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Advice and Counselling Service

Working during your studies

There are many benefits to working part time during university, such as:

  • Earning money Student speaking to others while holding an ipad
  • Gaining valuable skills for future employment (e.g., teamwork, commercial awareness) 
  • Building your experience in an area that you’re interested in 
  • Finding out more about the world of work 
  • Networking and building contacts 

Read on to find out how to look for work, and useful information about wages, tax and National Insurance. 

Support from the Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre

There is lots of guidance and support available from the Careers and Enterprise centre to help you in your job search. For example: 

Finding work

There is lots of guidance and support available from The Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre to help you in your job search. For example: 

Roles on Campus 

There are many part-time opportunities on campus, from Student Ambassadors and Library Shelvers, to residential, café, and bar staff. To find opportunities on campus see: 

Campus jobs are in high demand, so get your application in early. Limiting your search to only jobs on campus will restrict your success, so look for opportunities in the local area too.

Roles in the local area 

Queen Mary is surrounded by great areas full of shops, bars and restaurants. By looking at lists of shops in each area, you can think of who to contact about vacancies.  

  • Westfield Stratford City is only one underground stop away from Queen Mary. Visit their website for a list of shops and restaurants which may have vacancies. 
  • Spitalfields market is close by and has a number of bars, shops and restaurants. 
  • Oxford Circus is just 15 minutes away on the tube and many different shops and restaurants. 

Many independent local businesses still advertise vacancies in their windows. This is where handing in CVs in person can work. 

Seasonal work 

Most retailers and restaurants recruit additional staff for the increased demand during Christmas and the January sales. Tourist attractions, festivals and sports venues often recruit for summer roles, and there is usually an increase in the demand for tutors and around exam time.


A great way to hear about opportunities is to ask family and friends whether they are aware of any vacancies. Perhaps a friend works somewhere where they are looking for extra staff for example. If you have had a part time job before you came to Queen Mary from a different area, you could ask if you can be transferred to a London branch.

Making your own opportunities


Enterprise appointments are available in the Careers & Enterprise centre (phone 0207 882 8533) for students at any stage of developing a business or a business idea. You can discuss anything from initial ideas, marketing strategies to funding applications. For more info, book an appointment or visit the Entrepreneurship page on the Careers and Enterprise Centre’s website


If you have skills which can be offered to employers on a casual basis such as writing, tutoring or child minding, freelancing can be a way to earn money flexibly. Often this would mean contacting employers directly. In some cases, employers may advertise freelance roles. 

Identifying fake jobs and scams 

If a job is offering you the opportunity to earn money quickly, without requiring any skills and perhaps not even inviting you to interview, it could well be a scam. Legitimate employers will never ask you to send them money for set up costs or to make use of your bank account. Looking at a company website can help you decide whether the employer is genuine. Does it look professional and up to date? Do they have a professional email address (rather than a Hotmail or Gmail account), and do they provide details of their office address and phone number? 
Other useful sources of help: Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre, Government website with Employment terms and conditions advice, Citizens Advice Bureau 

Earning money

By law an employer is required to pay their staff a minimum amount of money, which depends on the age of the employee. This is called the National Minimum Wage, unless you are aged 23 or over then it is called the National Living Wage. 

The rates change every April and are available online. 

Many jobs pay more than the minimum amount, but it is illegal for an employer to pay you less. 

There is lots of information on the ACAS website about wages, payslips, sick pay and other pay related topics.  

For advice on what to do if your employer is paying less than the minimum amount, as well as on other issues such as working for an employment agency, you can ring the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100. The helpline can take calls in over 100 languages.

Income Tax

Income Tax is administered by a government department called HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). If you are employed and liable to pay Income Tax it is deducted from your wages before you are paid by your employer through the PAYE system (Pay As You Earn). If you are self-employed you will need to manage your own Income Tax payments.  
Because students often work more than two jobs at the same time and may work irregular hours depending on the time of year, it is important to check how much tax you are paying and that you are not overpaying.  
For more information about tax for students see: 

The website  

Students working guide (Low Incomes Tax Reform Group)  

Personal Allowances  

You have a ‘personal tax allowance’ which is the amount of earnings in a tax year on which you do not have to pay income tax. The UK tax year starts on 6 April and runs until 5 April the following year.  

Check for information on Income Tax, including personal allowances for current and previous years.  On you can also estimate your Income Tax for the current tax year too. 
When you start work you will be given a tax code which impacts how much tax you will pay. See the website information about tax codes. 
There is a standard tax-free personal allowance and the amount changes annually. In each month that you work, your employer should not tax you on any earnings up to the value of one-twelfth of your annual personal tax allowance. Any monthly earnings above that amount should be taxed at 20%. The tax-free allowance is cumulative, so for example if you earned less than your tax-free personal allowance in April, the remainder of your unused tax-free allowance would carry forward to May and be added to that month’s tax-free allowance. 

Working more than one job at the same time  

If you have more than one job at the same time, only one job should have your full personal tax allowance set against it. When you start another job, you will need to declare this information to your employer as part of their new starter checklist. Normally your employer at the second job will have to take basic rate tax at 20% from all of your wages.  

Try to ensure that your personal allowance is set against your largest source of earnings and basic rate on any secondary sources for earnings. Watch for duplication of allowances as this could lead to an underpayment of tax. However, if you know that over the whole tax year your total income from all jobs will still be below your personal tax allowance, you can either:  

  • pay Income Tax as you earn and then claim a refund at the end of the tax year (see 'claiming back overpaid tax' below); or 
  • contact HMRC and ask them to split your personal tax allowance between all your jobs  

Leaving work  

When you leave your job, your employer should give you a P45 which should show your PAYE code, your total earnings and how much tax you paid. This is explained here. 

It is important to keep your P45 as you need to give part of it to your new employer, so they know what tax code to put you on. You also need your P45 to reclaim any overpaid tax.  

At the end of each tax year, your employer should give you a P60 form, which shows your total earnings and tax paid in that tax year. Keep your P60 safe as you will need it if you want to reclaim any overpaid tax (see below).  You get a separate P60 for each of your jobs every tax year.

Claiming back overpaid tax 

The HMRC website has a tool you can use to check how much income tax you should have paid for a previous tax year, so you can see if you paid too much. You will need details of your earnings before and after tax, which you can get from your P60 form, which your employer will provide you with after the end of the tax year in April.   

You need to wait until the end of the tax year to reclaim any overpaid tax. The website explains how to do this. For previous years, you may be able to claim back any tax you have overpaid if you claim within certain time limits. You can check these time limits online.

Leaving the UK  

If you are leaving the UK and not coming back before the end of the current tax year, and you have paid income tax, to claim back any overpayment you can either apply online or complete form P85 and send it by post.


If you have Student immigration permission your work restriction prohibits you from being self-employed. You can ignore this section. 

There is information on the LITRG website about what is self-employment.  

If you are self-employed, you normally need to pay Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions and fill out a Self-Assessment tax return. You may also need to register for VAT. You need to let HMRC know as soon as you start working for yourself. There is information on the website.   

The Queen Mary Careers & Enterprise Centre can also advise on self-employment and starting your own business. 

National Insurance

National Insurance (NI) is a compulsory 12% tax on your weekly earnings if you earn at least a minimum amount. The contribution rates are on the website. It is taken from your wages automatically. 

If you have more than one employer, they will all apply the allowance. So, for example, if you have more than one employer, but earn less than the minimum amount per week from each one, you will not pay NI contributions even if your total pay is more than the minimum amount. 

Some of your NI contributions help pay for essential public services, and some are paid into the UK’s state pension fund. You cannot get a refund of these contributions.  

How to apply for a NI number is explained on the website. That page explains that you can start work without a National Insurance number if you can prove you have the right to work in the UK 

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