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Work in their Field Helps Students Study Better

In many cases combining study and work not only doesn’t undermine a student’s achievements, it actually enhances them. The experience of working in the field you are studying at university helps better master a profession and doesn’t cause a time conflict, says Diana Yanbarisova, Junior Research Fellow at the HSE Institute of Education, in her article, published in the latest issue of the HSE’s journal Voprosy Obrazovania (Issues of Education)

The number of working students and the amount of time they spend at work has been growing recently. Secondary employment is becoming more widespread both in European countries and in Russia.

There are complex reasons for this. On one hand, non-traditional types of employment are developing (such as part-time, distance, or flexible working), which are convenient both for students, since they can be combined with study, and for employers (contract work means they save on salaries). On the other hand, the quality of higher education is decreasing today, and employers are more interested in experience rather than in a degree as a proof of the necessary competencies. As a result, young people are trying to start working as early as possible, in order to have at least a minimum of experience by the time they graduate.

Diana Yanbarisova investigated how student employment affects their study in her article ‘Work while studying in Tatarstan universities: does it influence students’ grades?’

Yanbarisova used the results of the Monitoring of Educational and Occupational Trajectories of School and University Graduates in her research, as well as surveys among 4th- and 5th-year students in Tatarstan universities. She looked into various types of student employment (full-time work not in the field of study; full-time work in the field of study; part-time work or a side job in the field of study and other areas; and no employment), which, according to her hypothesis, could influence their academic achievements in different ways. The students were asked to assess themselves for a regression analysis of the influence of various factors to test the assumption. The dependent variable ‘self-assessment of achievements’ could have three values: ‘I study satisfactorily’, ‘I study well’, or ‘I have excellent grades in most subjects’.

Work in the field of study doesn’t interfere with academic achievements

Diana Yanbarisova’s key conclusion was: the effect of work on studying depends on the type of employment and a student’s personality. ‘Students who combine work and study in different ways have different indicators of achievements. When all other factors are equal, students who work in the field of their study achieve better than those who work not in the field, and sometimes than those who don’t have a job at all’, the author claims.

The optimal strategy is working in the field of study on a part-time everyday or part-week basis. In this case a side job is an additional source of knowledge, skills and motivation to study. Work in the field of study, if it is scheduled so that it leaves time for study, can be a sign that a student is interested in their education and is willing to get additional knowledge and skills in the field. In this case work and study complement each other and don’t conflict in terms of time: work becomes another channel of education, and study becomes a way to deepen and broaden the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary at work.

A full-time job not in the field of study affects academic achievements most severly. ‘This type of combining work and study has the most negative influences on study. The work takes a lot of time, and the lack of connection with the specialization being received at university makes it harder to use the experience received at work in the educational process’, according to the article.

The research results showed that the biggest share of high achievers – 47.3% – was among those who work part-time in the field of study. Their share among those who don’t work is a little bit less – 42.1%. The share of high achievers in most subjects is considerably less among those who work full-time not in the field of study – 24.9%.

The distribution of mediocre grades is almost the opposite of the distribution of high grades. The biggest share of ‘C students’ is among those who work full-time not in the field of study, and those who work full-time in the field of study are in the second place. But taking into account the working schedule, those who work in the field of study generally study better than those who work not in their field.

‘An important result of the analysis is that the progress among non-working students is comparable with grades among those who work in their field of study’, the author of the article emphasized.

Interest in study helps at work

An analysis of students’ surveys also made it possible to determine correlations between attitudes towards study, teachers, and university, and career choices.

Students who are satisfied with education and consciously chose the university and specialization turned out to be more motivated to work in the field of study. For example, those who work in their field of study (both full-time and part-time) more often than students from other groups mentioned ‘a strong team of teachers’ as an important incentive (18% among those who work full-time, 18.4% among those who work part-time, and 14.9% in average in the sampling).

Students who work part-time in the field of study, more often than students from other groups, mentioned the motive of ‘an active social life and opportunity to establish new contacts’ (13.9%, and 10.4% on average in the sampling). Students who worked full-time not in the field of study more often said that they had chosen the university because their friends entered it (10.3%, and 7.8% on average in the sampling). Non-working students, more often than those working, said that they had entered the university because their parents insisted (13.2%, and 9.9% on average in the sampling). The motive of affordable education was the most important for students who work full-time not in the field of study (14.1%, and 11% on average in the sampling). The motive of a safe environment was the least popular among all groups (3.6%).

Students get jobs because they want to earn money. Diana Yanbarisova revealed a correlation between a student’s financial situation and their work schedule: the worse it is, the more hours a person works. The financial situation is related more to the work schedule (whether a student works full- or part-time) than to a correlation between the job and the specialization of study (this correlation is statistically insignificant), says Yanbarisova in her article.

 

July 14, 2014