I'm currently taking time off from school to focus on my eduction. I'm reading (a lot), mastering some skills, and finishing some projects.

It takes money to live, so I need money. I was considering what my options were for jobs that would keep me engaged, and I thought I'd ask LessWrong.


1. I don't yet have a bachelor's degree. I am however, an intelligent and courteous student at a prestigious university, who doesn't drink smoke or do drugs.

2. I need at least $800/month (500 for rent, internet, and bus fares; 150 for food; 150 for savings).

3. I'm looking for less than 16 hours a week, or the taking time off to focus on learning becomes sort of mute. However, that is on average; it is feasible for me to work many hours one week and than little to none the next. 

Optimization criteria:

1. Something interesting, especially something where I would learn something new. This may come in all kinds of forms (for instance, puts me in close contact with the sorts of people I wouldn't usually talk to), including some that I haven't thought of yet. It may even be a new approach to a generic job that makes it challenging or engaging. Jobs that will let me just sit and read without distraction, or even just listen to audio books while I work, would be great.

2. The fewer hours I have to work, the better. 

I'm currently running experiments (mostly surveys) for a decision research lab. The work itself a little boring, but I do get to spend some of my time around marketing Ph.d students who are interested in behavioral economics and I get paid  $12/hour. It works, but I'm open to other options.

Any ideas?


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23 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:42 PM

Tutoring? Put up flyers and sign up for wyzant (they take 40% at first, going down to 20% after you log many hours with them, which really sucks, but they're the only popular online marketplace for tutors).

Them and InstaEdu, which is entirely online (they take a similar cut as well, and the work comes in bursts mostly around midterms and finals).

When I used wyzant I made an arrangement with my client to get paid outside of their system ;)

There's also UniversityTutor, care.com, craigslist, tutorspree, etc.

What I did during the last couple years of high school and throughout university was to do some jobs that I definitely didn't want to do for longer than a month, but where I was curious about "how they work from the inside". I did one-month stints at a fast-food chain, private tutoring for languages and math, cashier at a department store, and working in a bar, and short-term things like selling merchandise at big events. I also found two not-so-common opportunities through friends of friends (teaching in a bilingual summer camp, and helping with a TV program). The main criterium for me here was whether it was something I wanted to experience once (the bar paid much more than the fast-food chain, for example, but it didn't play any role in how long I was sticking with them).

I assume you're going to school in the US, so I'm not sure how much will be transferable from my experience being a CS/linguistics student in Germany, but FWIW: my other category of jobs was "helps gain professional experience in my chosen fields" (research assistant at university, part-time programming jobs at various companies) or "somewhere I can sit and study while being paid" (university library jobs FTW!).


  • Being a research assistant at my department was great because I ended up forging a good relationship with my professors, got involved with research at an early stage, could apply concepts I was learning, etc, so it was both fuzzies (everybody went for drinks at the end of a semester, for example) and more tangible benefits (when I needed some recommendation letters for a scholarship, everybody was very happy to give me one even though they were busy).

  • Finding part-time programming jobs outside was surprisingly easy - from what I know, it's much cheaper for German companies to employ students (you need to pay less benefits etc), so as long as you could write FizzBuzz you were already a net positive for them. Those jobs were the reason I was not completely lost at my first full-time job out of university.

you want interesting? I would recommend doing part time Mental Health Technician. You usually only need a HS diploma (or Bachelor's, depending on the state and/or the quality of the facility.) It's basically helping out on inpatient psychiatric units.

It's REALLY interesting, and you get to spend time with interesting and bizarre people, and it can be quite fulfilling. You also get to REALLY develop your interpersonal skills. I laugh when customer service people complain that they deal with difficult people all day. "Really? Was she schizoaffective? Did she start urinating into a styrofoam cup in front of 20 people, then throw it at you?" (HMM, maybe I'm not doing the best job selling it.)

I did it for years, and after a while, the system started to get me down. But I really learned a lot from it, it's interesting, and they're almost always hiring.

Pay is usually 10-$12 an hour, depending on where you are. Three shifts.

I'm not sure how scalable this is, but I get $10-15/hr tutoring through local connections and "tech support" (read: going to people's houses and running printer setup assistants or doing pricing research for them). The nice thing about both of these is that my employers treat me as high-status for being able to perform these tasks, because telling someone that their backup drive isn't broken and the alert they're getting is normal apparently makes you a magic-user.

I'm a high school student (read: no provable qualifications other than references), so if you have a reputation as being "good at x", that's probably enough to get a tutoring job for x, but it would only be a fraction of the hours you want.

If you can get a job bartending, the money can be good (tips; especially good if you're attractive to the people you're serving drinks to) and you'll learn about people.

This is the sort of suggestion I'm looking for. Do you know if you need a license (or something) to tend a bar?

I'm pretty clueless actually. Maybe check out the sidebar for the bartenders subreddit.

Since you mentioned that you can write well, you might consider freelance editing of academic papers, manuscripts and theses/dissertations. I have been editing part-time and find it to be a rewarding way to earn extra money; you are exposed to a constant stream of cutting-edge research and ideas, and are able to assist the authors in further improving their texts. When I edit a dissertation, I enjoy the thought that I may be the only person on earth, apart from the author, who has read the entire work.

Another significant advantage to editing work is that it is conducted entirely online and doesn't require a physical presence, which saves on commuting time and permits a very flexible schedule. Typically, freelance editing pays by the word count, rather than by the duration of effort, so it's a good choice for those who are self-motivated and efficient.

Editing duties and expectations can vary widely, and financial compensation is proportional to the level of effort contributed by the editor. Simple line-editing pays the least, and involves correcting typos and grammatical errors, and ensuring that the text makes sense. The most advanced forms of editing involve substantially rewriting the entire work, reorganizing the logic, indicating where information is missing, etc.

Depending on the specific document I'm editing, I have earned anywhere from $10/hour (rarely) up to $50/hour (rarely), with an average of ~$25-$35/hour. Typically, the clients whose works I edit expect the lower-end services (proofreading and polishing), rather than extensive rewrites. Pay rates for editing can vary significantly, and will depend on whether you're recruiting clients yourself or working for an established company.

Online venues such as Odesk are an option, although from my past experience, that site often involves numerous people bidding on a single job, resulting in ridiculously low fees charged. I located my own editing position with an established company using the FlexJobs site, which charges a small fee for membership.

You may face a challenge in locating an editing position with a company, if you do not yet have an advanced degree; editing positions are often competitive, and editing houses like to advertise the pedigrees of their editors. However, if your editing skills are demonstrably sharp, it is quite possible that you can interest an employer in hiring you, despite your lack of a degree.

Good luck with your job search! :)

On your optimization criteria: it seems that the value of the work is mostly concentrated in having few hours and bringing in money. Getting something interesting seems a diversion from your main purpose in having this job. It would be good to have, but holding out for it would make things unncessarily hard.

I agree. I'm not holding out, but if I'm bothering to decide on work, it's worth considering if there are any non-standard options that I might find particularly engaging.

Borrowing money is worth seriously considering.

This only makes sense under certain conditions, mainly the expectation that you will make enough money later (like after getting a degree), and have access to the required credit (so student loans, a wealthier cosigner, or an informal loan). It might help to imagine that you are paying a fee to a third party (the expected interest payment) to transfer some money from a wealthier future-you to poorer current-you, and accepting a risk of larger costs if future-you makes less money than you expected.

If having free time now increases your earnings later (have better grades, graduate earlier, learn more skills, meet more people) this can be a great bargain even on strictly financial terms. Even if it's a financial wash, you might accept a heavy fee when making this inter-temporal-wealth-transfer in order to avoid doing the boring jobs and have a more pleasant time.

As an aside, there's some sort of tragedy where the people for whom this option makes the least sense are the quickest to take it, and those who would actually benefit from it have absorbed the admonitions aimed at the first group, and feel that they're being financial prudent by avoiding any sort of debt, even when doing so makes them worse off in the long run.

suggestions of diverse areas worth experience in: farming (plant and animal) exercise skills; either sports or a gym or something computer technology repairing things - mechanic maybe house-building skills food-based (supermarket or restaurant or both) abbatoir work working with children phone-answering monkey (secretary) sales (don't spend too long there) something in the cleaning industry something with a bit of sewwing screen printing

there are more but try some of those out...

I'm curious what you're working on and what general competencies you're aiming to have, say, when you graduate. Not sure if you've picked a major or whatnot yet - I think optimal strategies are going to diverge a bit depending on what you want to do, both on a macro scale (what results do you want) and how you're going to go about making that thing or things happen. I'm a bit dubious of the whole "delay school by a year to learn" thing because it may also delay job related skill acquisition (and cash flow.)

On a related note, I think it might help for you to have a lens for your learning: link

I'm currently taking time off from school to focus on my eduction.

Upvoted just for this. I'm very interested in learning more--what are you reading, what skills are you learning, what projects are you finishing?

As for part-time jobs, if I were in your position I might look into freelancing (e.g. web design) or working in a library (one of my former classmates had a great experience with this, and was able to get a lot of work done on the job).


I'd put some more information on my knowledge and more specific skills.

I've worked sales jobs.

I've been learning to program, but I'm basically a beginner. One of the things I'm working on.

I can write well.

I'm not sure what skills are relevant. I didn't mention anything because I wanted to see what people come up with before they have specifics.


Perhaps you can write a short and funny introduction series on statistics and causation for some education resource for kids? It might help you to internalize it more efficiently, and you'll be surprised at how many ideas you will get just looking around your home with a new purpose in mind. For example, your dog is afraid of thunder. It has a favorite hiding place behind the wardrobe. It sheds awfully. You go away for a convention, leave it in a friend's care, return in three days and find Evidence in the corner. Do you expect it to have rained, or another explanation?And so on. Just have fun!

What? I'm not sure I follow.


You see, causality can be explained using household things that don't need a lot of frightening words, and if you have a talent for writing, why not make it pay? It's not a part-time job, sure, but it can supplement income. (At least in my country.) And if you can explain more difficult concepts, it will be positive evidence that you can do it as a teacher. Sorry, illusion of transparency bit me.

Why causality, of all topics?


Because you want to write about subjects you want to study in depth yourself? Of course, I cannot advise you on your own strengths, so maybe that was completely unuseful. Sorry.