Guide to Working while Studying

Check out our essential advice for taking on a job while gaining your degree...


Studying while working in a part-time job can be an essential element of life for many of today's students.

But this obviously comes with challenges when trying to marry study sessions with paid work.

Students have a busy schedule and there are only so many hours in the day, meaning effective time management is crucial if you want to complete assignments alongside a full-time job.

You need to remember all the important dates and deadlines, get enough sleep and make sure you have free time to enjoy a personal life and social life as well as do everything you can to enhance opportunities for your future career.

There are different part-time jobs and full-time jobs out there - but effectively balancing work with assignment deadlines is key.

Strategies and advice on making full-time work and part-time study fit together


Many ICMP students and alumni work in part-time roles, often as part of a portfolio career and this can sometimes mean juggling different projects and priorities simultaneously. Good time management is very important, especially if you are working while studying.  

Avoiding procrastination is one attribute to cultivate. Putting off activity you like less can cause additional stress so try and tackle those tasks you don’t want to do first (and maybe even reward yourself as an incentive). 

Saying ‘no’ can be difficult but it is an important professional skill - as a freelancer, you are responsible for delivering projects on time and within budget. Sometimes, you will need to decline engaging in certain activities to focus on others - whether that be professionally or personally - and your studies should take precedence while you are a student.  

ICMP's courses are specifically designed to prepare our students for the professional world. Our BA Music Business and Entrepreneurship degree goes even further by offering an Industry Experience Module so students can work while gaining academic credits. Find out more

How many hours can a student work?

The number of hours students can work while studying depends on the course they are pursuing, personal circumstances and whether it is a part-time or full-time course.

Some universities don't permit students to work during term time. Others, however, recommend limiting work hours to 10 per week.

It can be different for each student. Some may find that taking up a part-time job for 15–20 hours a week is easily doable on their timetable. Others will not and ultimately, this comes down to personal preference. 

Essential tips on balancing studying and working full time


To avoid burnout, you need to strike a balance between work and studies - so here are some essential tips we've put together from the ICMP community. Thanks to Freya Everest, Jasmin Beeson and Oli Tatler for their advice.

Prioritising tasks and setting goals

Learn to prioritise tasks. If you have several things on your list, identify the most urgent and tackle that first. If you have a larger project, break it up into smaller steps. The smaller the steps, the easier it will be to tackle.

Prioritising tasks can be a helpful way to identify which activities are most important and which are most urgent. There are lots of time management models like the Eisenhower Matrix or Pomodoro Technique out there, which you can research and then modify for your own use.  

Plan your workload

Planning ahead is a key part of life, and definitely comes in when you have multiple workloads to contend with. Devising a study plan is a great way of tackling your working week/month/academic term."

Stay motivated and avoid burnout

Breaking down big tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and then dedicating small amounts of time to concentrate on each can stop you feeling overwhelmed by larger projects. 

Making sure you don't give your self too much to do to stay in financial control can be an effective way to honour any work commitments.

Inform your employer of your status as a student

Some of the things worth discussing with an employer or boss include:

  • Requesting changes to your work schedule so you can fit in more study on certain days
  • Occasionally working from home so you can use your travel time to study
  • Ensuring major work projects don't negatively impact study deadlines

Use annual leave intelligently

Look at your key deadlines, and book time off in advance to prepare your assessments or revise for exams. You can also combine public holidays with weekends and annual leave to give you a few days of focused study time.

Create reminders

Use your iPhone calendar, Google calendar or whatever tools you need to keep on top of your daily schedule. Having prompts and notifications to warn you of where you need to be and when can be an essential aspect of adhering to a busy schedule.

Talk to your university and employer if you're struggling

If you have taken so much on that you're struggling then make sure you discuss your study schedule and work schedule with the relevant parties.

There are only so many hours in a day and you don't want too much work to have a negative impact on your health."

Enhance your resume with valuable skills that set you apart

If you're looking for part-time positions, then consider sourcing a role that will help your long-term career ambitions. If you can acquire new skills while maintaining a study-friendly schedule, then this can be a great way of developing your CV. 

Get a part-time job over the summer or work seasonally

You can potentially enhance your career prospects by only taking on work during the holiday periods. This will mean you can spend time devoted to your study session rather than trying to balance the academic books with your working schedule.

The same goes for winter. Getting a part-time job over the Christmas and Easter breaks is a great way to boost your funds.

Be realistic and set boundaries

Remember to be realistic about what you can achieve in a day. It’s crucial to establish boundaries - if you have to say no to a task or are behind with a project, communicate your reasons with clarity and confidence and make necessary adjustments to your schedule.

Be honest, keep tutors and line-managers in the loop with what you can manage and let them know if you are struggling. Working and studying can be demanding, so make sure you are communicating your needs.

Know when exams and deadlines are coming up

Stay on top of your calendar - knowing when exams are and assessment deadlines are coming up in advance can help you reduce stress and ensure you maximise the most of your studies.


‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. Schedule in your rest, make plans with friends or get stuck into a new Netflix series - use this time to do whatever brings you joy. You will be more productive overall if you plan for play time.

Practise self-care

It’s also really important to be kind to yourself. Some days are going to be more productive than others, so don’t give yourself a hard time if you fail to meet a target. Setting realistic goals will help avoid this and keep motivation levels up.

How the Careers and Industry Hub can support you


Firstly, make sure to book in a meeting with the Careers and Industry Hub team via your Careers+ profile so you can get advice on targeting your job search. You can also search our regularly updated jobs listings there. 

Many well-known job sites can be helpful but they will simply bring together lots of listings from across the web so can be slightly overwhelming to look at! Researching the organisations you are interested in and looking at their websites is  good starting point. LinkedIn can be helpful depending on the industry you are researching and some organisations will use Instagram. Search engines, recruitment agencies and even your friends and family can all identify potential connections to possible roles.   

Your job search should be strategic and go across all of these. Depending on the type of job you are looking for, not all jobs will be advertised and speculative applications and networking can be helpful tools for expanding your job search."

You should also start by reflecting on how far you can utilise your transferable skills across the broadest range of roles matching your skills, experience and interests, which is where the Careers and Industry Hub team can provide further guidance. 

Finding part-time work can sometimes be overwhelming and it can be hard to know where to even start the process.

The Careers and Industry Hub provides help throughout the whole process, from advice on CVs, cover letters and interviews to helping students and alumni develop strategies for targeted applications to try and help make sure you are maximising your chances for finding suitable opportunities. 

Accessing student discounts


Students enrolled on our courses can access a variety of offers from our partnered industry brands and other discounts outside of ICMP.

Find out more on the offers from a range of companies, services and organisations including Spotify, PRS for Music and more. 

Music scholarships and bursaries


Every year, our music scholarships and bursaries support many people from disadvantaged and diverse backgrounds who are interested in pursuing the study of music.

ICMP offers a series of scholarships and bursaries aimed at championing diversity and supporting disadvantaged young people to succeed while studying.  

Find out more.

Student ambassadors 

Our ambassadors assist with lots of aspects of university life, as well as events in the community. ICMP recruits for student ambassadors annually usually each September and students can apply for these roles.

There is an application and interview process. Then those students who are successful are offered training and will need to complete a DBS. At that point they are able to work and job opportunities will be sent to them. 

Check out our essential tips on budgeting when at university. Good luck with your studies and get in touch with any questions...

Take the first steps in your music career with ICMP

We've been developing and delivering contemporary music education for over 30 years – longer than any other music school in the UK. With a proven track-record, countless music industry connections and unrivalled access to facilities, it's easy to see why hundreds of students choose ICMP each year. 

To completely immerse yourself in your music career, chat with our friendly Admissions Team via email or give them a call on 020 7328 0222.

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by ICMP staff writer
August 21, 2023
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