Penn/Federal Work-Study Students


Penn/Federal Work-Study Students
  1. Quick Facts

  2. Overview

  3. Federal Work-Study Community Service

  4. How to Find a Job

  5. Online Job Appointment Form

  6. How Are Student Employees Paid

  7. University Policy on Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources

  8. Frequently Asked Questions

1. 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 listed on the Student Employment website.
  • A student cannot begin working until the supervisor appoints the student online to a job number.
  • A student is limited to two jobs at any given time.
  • When classes are in session, students (full-time or part-time) are not permitted to work more than a total of 20 hours per week.
  • Students employed on-campus are paid weekly by the employing department.  Students employed off-campus are paid weekly by Student Employment based on the submission of Time Report Forms by the supervisor.

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2. 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, a student is encouraged to seek community service work and/or work related to the student's course of study. The student is 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.

A student may postpone working until the spring semester. However, the availability of jobs may be limited.

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3. 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 (including students with disabilities who are enrolled at school).
  • Activities in which a student serves as a mentor for purposes such as tutoring, supporting educational and recreational activities, and counseling, including career counseling.

The U.S. Department of Education has clarified the issue of the acceptability of indirect community service positions as follows:

  • 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. All off-campus jobs, including community service jobs require a contract, which contains a description of the job and the conditions for employment.

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4. 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 work schedule.

  • 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 student may only be employed 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 215-573-9171 or send an e-mail to

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.

New student employees must come to Student Employment to complete the W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate) and online I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification).  Student Employment is located in Room 100 of the Franklin Building, 3451 Walnut Street.

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.

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5. Online Job Appointment Form

Through the supervisor’s Student Employment Management System (SEMS) account, a student is appointed online by the supervisor to a job number 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 a W-4 (Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate) and online I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification). The employing department's business administrator will instruct the student accordingly.
  • Off-Campus - New student employees employed by a nonprofit organization or government agency must come to Student Employment to complete the W-4 (Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate) and online I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification). Our office is located in Room 100 of the Franklin Building, 3451 Walnut Street.

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6. How Are Student Employees Paid?

Federal and University regulations require that weekly hours must be supported by a listing of clock hours worked for each student.

On-Campus:  Most University departments are using e-timesheets. The employing department’s business administrator will instruct the student regarding the procedures for completing the e-timesheet. The e-timesheet requires the listing of clock hours, and is electronically signed by the student, and supervisor. Once the supervisor electronically signs the e-timesheet, it is sent to the department business administrator for approval and submission to the payroll system.

Off-Campus: The supervisor will receive pre-dated Time Report Forms from Student Employment. Time Report Forms must be faxed or e-mailed to Student Employment every Friday by 5:00pm, in order for the student to be paid the following Friday.  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.

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. This exemption does not apply to students employed off-campus by a nonprofit organization or government agency.

Note: The University made changes to the Personnel/Payroll system in order to improve the University’s requirement to withhold and report payroll taxes. This gives the University the added ability to withhold local taxes as required by the tax authority of the individual’s permanent residence location, in addition to the local tax withholding based on their work location.

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7. 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 as summarized below.

The policy is based on the principle that the electronic information environment is provided to support University business and its mission of education, research and service. Other uses are secondary.  Uses that threaten the integrity of the system; the function of non-University equipment that can be accessed through the system; the privacy or actual or perceived safety of others; or that are otherwise illegal are forbidden.

By using University electronic information systems you assume personal responsibility for their appropriate use and agree to comply with this policy and other applicable University policies, as well as City, State and Federal laws and regulations.

The policy defines penalties for infractions, up to and including loss of system access, employment termination or expulsion. In addition some activities may lead to risk of legal liability, both civil and criminal.

For more detailed information about the Policy on Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources, please go to the Office of the Provost at

8. Frequently Asked Questions

While it is preferred that a student have one job, we recognize the need for a student to work an adequate number of hours per week (within established limits) in order to cover personal expenses. A student's number one priority is academic achievement.

The Student Employment Management System (SEMS) can only post two job appointments at any given time.  Therefore, a student is limited to two jobs at any given time.

A student must have permission from their supervisor and business administrator at the first job before seeking a second job. The supervisor and business administrator has the right to deny the student's request to work at a second job. Their decision is final.

A student's primary responsibility is their academic achievement and work cannot be a priority.
When classes are in session, students (full-time or part-time) are not permitted to work more than a total of 20 hours per week.

When classes are officially not in session, students (full-time or part-time) are not permitted to work more than a total of 40 hours per week. A student is required to take an unpaid break or lunch of at least one-half hour after five consecutive hours of work.

To have your pay automatically deposited into your checking or savings account, sign up for Direct Deposit.  Go to the Student Employment website and click Direct Deposit.  Once you complete the required information allow approximately 2 weeks for direct deposit to begin.

Student employees can view their pay stub online through the Penn portal website and follow the instructions below.

  • Under the General tab, go to Payroll and Tax section, click My Pay
  • Enter your PennKey and Password
  • Displays the most recent pay period. If you wish to view another pay period go to Issue Date and choose the pay period.

Student employees are not eligible for benefits such as sick pay, vacation pay, holiday pay, or unemployment compensation, but are eligible for Workers' Compensation under the provisions of Pennsylvania law. Workers' Compensation covers expenses for medical care from job-related injuries or occupational diseases sustained in the course of employment. A student who suffers a work related injury must report it immediately to their immediate supervisor. The supervisor must report on-the-job injuries to the department's business administrator promptly.

A student must be removed from the work-study payroll for the following reasons:

  • Graduates
  • Withdraws from the University
  • On leave of absence
  • Dismissed or suspended for academic or conduct reasons

An employed student who intends to withdraw from the program, or who wishes to change jobs within the semester, must inform their supervisor. A student is expected to give at least one week's notice before leaving a position. This gives the department the necessary time to find a replacement for the student, or to adjust the work schedules of remaining employees in order to offset the staffing shortage. Releasing a student from a job is done online by the supervisor. An e-mail confirming the student's release will be sent to the department's SEMS coordinator.

Withdrawal from the program will not jeopardize a student's chances of receiving work-study eligibility in future years.

It is the student's responsibility to report to work on time for every scheduled shift. If the student cannot work because of an illness, emergency, or will be late for work, the supervisor must be notified as early as possible before the shift begins. Potential conflicts should be discussed well in advance with the supervisor. Continued tardiness and failure to provide adequate prior notice of absence as determined by the supervisor are considered grounds for termination.

Requirements for attire are determined at the direction of the employing department.

A student and supervisor are encouraged to discuss any work-related problems. Experience has shown that most minor disagreements can be resolved by honest, non-confrontational discussion of the problem. An attempt should be made to informally resolve the disagreement between the student and the immediate supervisor. If the problem cannot be resolved within the department, the student should make an appointment with the Manager of Student Employment to discuss the problem.  Depending on the problem, a student may be referred to another University office for advice and resolution.

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