Campus Jobs

Plenty of ways to earn back your tuition dollars

By Jordan Holliday

The Windy City is a wonderful place to blow some cash, but it helps to have a little money in the pockets first. If that means a getting a part-time job, you won’t have to look hard: Departments and facilities throughout the school rely upon student help, and it’s always recruiting season.

Several resources exist to streamline the process for job seekers. The University’s student employment Web site lists openings on and off campus, including non-work-study positions. Listings there tend toward office work. Those looking for something different can try Marketplace, a Craigslist-style site for the Hyde Park community, where your neighbors enlist the services of nannies, copy editors, drug-trial subjects, and whatever other service-professionals they may need.

The listings, though, offer only a glimpse of available jobs. Fourth-year Laura Naccarato, a certified lifeguard before coming to the U of C, simply e-mailed the aquatics director and was soon arriving at Ratner before sun-up to watch over morning swimmers. (The schedule has its benefits: “No one drowns that swims laps at 6 a.m.,” Naccarato said.) Others with useful experience or skills could also have luck peddling them to departments in need.

Prized positions, like research assistantships and lab work, oftentimes aren’t found in the job listings either. Students say asking your professors is the best bet for landing one of those popular jobs; volunteering to buff beakers gratis for a quarter or two can also lead to more substantial (and remunerative) work later on.

Should nothing else turn up, there are a couple of standbys to fall back on. Through the Neighborhood Schools Program (NSP), University students work as teaching and technology assistants in local schools. According to Education Programs Director Duel Richardson, NSP employs around 300 students annually at wages starting above $11 an hour. But NSP frequently isn’t a viable option for those without work-study eligibility, since the program limits non-work-study students to six hours of work each week.

And of course, there’s always the library: employer to more than 250 students throughout its six branches, according to Kamilah Burke, a personnel assistant at Regenstein. Reshelving arcane books while wandering the endless stacks of the Reg is probably the quintessential U of C job, but student employees also check out books, process inter-library loans, apply labels and barcodes, and handle any number of other tasks to keep the pages turning—all for wages that start at $10.77-an-hour this year.

Students also find work as intramural referees, building entrance attendants, cashiers at student-run coffee shops, security guards in the Smart Museum of Art—and with fourth-years graduating, students going abroad, and class schedules changing, a job that isn’t open now is likely to be soon. In fact, such an array of options exists that the challenge is rarely in finding a job.

More often, the trick lies in getting a job that fits your style. The evening shift at a library circulation desk can be, in effect, paid homework time (you’ll learn to “harrumph” to get the clerks to look up from their problem sets), but nighttime jobs also cut into time with friends or extracurricular schedules.

Résumé-boosting work, like lab positions, probably won’t afford the same opportunities to finish schoolwork on the job. Hours are typically during the day, so scheduling around classes can be troublesome. But for most, the practical experience is worth it.

For the ultimate in flexibility, there are studies in the psychology department, the medical school, and the Booth School’s Decision Research Lab; the latter accepts walk-in participants Monday through Friday. The going rate for study participation is $10 an hour, though medical studies pay far better, and total compensation sometimes includes other perks—free soft drinks, chocolate bars, or experimental antidepressants—to sweeten the deal.