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Money earning opportunities while doing undergrad

  1. Apr 4, 2010 #1
    Yeah, me again, this site has been so much help, so forgive me for always finding ways to come up with a new topic :)

    Anyway, I was wondering what one's opportunities of earning money while doing an undergraduate Physics degree are? And how much could one reasonably expect to earn in the first three years of undergrad? The reason I'm asking this is I may be a bit short on money for all four years of undergrad study and would need to depend on somehow obtaining additional funding. But since I would be an international student in Canada, I wouldn't be able to get funding the Canadian students do, and getting loans is very hard in my country.

    Any experience, advice etc. would be greatly appreciated, even from people that study / studied in the US, as I presume the systems are similar.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 4, 2010 #2
    I earned money TA'ing calculus and linear algebra but that possibility is probably highly dependent on where you study.
  4. Apr 4, 2010 #3


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    The first piece of advice I have is to keep your marks up and apply for every scholarship you qualify for.

    On top of that, it's reasonable to have a job and work through undergrad. In fact, unless you have a full scholarship (and even if you do) getting a part-time job during the year and a full-time job over the summer is a great idea. It will give you valuable experience for when your education is finished and you're out looking for full time career-type employment. On top of that, it can help you develop skills that will make you more marketable in the future.

    I worked in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves in my undergrad - great experience, a little heavy on the time committment though, and likely not an option for an international student.

    There are usually jobs available on and off-campus. These can vary for everything from waiter/waitressing, bouncing, sales, house painting, to getting jobs in someone's lab - which is ideal if you're hoping to move on in physics.
  5. Apr 4, 2010 #4
    It's easy to get some sort of job as an undergraduate, but the amounts of money you will get are pretty low. They usually won't cover tuition, but they are enough to cover incidental expenses.

    Slightly more than minimum wage.

    The main thing that you need to do is to familiarize yourself with the financial aid system. You are probably not going to be able to make enough money as an undergraduate to pay for the big expenses, but you generally are not expected to. The jobs you will get as an undergraduate (i.e. waiting tables, but medical guinea pigs) are intended to cover the small expenses.

    Getting loans, scholarships, and government grants is not easy in the United States, but colleges do try very hard so that people are not turned away for financial needs. It's a very complicated system, but people usually can get what they need to go to school. The first thing to do is to go to Amazon and buy an book on financial aid which will explain the system.
  6. Apr 4, 2010 #5
    Get a job where people tip you. Those are the best ways to make money while in school. You can make 10-15 per hour as a valet, waiter or bartender depending on your age. I work as a valet and on weekend shifts sometimes make as much as $25-30 per hour. But, I also have nights where I might go in and make 20 dollars in tips all night. But, on average I would say I make 15 and hour. Still not that much but it pays the rent.
  7. Apr 4, 2010 #6
    If you are in Western Canada, the standard answer is either tree-planting or fire-fighting. Both are very physically demanding jobs but they can pay well if you work hard. Not much to do with physics, but I know several people who paid significant parts of their undergrad that way.
  8. Apr 4, 2010 #7
    You could probably get a job as a lab assistant or as a tutor. But as others have said, while being an undergrad, these usually pay next to nothing (min wage). If you do private tutoring on your own, you can charge whatever you can get, but that's really up to you. People I know who do it usually charge $15-20 an hour. Go to a community college with developmental math, there will be plenty of people willing to pay you, ranging from basic algebra to differential equations.
  9. Apr 4, 2010 #8
    Yeah, getting my marks up and hopefully gaining some research experience definitely is what I'm most concerned with. And that is exactly why I opened up this topic (along with many others), to see if it would be financially feasible for me to study in Canada without having to sacrifice my education. And as for scholarships, I'm with you on that one, as well, though unfortunately right now the only place where I can get one (or an award) is University of Alberta. None of the other universities I got accepted into offers them for second degree international students. Though I guess working your way through undergrad, the options do open up as you are on par with others then.

    But just how high are these upper-year scholarships and awards? If I gather correctly, they are "only" to the tune of a couple of thousand dollars, or am I mistaken here? That's much better than nothing, though, but if you lack other sources, they won't make THE difference, I guess. Still, I am hoping to get funding of such kind, as any help would be valuable right now.

    When you say it's ideal if I'm hoping to move on in physics, are you referring to getting a job in someone's lab or getting any job, even if unrelated to physics? I do already have some "proper" working experience under my belt (working full-time for a couple of months more than one year), but it is totally unrelated to physics (law firm, lawyer in a company). Still, hopefully this can aid me, nonetheless.

    That's great advice. I haven't got any waiting experience yet, but I guess I could manage that.

    Well, something's better than nothing, if it only covers incidental expenses. Though I was hoping or wishing for more, of course. As for familiarizing myself with the financial aid system, I've done that already to a certain degree, and like I said, it's hard to get a loan back home and I *think* that it's impossible for a foreign student to get one in Canada. There is a scholarship given out back home, as well, and it would in fact - if I'd get it - help tremendously, but the problem is that it requires the student to go back home after (s)he's done and get employment there for as long as it's been given out. Since I want to stay in Canada, go to US, Australia, Japan or whatever later on, I wouldn't want to rely on that, as it would only mean I'd need to repay that, in turn making it a big and somewhat expensive loan.

    I MIGHT be in Western Canada (Vancouver, Victoria or Edmonton). Can anyone get a job as a tree-planter or firefighter? And is it a part-time job, as well (how many hours per week)? And how much would "paying well" be?


    All in all, every answer here is greatly appreciated. As I've probably mentioned in another thread, I'm guessing I'd be $CDN 20k (if I go to Victoria) to 45k (Vancouver or Toronto) short if I wouldn't be able to obtain additional funding via lons, scholarships and work. Unfortunately, the best schools (UBC, UofT) seem to be most expensive both in tuition and living costs. Victoria seems nice, but I'm not sure about the university there, whether it stacks up to the "big ones" or not. Again, risking my education is the last thing I want to do and I'm kind of worried turning down UBC or UofT wouldn't be the best thing to. University of Alberta seems to be a good in-between, though despite hearing good things about it, bad things about (D)E(a)dmonton keep popping up.

    I guess UK would be cool, too, but since I do prefer Canada over it somewhat, I'd like to really explore all possibilities before settling for "second best".

    edit: Sorry, forgot to ask what I intended before editing. How much did you all have in mind one can earn during one year? Can ~$ 5k be reasonably expected without sacrificing school work? More, less?
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2010
  10. Apr 5, 2010 #9
    Here is the page for firefighting in BC, which says the starting wage is $18.93 per hour. However, if it is a busy season you may end up with a LOT of overtime. However, looks like this summer's hiring is over (it looks to be a DRY season already).


    I don't know the site for Alberta, but I am sure you could google it out of hiding. You would want to check what your student visa would handle for employment, though. I can't help you with that at all.

    I am not intimate with the different Physics depts, but I think any of the schools you mentioned are solid. UVic may not be as big as UBC or UofT, but it is highly regarded in general for Undergrad - they also have a pretty good undergrad Astro program from what I have read.
  11. Apr 5, 2010 #10
    Thanks for the link, I've browsed through it a bit and it does sound pretty cool. How did you manage that with school, though? It seems you have to be available for quite some time. And I see you can't get it without references from prior employers, or are there any exceptions to that?

    It's good to hear that I wouldn't go wrong with UVic, either. Though there's always that weird feeling not choosing a top tier university (if UofT and UBC can be considered as such in Canada) when you have the chance. I guess rankings aren't everything, but residing across the globe, it's hard to get solid information on the quality of programs apart from looking at them.
  12. Apr 5, 2010 #11
    It can't hurt to apply for co-ops either. Find some engineering / manufacturing companies in the area and send off a few resumes. See if your department has any connections.

    In addition to a traditional job, you might also consider anything entrepreneurial that you might be able to do, like fixing people's computers or even mowing lawns or whatever else. I worked part-time through high school and college doing IT for small businesses - posted extra ads in local grocery stores etc during breaks. It's not a lot of hours, but the pay beat anything else I could do, and it's great on a resume.
  13. Apr 5, 2010 #12
    Well, I'm not THAT good with computers and they don't interest me as much, so IT would be out of the question (I actually dread the possibility of switching to physics and then perhaps having to settle with an IT or computer programming/engineering job). I like the other things you've suggested, though :) Is a co-op a sort of a part-time job? Are they hard to get and how much do they require you to work weekly?
  14. Apr 5, 2010 #13
    Coops are part-time jobs / internships you have with companies while you go to school. You can often get course credit for a coop, or alternatively you can be paid. The wages are usually hourly, and at large corporations in the US you can usually expect $20/hr or a little more for engineering or business type roles. Usually the company cooperates with your school on these (hence the term coop), so coops will normally be one semester in length. They can be time consuming and competitive depending on your school's location and experience with these things.
  15. Apr 6, 2010 #14
    Just to clarify, I didn't do the firefighting myself - it was a friend. The fire season is in the summer when you wouldn't normally take classes (unless you take summer courses).

    Further to what kote said, here is the UVic page for co-op.

    Here is UBC:

    Essentially, you take some of your terms to work in your field of study. The university helps place you in the right job. The advantage is that you get work experience and some money. The drawback is that you take a bit longer to graduate.
  16. Apr 10, 2010 #15
    Thanks for those links, I skimped them earlier already, but I guess I'll have to take a deeper look.

    As far as working is concerned, it seems that I cannot get a work permit for my first year, as you are only allowed to apply for it once you had a study permit for at least a year. So the only jobs I could take on would be on campus ones. Are there a lot of those and how much do they pay? I've seen that some universities have work-study programmes intended for international (and probably domestic, as well) students, but I was wondering if someone has a practical perspective to offer. It's hard to gauge how many students can actually get such a job and what those jobs are.
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