Getting work and working life in the UK for international students

Working while you study in the UK is a great way to earn extra money, meet new people, and build professional skills. Here’s everything you need to know about following the rules and finding a great job as an international student.

Before you start

Can international students work while they study?

Non-European Students

You can work in the UK if:

  • You hold a student visa
  • You’re studying full-time

You can work up to 20 hours per week during term if:

  • You’re completing an undergraduate or postgraduate degree-level course, or
  • You’re sponsored by an eligible overseas institution for short-term degree-level study in the UK 

You can work up to 10 hours per week during term if:

  • You’re studying for a lower qualification than a degree, like a diploma or certificate

You can work up to full-time hours (usually around 40 hours per week) outside of term. 
If you’re a part-time student, you can’t work.

European Students

If you’re:

  • an Irish student
  • a ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ European student

You can live and work in the UK without restriction, and don’t need a student visa. You can check out our guide to working for UK students.
If you don’t have ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status then the non-European student rules apply to you, and you’ll need a student visa.

Can I do any kind of work?

If you’re on an international student visa:

  • You can only work full-time hours outside of term if you’re on a fixed-term contract (the work ends on a certain date)
  • You can’t set up your own business or be self-employed (freelance)
  • You can’t be a professional sportsperson or entertainer

This means most international students usually get casual (no fixed hours) and part-time work.

Can I work after I’ve finished my course?

After you’ve successfully completed your studies, you can apply for a graduate visa.

Students who get a graduate visa can:

  • Work for up to two years after their graduation (bachelor’s and master’s students)
  • Work for up to three years after their graduation (PhD students)

You don’t need to have a job lined up before applying for a graduate visa. However, you should make sure you meet the eligibility criteria and can pay the application fees before you apply.

Working Life

Finding work

Checking in with your university employability or careers team is always a good place to start when looking for work. They can connect you with relevant opportunities and help you appeal to employers in the UK.

You’ll need to have a CV to give to employers when you apply for a job. This is a summary of your paid or unpaid experience, education, and professional skills. 

How to write a CV

Some applications also ask for a cover letter. This is where you explain why you want to apply for this role, and why you are suited to the work.

How to write a cover letter

If you have an interview for a job, you should:

  • Dress in smart clothing
  • Read about the company and the role before you go
  • Make sure you arrive on time

What kind of jobs are there for students?

Many universities offer a range of on-campus job opportunities to their students – these are normally part-time roles in places like shops, cafes, bars, events, or student support.

There are plenty of off-campus job options to explore, too. Students will often get casual work in areas like hospitality, retail or events, as well as seasonal work over holiday periods.

Looking for work that’s relevant to your studies is a good way to build professional skills and prepare for working life as a graduate. This could be an internship or placement with a company or organisation.

Balancing work with your studies

Working is a great way to earn extra money, get professional experience, and learn more about working life in the UK.

However, your university course should always be your priority. Taking on too much work could make it harder to find study time, cause you extra stress, or even impact your attendance.

Talking to your university employment team, international student officer or academic tutor about working can help you work out what the right balance is.


You must not work more hours per week (paid or unpaid) than your student visa allows.

Going over these limits will be a breach of your visa conditions.

You could be prosecuted, asked to leave the country before your studies are finished, and prevented from getting another visa in the future.

If you’re struggling to pay for your course or your living expenses, there are other ways to get help apart from paid employment.

You can also:

  • get financial advice or support from your university
  • apply to scholarships or bursaries
  • ask family for help