Federal Work-Study

Quick Facts
  • It is the student's responsibility to conduct a job search, apply for jobs, interview, and be hired. You can search for jobs on the Student Employment website.

  • If you decide to work off-campus, you may only be employed by a nonprofit organization or government agency that advertises a position on the Student Employment website.

  • A student cannot begin working until the supervisor appoints the student online to a SEMS job number. New student employees are required to complete University onboarding tasks through Workday@Penn and Onboard@Penn.

  • A student is limited to two jobs at any given time.

  • When classes are in session, students (full-time or part-time) can work a maximum of 20 hours per week.

  • All students are paid weekly based on hours worked. Students are required to perform accurate time entry and submit weekly timesheets in Workday@Penn. 

Overview

Penn/Federal Work-Study is a federal government and Student Financial Services subsidized work program, which provides on-campus and off-campus employment to eligible undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. While the program offers a variety of job opportunities, students are encouraged to seek community service work and/or work related to the student's course of study. Students are paid for those hours actually worked.

The work-study award represents the maximum earnings potential while employed under the program for the academic year (fall/spring). The award is not deducted from the student's University tuition bill. Once the student obtains a work-study job, the student is paid weekly by the employing department for those hours actually worked.

Work-study employment can benefit a student in several ways:

  • Pay for personal expenses

  • Improve time management skills

  • Help build a student’s resume

  • Serve as a reference for future employment

If a student chooses not to use their work-study award, it will not affect the student's current financial aid package, or future eligibility for work-study. Students can choose to replace their work-study award with a loan if they prefer. A student may postpone working until the spring semester. However, the availability of jobs may be limited.

Federal Work-Study Community Service

Federal Work-Study students are encouraged to pursue employment that is community service-related. Community service positions contribute to the improvement in the quality of life for area residents by helping solve particular problems related to their needs. Job categories that are considered community service include:

  • Health care, child care, literacy training, education (including tutorial service), welfare, social services, transportation, housing and neighborhood improvement, public safety, crime prevention and control, recreation, rural development, community improvement, and emergency preparedness and response

  • Support services to enrolled students with disabilities

  • Activities in which a student serves as a mentor for purposes such as tutoring, supporting educational and recreational activities, and counseling, including career counseling

Per the U.S. Department of Education, students may be employed in community service positions that provide either direct or indirect services to the community. For example, it is acceptable for a Federal Work-Study student to be employed in a clerical position for a food bank. It is not required that the student be involved in delivering services directly.

Both on-campus and off-campus jobs can qualify as community service work. However, on-campus jobs must involve a program, project, or service that is provided to the general public in the local community. On-campus jobs that serve only the campus community do not qualify as community service employment.

How to Find a Job

It is the student's responsibility to conduct a job search, apply for jobs, interview, and be hired. A student may only work for a supervisor who has a job listed on the Student Employment website.

Each job listing contains the supervisor's contact information. It is important for the student to follow the supervisor's instructions. Since a supervisor may have more than one job listed, note the job number.

The student must present a copy of their class schedule to the supervisor at the time of the interview, in order to ensure there is no conflict between class times and the proposed work schedule.

Tips for finding a job:

  • If you have not already done so, prepare a resume. When a supervisor has multiple inquiries about a job, the supervisor may use the resume to select students to be interviewed.

  • When applying for a job, include in the subject line of your e-mail the job number and title. Your e-mail should give a brief synopsis of your work experience and skills, and any other information you believe is relevant.

  • Apply for more than one job. Keep your options open.

  • Be prompt for the interview, and dress appropriately.

  • If you do not receive a response from a supervisor within a reasonable amount of time, you may send a friendly reminder expressing your continued interest in the job.

Off-Campus Work-Study

A work-study student may only be employed off-campus by a nonprofit organization or government agency. The student cannot begin working until all required paperwork is completed by the student and employer.

If the off-campus employer you wish to work for is not listed on the Student Employment website, then DO NOT accept an offer of employment until the employer’s eligibility to hire students is determined by Student Employment.

Please contact the Off-Campus Work-Study Coordinator, Tam Nguyen, at nguyentm@upenn.edu.

In order for an off-campus employer to employ work-study students, the employer must sign an agreement with the University that will obligate the employer to pay a 30% matching share of the student’s gross earnings up to the maximum amount of the student’s academic year work-study award.

Penn/Federal Work-Study Employment Outside the United States

Normally, employment in a foreign country is not permissible under the law. However, a school with a branch campus in a foreign country may employ students if the branch has its own facilities, administrative staff, and faculty. Students may also be employed by a U.S. government facility such as an embassy or a military base. A student may not be employed for a nonprofit organization in a foreign country under the work-study program.

Job Appointment and Required Documents

The supervisor will appoint the student to a job number in the Student Employment Management System (SEMS) using the student’s Penn ID number. An e-mail confirming the student's job appointment will be sent to the student, supervisor, and department SEMS coordinator.

  • On-Campus: New student employees are required to complete onboarding, which includes filling out federal forms, W-4 (Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate), and online I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification), in Workday@Penn. The employing department's business administrator will begin the onboarding process and instructions will be sent to the student employee via email. After completing the online onboarding tasks in Workday@Penn, new student employees will complete in-person tasks at Onboard@Penn located on campus. Schedule an appointment and learn more by visiting Onboard@Penn

  • Off-Campus: New student employees employed by an approved nonprofit organization or government agency will undergo the same onboarding process as those who work on campus. 

How Are Student Employees Paid?

On-Campus: Beginning July 1, all student workers who receive their pay from Penn will enter their time on Workday@Penn, the University's new human resources and payroll platorm. A student’s hours cannot be held for a period of time, and then submitted all at once. University regulations require that a student employee must be paid weekly. The employing department will instruct the student regarding the procedures for entering time in Workday. 

Off-Campus: Beginning July 1, all student workers will enter their time on Workday@Penn. A student’s hours cannot be held for a period of time, and then submitted all at once. University regulations require that a student employee must be paid weekly. The Student Employment Office may provide the student with additional instructions on how their supervisor will approve their time each week. 

A student cannot be paid for lunch, holidays, sick time, and other time off, or for receiving instruction in the classroom, laboratory, or other academic setting.

Work-Study wages are subject to the same federal, state, and local income taxes as any other earned income. However, students enrolled in classes and working for the University are exempt from the 6.20% Social Security (FICA) and 1.45% Medicare tax deductions.

Workday@Penn Resources: You may access self-service tip sheets and videos, available 24/7, to assist you in navigating Workday@Penn, entering time, understanding your pay slip, or changing your pay elections (direct deposit). 

University Policy on Acceptable use of Electronic Resources

A student employee is required to comply with the University’s Policy on Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources.