How to earn a living during your studies

First, I’d like to point out that foreign students from the third states aren’t allowed to work unlimited hours in Germany. A student is limited to work for 240 half days or 120 days in a year. An Exception to this is when a student works at the University or works in a field that is termed to “further their knowledge in their field of study”. When one works at the Uni or in a field furthering their knowledge in their field of study, then those hours aren’t “counted” thus the student still has the 120days.

Also when you work unlimited hours, the “non-Taxable” amount is only for 20hrs a week (you only pay the Lohnsteuer), if you work more than that then you have to pay all the Social Insurances. (This is in cases where you’re working legally.) Depending on your expenses, most of these jobs will be enough.

1. Working as a Studentische Hilfskraft (Student Assistant)

This ranges from being an assistant in your study department where you either help in running experiments and/or research depending on which department to running projects in specific Uni service departments. I have done both of this, the best thing is that they are very flexible especially when you have a good boss. You might get a bad boss who tries to tighten the reigns but usually you get a reasonable one. In one case I worked in a lab, the first day it was intimidating but after you learn the basics you understand what you are needed to do.

Secondly the other which is in services at the Uni, this can range from working at the Mensa (canteen) to Library or media centre. This one is diverse cause it depends on all the services your Uni has to offer. I worked once as a student advisor helping students with hardware and software at the Uni, this was a bit trickier than the lab because I had to teach people (students and professors) how to use different learning platforms and software offered at the Uni. It was tricky in the sense that it was a field I’ve never been in, I needed to be able to communicate in German and hold presentations in German, at the time I was doing my bachelor which was in English so you can imagine the madness.

But I was able to do it, so for the current students, if you have seen such jobs being offered, don’t be afraid to apply. It takes a bit of time but if you remain confident and are ready to learn, it will all work out. Don’t worry that your articles don’t always match or that your verbs aren’t always arranged as required by Duden.

With more universities offering English courses, most departments also employ students to work as translators, it’s cheaper than a professional and sometimes just as good. So you can also look into such jobs, either on the Uni portal or ask your professor. Most of these jobs can be found on the departments’ website or on the A-Z section under Stellenangebote or on the Career Services page.

These contracts range from 4-10hrs weekly and the pay is about €8-€9 an hour.

2. Working as a tutor

These will either be hostel tutors who work with the Studentenwerk (I have no translation for this sorry) or work with the Akademische Auslandsamt (no sensible translation for this either) or other departments that offer advice to students at the Uni. These will usually be in charge of organizing events and/or trips for students or also offering advice to students. These can be lots of fun, as you get to attend the events for free and interact with many people, great if you like meeting people. Most of their activities are on the weekends which gives you the week to continue with school.

These contracts range between 4 and 10hrs a week and the pay is similar to that or SHKs depending on the Uni.

3. Working as a Werkstudent (Working Student)

This one is usually outside Uni at an independent company. Here you work as an assistant helping the workers in that department with different activities. Depending on the company you work at, this can range from creating presentations, programming and/or running experiments.

Depending on what kind of job and the company, it can be quite flexible allowing you to juggle between work and school. These kind of jobs will depend on your field of study and the location of your Uni. The closer to big companies the more the chances of getting such jobs being offered. Also these jobs are a great “Einstieg” into a company you’d like to work for after school.

To get these jobs you can check company websites in the career section or on the Uni website as well. Also during your internship you could ask your supervisor whether they have such a position in that department that is if you would be interested in working there. And there you have your Vitamin B (Beziehung) working to gain you a job.

The pay is better than working at Uni, at €10-€15 an hour with contracts ranging from 10-20hrs a week.

4. Elective Posts at the Uni in Asta or Fachschaft

This is not a job per se. But if you like politics you can get involved and help students. In most Uniz you don’t pay fees if you’re a member of the Asta and/or Fachschaft which reduces your expenses in the long run.

I know some people who joined the Fachschaft and would organize parties for students to earn extra cash, also remember the parties are already subsidized by the Uni, so anything you earn extra is yours….I don’t think this is even legal but people do it.

5. Self employment

Well these will usually require you to work a tadbit extra, but the greatest advantage is that it’s very flexible. This can range from doing translation jobs for fellow students at the Uni. Giving English tutorial classes to school kids and if you have already studied before, you can help some students write their theses. As I said these require you to be creative.

Organizations like Eine-Welt-Netz organize events for school children to learn about cultures, so as a foreigner you can offer to share with the kids about where you are from and about your culture and you get a small thank you from them.

6. Odd jobs

These include jobs at McDonalds, at inventory companies, call centers, hotels etc. These can be quite brutal and not very flexible, making you have to choose between school and work. Some only have jobs at night which mean you spend your days recovering from staying up late that you end up losing time you’d have used to study.

You can get these jobs from the local dailies or online. The pay isn’t the best at €6.50-€8 an hour, most don’t give any contracts, so you work you get your money, you don’t work no money.

I worked at a hotel once, actually the day when MJ died. First the hotel was one of those local ones in the middle of nowhere, where the train comes in only once an hour. But I was determined, I wanted to do it, you know being able to make some money ukiwa majuu. Well, first of all, that chef dude was just disgusting and he spent the whole time telling me about how he had been jujud by his Kenyan girlfriend. Secondly, the way everything was arranged in that kitchen was just not sanitary. I couldn’t eat at any hotel after that for more than a month. Anyhu, I worked for the first time from 2pm till 10pm, I was on my feet, and when I was “released”, it was a minute after the bus had left so I missed it and had to wait. Thank God it was summer. Needless to say, I got home at 1am and on checking FB, found people writing about MJ’s death. I was tired, disgusted then shocked, man I slept and never went back to that place. The next day I had class and was groggy through it all.

Soon after I got the job at Uni and never looked back. Odd jobs can be disastrous, and when not checked can deter you from studying as they require more time and have less pay. Some of them will call you to go in and work and when you refuse because you have class that becomes the end of that position. Some can be a form of slavery. They overwork you then refuse to pay you, there was no contract to begin with and where is the evidence that you stayed there and worked? Some of them have been known to misuse students, check the story on what Amazon did to the Christmas workers, and most of them were students.

7. Scholarships

This is not earning money per se but there are many organizations that help students by offering short term scholarships this can be for a few months or for a whole year. If you apply for 2 or 3 of these, you can enjoy a no working period and just enjoy school.

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