Will Work For Ramen: On-Campus Job Opportunities for Students

Illustration by Christina Carlson
Illustration by Christina Carlson

Besides midterms, finals and a lack of sleep, what else does spring quarter involve? A broke college student. Although the academic year is almost ending, it is never too early for students to think ahead and to make sure they can pay off their loans before starting to pay for graduate school or that new car. Here are a few jobs to consider.

UCSD Shuttles

Perhaps underappreciated for the work they do, shuttle drivers provide a vital service to UCSD students. Whether saving students a 15-minute walk to class in the morning or bringing drunk partygoers safely home at night, they are always present in campus life, getting students where they need to go. The job isn’t without its perks either: with trainees’ salaries at $10.50 per hour and licensed drivers’ salaries at $15 per hour, shuttle drivers are well compensated for their work, which, for those who love driving, can hardly be called “work” at all.

Eleanor Roosevelt College junior Hunter Smothers has been driving for UCSD Shuttles since Fall Quarter 2014. With more than two years of experience under his belt, Smothers knows the ins and outs of his profession — particularly which routes are the best to drive.

“My favorite route I would say is probably either the Hillcrest route or Sanford shuttle,” Smothers told the UCSD Guardian. “The Hillcrest route because for each of your shifts they are usually about three hours long and for CMC [Hillcrest], the route is so long that you only do two loops per shift, so it’s not just getting monotonous with constant loops. And on that route you usually get quite a bit of downtime.”

According to Smothers, shuttles offer a very flexible work schedule that allows for a good work-life balance. Shuttle drivers choose 12 hours of permanent shifts at the beginning of each quarter, which they can plan to fit their classes. Furthermore, though UCSD Transportation Services wants drivers to work 12 hours each week on average, drivers are free to drop shifts and take other drivers’ shifts throughout the week.

“The nice thing about this job is that as long as there are people who are willing to pick up your shifts you usually don’t have to worry too much about getting things covered if you have a midterm to study for or a final or something like that,” Smothers said. “There has been an issue over the last year or so of just not having enough people, so there are a lot of shifts that don’t get picked up, and sometimes people will have to offer $5 or $10 over Venmo to get their shifts picked up if they really, really need it picked up.”

When comparing his job to those of Metropolitan Transit System bus drivers, Smothers is thankful that he can rely on his passengers being an orderly, polite bunch.

“[UCSD students] are usually all polite, even when they’re drunk — yes, we get quite a few of those people too,” Smothers said. “Sometimes they’re just funny — some people can be disruptive, but we usually don’t have many problems with that. I can probably count on one hand the times that anyone I know has had to tell someone on their bus to leave.”

The Gym

Summer is approaching, and for most students, that means pumping those weights and fixing their diets. For those who enjoy going to the gym and prepping for that summer body, staying around the gym outside of working out can be good motivation. Main Gym and RIMAC offer several student job opportunities as concessions workers, facility supervisors and pool- and ground-maintenance crew members.

ERC junior Omkar Mahajan recently started working as a weight room attendant this quarter. He decided to take this job because of his passion for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and his love for the gym.

“It’s great to see people coming to the gym striving to be more healthy,” Mahajan told the Guardian. “After all, a healthy body equals a healthy mind. Also, I’m doing something I love and that’s the most important thing in any job.”

Mahajan’s main role is operating the front desk in the weight room at RIMAC and making sure people have their towels and IDs and are following weight room rules. In addition to that, he keeps an eye out for broken equipment and thinks it’s important that people put their weights back after they’re done. He finds the job convenient because it’s on campus and close to his apartment.

“I live on campus, so it is more convenient for me, and I don’t have to worry about transportation,” Mahajan said. “Also, UCSD Recreation and UCSD itself are very reliable employers. On the other hand, there’s always the risk that if you work somewhere off-campus, you may not know what you’re getting yourself into.”

Mahajan plans to stay at his job until he graduates. One thing that never fails to amuse him is the number of familiar faces he sees.

“I’ve seen some of my TAs and even professors come here to work out at the gym — it’s amazing.”

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

UCSD’s main campus is not the only location for close jobs convenient for students. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography is dedicated to carrying out research on the ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences. Apart from offering careers for oceanographers, assistant professors and biologists, the center offers undergraduate programs and jobs for students.

ERC junior Sean Pfeifer is a student assistant for the Scripps Climate, Atmospheric Sciences, and Physical Oceanography Business Office. His job includes purchasing orders, writing journal vouchers, making reimbursement payments and running errands. He works in the office six hours per week and at the county for 14 hours more each week. Pfeifer decided to switch from a different on-campus job because he felt this one better suited his goals for the future.

“My first job on campus was working for the special events parking operations department, but toward the end of freshman year I thought I’d better get a job featuring more marketable skills, so I decided to apply for a few office positions,” Pfiefer told the Guardian. “CASPO called me first; I had a brief interview and got started in September of my sophomore year.”

Pfeifer typically takes a short shuttle ride from campus to Scripps after class and then goes back to campus for discussion sections or to study, which is easier than getting to his county job in Kearny Mesa that requires a 10- to 15-minute drive. He likes staying on campus as employers are more familiar with the university schedule, which helps him plan time off. He also enjoys the job itself and the diversity within his workplace.

“I enjoy being in a different atmosphere while in office,” Pfeifer says. “Most of my co-workers are full-time and live lives very different from us college students — midterms, for example, mean nearly nothing to them. It all combines to give me some perspective on what to stay focused on, and what to avoid stressing too much about.”

In the long term most students will likely choose careers that have little to do with the jobs they take to support themselves during college. Nevertheless, as Dining Program Analyst and Muir Alumnus Jason Andrews notes, many of the skills learned at on-campus jobs are applicable to any workplace.

Our student employees have the excellent opportunity to develop experience in a work environment that will benefit them even after they graduate from UC San Diego,” Andrews told the Guardian. “They can build basic skills like timeliness,  meeting quality standards even grow into advanced work leadership roles.  Our students gain business insight, multi-tasking skills, time management and interpersonal skills that will ensure they are top candidates for careers when they graduate.

Andrews, who works for HDH, further noted that, although working at HDH’s dining halls is very similar to other food service jobs, students bring a positive atmosphere to the workplace.

“The most dynamic difference is working with the students,” Andrews said. “The energy, pride and shared experience of this timeframe of their life is special.  This truly makes our environment ever changing and definitely changing year, after year for the better.

The university offers many jobs for students beyond the ones featured here in places such as the UCSD Bookstore, Geisel Library and the parking office. Though many of these jobs may not seem pertinent to students’ majors, they can provide a helpful salary as well as invaluable experience for building a proper work ethic. 

Written by Oliver Kelton and Alvin Chan

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