Study and Work Regulations for Masters Students

Learn how to balance study and work and get familiar with the regulations for Masters students around the world.

Study and Work Regulations for Masters Students

Working while studying for your Master’s is a good way to support yourself during this period. As the programme is quite demanding and students need to dedicate enough time and efforts, working part-time is clearly the only possible choice. Opportunities for various jobs for students abound but don’t forget to first familiarise yourself with the specific work permit rules and regulations in the region where you are studying.

Even though an exception to the general rule, working part-time while studying is something some students choose to do while pursuing their Master’s degree. In this sense, one thing to consider when picking a university is whether you’ll have the opportunity to support yourself while beavering away at the books. When it comes down to work restrictions, location is a factor. Regulations vary from country to country and the work rights and freedoms of students in the EU are different from those of their peers in the US, Canada, Australia or Asia.


Europe and the US are competing in the same league when it comes down to the quality of university education. Their Master’s programmes are versatile and demanding, innovative approaches are welcome and the international body of students is ever growing. Europe, however, has one significant advantage over its North American ‘competitor’ – tuition fees are comparatively lower. The trend in recent years, according to a study by the The Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA), has been for fees to increase and scholarships to decrease worldwide. However, in some European countries, studying has become more affordable than in the previous years. In France, for example, universities charge just an administration fee, while in the Netherlands tuition fees increased just slightly, but a subsidised loan became available in order to cover these expenses. In Germany, Finland, Poland and Sweden the cost of studying is still very attractive to many international applicants.

When it comes to working while studying, the EU zone is very welcoming toward international students who come from countries that are in the European Union. The Deutsches Studentenwerk reports that roughly two thirds of the students in Germany work to support themselves while studying. The majority of the Europeans have almost equal rights with the locals when it comes to working while studying in Germany. However, the situation is a little more complicated for international students that do not come from the EU or the EEA countries, so do your research before applying for any job.

Generally speaking, as of August 2012, international students who do not come from the EU or EEA are allowed to work 120 full or 240 half days in a year. They do not need authorisation from the Employment Agency to do this. Furthermore, international students who do not come from the EU cannot be self employed or work freelance in Germany! If you want to work more than 120 full or 240 half days you need the approval of the Employment Agency and the Aliens Department. Whether you receive the approval depends on the situation of the job market in your place of study. In regions with high unemployment you will have little chance of working more than 120 days.

The circumstances, however, change once you get your Master’s diploma. In the UK, for instance, graduates used to have an automatic right to stay and work for two years. Now, they must find a sponsoring company or land a well-paid job. The visa question is also an important one, so don’t hesitate to consult with your university administration on any issues you may be experiencing while preparing your documents.

Germany, France, the Netherlands are still going strong – education there is either free or requires a minimal admission fee and work is easily available. According to recent research, Germany is once again among the top 10 countries worldwide for job availability for Master’s and MBA graduates.

The US, Canada and Australia

US regulations are somewhat stringent – students are allowed to work on-campus, yet off-campus work permits are only granted under strict conditions. And this is seen as a disadvantage by many, as programmes can be twice the length of those in Europe, making the cost of studying there higher. Most campus departments list their positions on Cards CareerLink. You can search positions by federal work-study, part-time on-campus and part-time off-campus designations. Or you could attend the annual job fairs that feature dozens of campus departments and off-campus employers looking to hire students. But probably the best way to find an off-campus job is to hit the road – the direct contact with potential employers may net you a successful job placement.

The Federal Work-Study Programme in the US is also a good way to find a part-time job on or off campus. In order to qualify for FWS, you must apply for financial aid and show documented financial need. This programme provides opportunities for employment related to your course of study. FWS employment provides beneficial CV-building experience/training and can lead to career opportunities while still in school.

Canada and Australia provide their Master’s students with the laxest regulations and the best work opportunities. Australia recently ditched its own strict policy on student visas in favour of a more welcoming approach. And Canada has perhaps gone further than any country in wooing overseas students. As of 2008, all students who have completed a two-year Master’s degree automatically have the right to stay in the country and work for three years. They do not need to have a job lined up and are not restricted to working in a field linked to their studies, as they would be in America.

Asia steps into the game

The Asian economy is blooming and Asia is slowly but surely becoming a major competitor in the international student market. “We have witnessed a very sudden rise in the number of international students on our MSc programmes in engineering at HKUST just this current year alone”, says Prof. Christopher Chao, associate dean at the University of Hong Kong. “In the autumn of 2013-14, we are going to have more than 70 new international students from over 20 countries. With so many opportunities arising globally, it is no longer essential for students to go to the US, Canada, UK, Europe and Australia. My advice to them is to keep their eyes and options open. With the rise of the Asian economies there are increasingly more top universities in the region and improved career prospects.”. Moreover, it turns out that Hong Kong also has one of the best immigration policies in the world for overseas students. Graduates of a local degree programme coming from overseas countries are guaranteed a visa to stay in Hong Kong after their graduation to look for a job. Singaporean institutions National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are also proving highly attractive to international students, respectively attracting 33.5% and 34.2% of their student population from overseas. Malaysia is another major importer of international students.

For instance, APU (Asia Pacific University) offers on-campus part-time working opportunities for students. Most of the working opportunities require that a student has been at APU for a minimum of one semester, is fluent in English, and has the ability to work in teams. Besides the work opportunities on campus, a student can also engage in part-time work outside campus provided he or she has approval. However, the studies must always remain your primary priority, as international students are not allowed to work in Malaysia while studying.

As an international student, you must have a valid Student Pass and be on a semester break of more than 7 days. This allows you to work up to 20 hours a week with a student work permit approval from Malaysian Immigration Office. The regulations there are quite strict, so make sure you do thorough research and get all necessary approvals and documentation before you try engaging in any off-campus work.

Doing a Master’s degree, especially doing it abroad, not only helps you acquire invaluable skills and knowledge but it also enables you to build a network of connections that can help you land your future job! On top of that, if you manage your time and prioritise well, you can use the opportunity to work part-time and support yourself while you are doing your degree. Don’t set your standards too high as your studies are your main priority and restricting work to part-time is the reasonable option in this scenario. However, this is one more chance for you to create local contacts and get involved in the local culture and business, thus enriching your Master’s experience even further.

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