Best Summer Jobs for College Students: Over 26 Ideas That Are Worth Exploring
Every spring, millions of people start looking for the best summer jobs. For college students, that often means trying to find resume-enhancing opportunities that align with their studies or future careers. After all, a good summer job can provide a lot more than extra cash. It can help pave your way to the kind of life that you really want after college.
Consider why that is: Seasonal jobs often give students their first exposure to real work settings. By getting a temporary job or internship during a break from school, it's possible to start developing skills and gathering contacts that will help you transition more easily from student to professional. The experiences that you acquire will likely contribute to your discovery of new talents, personal interests, and work preferences. And they can make you better at managing your money and making smart decisions.
So the potential benefits are rather abundant for a typical college student. Summer jobs frequently increase the likelihood for future success. That's probably why, between April and July each year, the number of young people who have jobs, or are looking for work, rises sharply.
In July of 2015 alone, about 20.3 million people between the ages of 16 and 24 were employed in the U.S. About 27 percent of them had jobs related to the hospitality, culinary, and leisure industries. Roughly 20 percent of them worked in retail. And 11 percent of them had jobs related to health or education services. The rest of them were employed in a wide variety of other sectors.1
Depending on your location, finding good summer jobs for students can sometimes be a little tricky. But a lot of cities have summer youth employment programs that can help match you to seasonal opportunities. Plus, more than 70 percent of such programs feature partnerships with employers in the private sector, which is where most jobs tend to pop up.2
In addition, the White House has launched the Summer Opportunity Project, which should help create new jobs and internships all over America. It's an initiative that brings together a large variety of leaders, schools, and public and non-profit agencies at the local and state levels in order to increase the availability of summer opportunities for students and other young people.
Summer Jobs That Are Mostly Outdoors
What's better than enjoying the sunshine and fresh, warm air during your summer break? With an open mind and a little advanced effort, you can find opportunities that let you get paid for working mostly outside. And some jobs will also keep you physically active so that you have a chance to return to school in better shape than when you left.
Many of the best summer jobs in this category are in wilderness areas. For example, beach and mountain resorts, summer camps, and state and national parks tend to generate a lot of seasonal opportunities for current college students who want to work in the great outdoors. You could lead hiking expeditions into the backcountry or help people enjoy fun activities like swimming, zip lining, archery, whitewater rafting, or outdoor photography.
Of course, plenty of outdoor jobs are also available in cities and non-wilderness areas. Most employers will provide on-the-job training. And some of them will also cover the cost of getting certified in CPR and first aid if that is required for the work. But you might stand out among other job candidates if you have some formal training related to tourism or recreation management.
Here are several examples of outdoor summer jobs. (National wage estimates, unless otherwise indicated, are from 2016.3)
1. Swimming pool technician
- Entry-level wage—$10.00 per hour4
- Median wage—$14.00 per hour4
2. Plant nursery assistant
- Entry-level wage—$9.35 per hour
- Median wage—$10.58 per hour
- Entry-level wage—$9.21 per hour
- Median wage—$12.65 per hour
4. Outdoor tour guide
- Entry-level wage—$9.15 per hour
- Median wage—$15.44 per hour
5. Outdoor activities assistant
- Entry-level wage—$8.66 per hour
- Median wage—$11.48 per hour
6. Golf course assistant
- Entry-level wage—$8.27 per hour4
- Median wage—$10.00 per hour4
7. Dog walker
- Entry-level wage—$8.19 per hour4
- Median wage—$12.00 per hour4
- Entry-level wage—$8.21 per hour
- Median wage—$9.76 per hour
9. Outdoor event usher
- Entry-level wage—$8.16 per hour
- Median wage—$9.58 per hour
10. Amusement ride operator
- Entry-level wage—$7.49 per hour4
- Median wage—$9.00 per hour4
11. Camp counselor
- Entry-level wage—$7.45 per hour4
- Median wage—$8.00 per hour4
Summer Jobs That Are Partially or Mostly Indoors
Not everyone enjoys the summer heat. A little bit of it can sometimes go a long way. So wanting to stay cool by working inside is perfectly normal. And plenty of summer opportunities enable college students to do exactly that. They often feature interesting work in indoor settings while still providing chances to duck out and get some sunshine now and then.
Retail and restaurant jobs are, of course, a very common part of this category. But if you think a little more broadly, you can often find many other kinds of opportunities as well. And if you are a good driver or have successfully completed CDL training, then you may get to enjoy a summer job on the road, which sort of lets you enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of an indoor space.
The following examples illustrate the wide variety of summer job options that undergraduate and graduate students often have when they want to work indoors either some or all of the time. (Except where otherwise indicated, wage estimates are based on national data from 2016.3)
- Entry-level wage—$9.99 per hour4
- Median wage—$13.00 per hour4
13. Bank teller
- Entry-level wage—$10.01 per hour
- Median wage—$13.11 per hour
- Entry-level wage—$9.69 per hour4
- Median wage—$17.00 per hour4
15. Delivery driver
- Entry-level wage—$9.23 per hour (including tips)
- Median wage—$14.70 per hour (including tips)
16. Office assistant
- Entry-level wage—$9.28 per hour
- Median wage—$14.70 per hour
17. Hotel shuttle driver
- Entry-level wage—$8.77 per hour (including tips)
- Median wage—$11.68 per hour (including tips)
18. Retail stock clerk
- Entry-level wage—$8.74 per hour
- Median wage—$11.46 per hour
19. Retail sales associate
- Entry-level wage—$8.56 per hour
- Median wage—$10.90 per hour
20. Hotel front desk clerk
- Entry-level wage—$8.40 per hour
- Median wage—$10.61 per hour
- Entry-level wage—$8.32 per hour (including tips)
- Median wage—$10.00 per hour (including tips)
- Entry-level wage—$8.32 per hour
- Median wage—$10.54 per hour
- Entry-level wage—$8.26 per hour
- Median wage—$10.18 per hour
24. Restaurant server
- Entry-level wage—$8.22 per hour (including tips)
- Median wage—$9.61 per hour (including tips)
- Entry-level wage—$8.12 per hour
- Median wage—$9.24 per hour
26. House sitter
- Entry-level wage—$7.23 per hour4
- Median wage—$11.00 per hour4
By beginning your search for summer opportunities well before the warm season arrives, you can boost your odds of success substantially. For college students, paid summer internships often provide the greatest advantages. That's because they tend to be closely related to your particular field of study, which means that you get the chance to practice what you've learned in school while meeting and working alongside experienced professionals who can teach you even more.
Plus, it's possible to find good internships in almost any career sector. From accounting and business administration to design and technology, all kinds of opportunities exist for truly motivated college students. You can discover and apply for a lot of internships online. And your school's career services department might be another great source of assistance.
It's also worth making a list of the companies or organizations that you would love to work for. Many of your favorite organizations are likely to have well-established internship programs, even if they don't do a good job of promoting them. So make the effort to contact those employers and find out what the possibilities are. You might be surprised at the high-paying summer jobs for college students that are available.
For example, a lot of students continue to find great summer internships with exciting organizations like NASA, Walt Disney World, Facebook, Google, Marvel Entertainment, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, professional sports teams, and various TV and movie studios. The federal government also offers its Pathways Programs, which can put you in touch with all kinds of career-related internship opportunities within the public sector.
Make Your Summer Unforgettable
Every extended break from school offers a great chance to grow as a person and future professional. That's why it's worth pursuing some of the best summer jobs for college students. You can make your time off from school really work for you. So research your options. And don't hesitate to get extra training that can make your resume even more attractive to potential summer employers. Explore programs in your area by entering your zip code into the school finder below!
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, website last visited on May 9, 2016.
2 JPMorgan Chase & Co., Expanding Economic Opportunity for Youth through Summer Jobs, website last visited on May 9, 2016.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on September 5, 2017.
4 PayScale, website last visited on May 10, 2016.