Paid Work alongside Higher Education Studies as an Investment in Human Capital

  • Hajnalka Fényes Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Debrecen, Hungary
Keywords: working while studying, higher education students, human capital investment, capital conversion, quantitative research


In this study, using a database of higher education student surveys, we analyse the motivations behind paid work through cluster analysis and reveal which variables influence them. We hypothesise that working while studying is also an investment in human capital. We research to what extent students are motivated to work alongside their studies by the possibility of acquiring work experience and future financial return. Furthermore, we examine whether Bourdieuan capital conversion is characteristic of students. We found that acquiring work experience was a more important motive behind paid work than acquiring cultural and social capital and the possibility of capital conversion. We also found that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are primarily motivated to seek employment by the prospect of short-term income. It is a significant finding that even if the students’ jobs are not related to their studies, they still have the goal of gaining professional experience and increasing their capital, which implies that they consider many of these jobs to be an investment in human capital (even if it does not yield a return in the future; see the theoretical section). According to our policy recommendation, higher education institutions should offer students more study-related employment opportunities in the examined Central European region, while employers should also attribute a greater value to the professional experience acquired alongside higher education studies.


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