8 Things You Should Know About Federal Work-Study

Financial Aid4 minutes

The Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program gives students an opportunity to gain valuable work experience while attending college or a career school. And unlike a federal student loan, you don’t have to pay this money back!

Here are eight things you should know about the FWS Program:


You must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

This is where it all begins! The FAFSA® form is the only way to be considered for FWS. Once you’ve filled out your FAFSA form and been accepted to your college or career school, you’ll receive a financial aid award letter. This letter outlines all your financial aid, including FWS, if your school has determined you’re eligible.

Students who file their FAFSA form early and indicate they’re interested in Federal Work-Study usually have a higher chance of being awarded funds.


Act quickly—jobs may be limited.

Once you’ve been awarded your FWS funds, the next step is finding a job.

Some schools may match students to jobs, but most require you to find, apply, and interview for positions on your own. Check with your school’s financial aid office and student employment center for more information—they can be great resources for navigating the FWS process.

Not all FWS jobs are strictly on-campus. Many non-profits offer the opportunity to earn FWS wages while doing community-based work off-campus, such as serving as a reading tutor to kids at a local elementary school.

Start your search early so you have time to research the different jobs available. Work-study jobs can have different pay rates and can give you different kinds of work experience. Make sure to think ahead about what job will meet your needs and goals. 


FWS funding and jobs are not guaranteed each year.

Several factors can affect whether you receive work-study each year. Those factors can include

  • your family income or financial need,
  • whether you used the work-study funds awarded to you in the previous year, and
  • how much work-study funding your school received that year.

If you’re interested in the program, contact your school for information on their award criteria.


Work-study funds are usually for your day-to-day expenses.

Typically, work-study pay is for your day-to-day needs such as food, transportation, and school supplies.

Some schools allow you to apply your FWS funds directly to your account for billed expenses such as tuition, fees, and room and board. If you want to use your FWS funds this way, contact your financial aid office to see if this is possible. 


You’ll get your work-study funds through a regular paycheck.

You’ll get paid at least once a month, although some schools may pay you weekly or biweekly. Most schools offer direct deposit, but some may still use paper paychecks. Check with your school’s financial aid office about how you would be paid. 

Undergrads are paid by the hour. Grad and professional students can be paid hourly or on salary, depending on the position.

Work-study jobs can have differing pay rates, depending on the type of work and what skills you need for the job.


FWS jobs are always part-time.

FWS jobs are always part-time work. Plus, your school will have a set number of hours that you can work in a given job.  

Your weekly work schedule will depend on the type of job you get and your employer’s expectations. Your employer and your school’s financial aid office will build a schedule around your classes.

You should not exceed the total hours in your FWS job. Check in with your supervisor and your financial aid office if you have questions about your limit and how to track your total hours worked.

In some rare situations, you may be able to be paid as a regular employee after your FWS funding runs out. Check with your supervisor to see if there is any flexibility to continue working in the role after your FWS funding runs out. 


FWS earnings will not reduce your future student aid.

When your fill out your FAFSA form each year, you report your tax information. Then your income (or your family’s income) is used to determine how much federal student aid you’ll be offered in the next school year.

But you should also make sure to report your FWS earnings on your FAFSA form. When you do, those FWS earnings won’t be included as part of your total income when your school calculates your aid offer. This means the money you make from a FWS job won’t impact your student aid offer the next year.

If you need help filling out your FAFSA form, reach out to your school’s financial aid office. Some schools may send a notice in early spring showing how much you made in your last calendar year to help you file your FAFSA form.


You must keep your grades up to stay eligible.

Falling behind in your studies can affect your FWS eligibility. Specifically, you’ll lose your FWS eligibility if you fall below your school’s requirements for satisfactory academic progress.

Sometimes it can be hard to balance a job and school at the same time. But keep in mind that your employer plans your work hours around your school schedule. If your schedule needs to change, that’s ok! Don’t be afraid to speak to your employer and your school’s financial aid office about changing your schedule or how many hours you work a week.

Remember, the Federal Work-Study Program is intended to help you succeed!