY busy in the summer. I was 15 when I started, so obviously there were no rules regarding my pay. At first, I worked 16 hours a week, then it went to 20, then 24. Peak season I was working 9-4.30 Monday through to Saturday. 
I worked there for 10 weeks and ended receiving a grand total of £30 for my time worked. When I received my National Insurance number, my boss told me not to come back – but not before paying me in £1 coins and 50p pieces.”

Queen G

No matter how bad it gets, sometimes you’ve got to just take any positives you can get from the situation. Member CTLevers shows us how to look on the bright side of life:

“My worst job was doing the pot wash in a local cafe. It’s seriously the worst job possible. Rubbish pay and very little job satisfaction. The only positive I got from that job is the humility to understand how terrible part-time jobs can be!”

woman on the phone


If you prefer talking on the phone rather than in person, you may have considered a job in telesales before. The promise of high commission on the sales you make and cash bonuses for hitting those targets tempts many students through the door… but not for that long, it would seem:

“I worked in telesales for a ‘photographic studio experience’! So awful: they made us harass the same numbers over and over again each day, and most of the sales they made were to vulnerable older ladies that were convinced it would be ‘something nice for your daughter and grandkids won't iiiiit?!’. I couldn't stand it; I lasted just three weeks before I got the hell outta there!”


AngryRedhead shares the same sentiment:

“I second that – telesales is awful! I lasted about a week and then quit.”


But at least you can give your brain a rest from all the studying – following the handy script they give you saves you a lot of time and energy:

“My worst job was working in telesales selling life insurance. There’s only so many times you can repeat: ‘Hello, have you thought about what will happen to your loved ones when you die?"

man pouring a beer

And here’s a few random ones…

“The best job I ever had was ceiling hanging. Nice and easy… except the time I put the shadow batten on the wrong way around.”


“When I was 10 my neighbour had two elderly pugs. She was in a very depressed state and needed someone to walk them, and for £2 the younger me thought I was rolling in it. I did love helping this woman, but these pugs were so damn slow. Ten-year-old me was used to running around with my Jack Russell at the time, so walking at a snail's pace with two wheezing pugs wasn't exactly fun…”


“A family friend owns a funeral parlour and 15-year-old, death-obsessed me loved working there. The pay was basically nothing but you won't find a more comfortable or quiet work space...”


… Spooky. 

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