Working on an Australian Student Visa

Being an international student is a costly affair. You have to pay your way through the visa application fees, plane tickets, tertiary fees, health cover, and general living expenses like food, fire, shelter, funky clothing, and even funkier shiny gadgets.

Sure, you’ll have a little help from relatives during your student exchange, but there’s always a time to pitch in and help. Plus, part-time work while studying is a great way to build confidence, meet new people, and get a bit of extra cashflow for boozy nights with your new uni crew (assuming you enjoy killing brain cells).

Mid flicking through job ideas, the thought suddenly occurs to you… are international students even allowed to work?

For those of you confused and/or concerned, the answer dear, aspiring, student worker is: Yes You Can.

But, before you jump up and down with excitement you must know: part-time work while studying comes with conditions. The Australian government is a big fan of conditions. And it has plenty when it comes to student visas in Australia.

So, let’s start off our discussion. What are the working conditions for student visa holders in Australia?


The answer is plain and simple. The Department of Home Affairs makes it clear as crystal: Students can do part-time work of 40 hours a fortnight. Absolutely no more! The point of the 40-hour limit is to make sure your main purpose is to actually study in Australia.

Now while the 40-hour part is strict, you do have leeway in terms of how you divide your work hours across the fortnight.

This is a bonus for all you adventurous types out there that love change. You can mix up your work week depending on what your study timetable’s like or which shifts are available.


  • You can’t start working until your course has commenced!
  • Once your course is in session, you can start working up to 40 hours per fortnight.
  • When your course is out of session (between uni semesters) you can work an unlimited number of hours! So, you can save up and go on a spending spree (or pay those bills).
  • You have the option to take volunteer work outside of the 40 hours fortnight condition if:
    • Your main purpose is to study in Australia
    • The work involved would not be undertaken by an Australian resident
    • The work is genuinely voluntary for a non-profit, and you receive no remuneration (financial or otherwise)
  • If you’ve been a busy bee studying and you’re now commencing a Masters by Research or Doctoral degree, then there’s no limit to the hours you can work!

And if you’ve brought family members along for the ride on your student visa, they have permission to work too. But visa work conditions still apply:

  • Additional applicants can’t start working until you (the primary visa holder) have commenced your course! Like you, they’re also only permitted to work 40 hours per fortnight max, unless
  • You’ve commenced a course towards a masters or doctoral degree. In this case your family can work for an unlimited number of hours. The limit does not exist. There is no spoon.


Now that all those boring student visa “work conditions” are out of the way, time to get creative. Let’s brainstorm student job ideas. Of course, the kind of part-time work you choose depends on your personality, and what kind of work (if any) you’ve done in the past. But let’s run through a few of the classic part-time student jobs:


1. Barista

If you’re passionate about making and drinking coffee, part-time barista work is definitely your jam. It’s worth noting that (we think) Australia has the best coffee in the world. If you live in our University Square student accommodation in Melbourne make sure you check out Seven Seeds just around the corner. You’ll understand what we’re talking about. So, make sure your milk and espresso shots are up to scratch! In Australia’s coffee culture, you’d better get your brews tasting amazing or they’ll be sent back. If you are a coffee artiste then this is an easy and speedy student job to pay your way through the semester.

2. Waitstaff

Waiting/waitressing is the standard student job. You’ll be working in a restaurant or café, chatting with customers, running out food and drinks, making sure no mouths go unfed, taking bookings, and generally working at a super-fast pace.

Waiting is a great student job if you want to add a bit of fitness in-between your sedentary student lifestyle. But beware: Tipping isn’t really a thing in Australia. So, don’t get confused or angry if the tips aren’t rolling in. On the positive(ish) end of the spectrum we pay our staff pretty well. Oh, and you might also get the perk of being able to score discounted deliciousness on the side.

3. Bartender

If you’re a bit of a night owl, love making (and tasting) cocktails, and enjoy working in a happening atmosphere, then bartending is your ultimate student job. You’ll have plenty of time to chat to strangers (you know… those people who hang off the bar and have lots of life stories).

With bartending you need to be tolerant of drunk people and enjoy the party way of life. Bartending is one of those student jobs that develops your English skills. Drunk people are great to practice English on (they won’t be speaking it properly themselves after a few bevs). The other job highlight is drunk people make much better tippers!

4. Sales Assistant

If you’re a social butterfly that loves working in climate controlled environments, store discounts, and manipulating people to buy stuff then retail is sooo you. You get to make money out of making people spend money (whether they need to or not).

Being a sales assistant is an especially great student job if you want to polish up your English. The job requires you to be chatting all day (in-between stock taking of course).

5. Promotions/Sales Representative

Promo work is the steroid version of being a sales assistant. You’re almost exclusively trying to sell stuff that people aren’t looking for.

The plus side is that if you’re socially savvy, great at sales, and hard-headed you can earn decent cash off any commission you make. The hours are fairly easy, and base retainers are usually pretty good (compared to other student jobs).


6. Administrative Assistant

Admin is a great student job if you’re wanting to get more experience in an office environment. Of course, the job entails not so exciting tasks like getting coffee, sorting mail, writing emails, and making photocopies.

But all in all, the work is fairly easy. This is a big help if you want to save more energy for your actual studies. And like all things in life, you’ve got to start somewhere, so you may as well make industry contacts while you can.

7. Call Centre Staff

Working at call centres can be a bit deflating when people hang-up on you. You’ll be ringing people up, having the same conversation and trying to sell things or provide customer service assistance.

But there are a lot of upsides. You get to sit down all day in a comfy chair, work hours are flexible, get an excessive amount of English practice, and the pay is amazing compared to some other part-time student work. And when you’re limited to only working 40 hours a fortnight, those extra dollars can really make a difference.

8. Receptionist

Working reception is a mash-up of being a sales and administrative assistant. Your job is to welcome guests and potential clients, help with admin tasks, prepare meeting rooms and so on.

Working as a receptionist is a pretty great job for international students. You can develop your English skills, the pay is pretty good, and while the work can be mundane, it’ll give your brain a break from all your hard uni studying.

9. Kitchen Hand

Working as a kitchen hand is a great student job if you feel like your English isn’t too great, you hate interacting with customers, or you have a burning passion for doing the dishes (there’s one in every family).

Dishwashing can be a bit physically demanding but if you look on the bright side it means the work day passes quickly, you get to alternate the work with food prep, and you get a workout in the process. If you’re extra nice the kitchen staff will probably feed you some fabulous food as well adds up in the long run!

Whichever job you decide is you, a little money goes a long way in supporting your student fees and living in Australia.



Okay so now that we’ve run through some of the top jobs for international students, you’re probably wondering how you snag one. Locking down part-time work while you study is all a matter of scouring the Internet and your local neighbourhood.

Some of the best websites for finding part-time work and student jobs in Australia include:, Jora, SEEK, Gumtree, and LinkedIn. You just have to hop onto any of those websites, enter in the kind of part-time-work you’re looking for and apply, apply, apply!

This is a great way to find work if you don’t have time to walk through every single shop, café and bar in the area. Plus, you can find which places are actually hiring staff. Why waste time door-knocking at places that aren’t looking for people?

Now the Internet does have its limits. It’s always worth cold calling around your local neighbourhood, seeing if there’s any work available, and handing out resumes.

This is an especially good way to find work if you’re one of those people that’s great face-to-face, but your resume isn’t too hot. If the people hiring like you, it’ll speak volumes over your resume. Just make a good impression! Smiles usually work. So do bribes. And so do ransom notes. Kind of…



Assuming you’ve got the job, it’s time to find some work-life balance. You need to implement some hardcore time management.

As a working, studying student you’ll need to attend your classes, pass your assessments, be a top-notch employee, while also fitting in some down time and socialising (all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy). The student struggle is real.

Of course, the 40-hour work limit on your student visa will make sure your part-time work doesn’t take priority over your studies. But still, you’ll want to avoid feeling swamped with study, work and social obligations.

There are a few good strategies to avoid feeling overwhelmed and being time savvy. You’ve got to study smart, work smart, and live smart.

And the smartest way to do this is to find student accommodation that’s smart!

This isn’t the answer you were expecting was it? Well trust us it is the answer to all (most of) your student woes.

Organisation Tip 1: Find Smart Student Housing


The Student Housing Company has purpose-built student accommodation in Australia. By purpose built we mean accommodation that is designed specifically to meet all your student needs. That is, time and money management.

Our Melbourne student accommodation and Perth student apartments are based in the main city centres (plus awaiting projects in Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide). Being centrally located puts you right near the city’s main transport, social/cultural/work hubs, and Australia’s top universities. Central locations = less travel time = easy access between your uni, job, home and social destinations: Time is money people!

We also save you the headache of worrying about finances. Apartment rent is all-inclusive (no hidden costs to stress about, like getting sprung with a ludicrous winter energy bill), luxury apartments are fully furnished, there are in-house study rooms, gyms, laundry, unlimited WiFi, and tons of communal areas including a pool, cinema, and rooftop terraces!

Basically, we’ve got all the small stuff covered, so you can focus on the big stuff, in style and comfort.

Organisation Tip 2: Get A Calendar


Of course, there will already be one on your phone. But you have the option to go old school and get one of those Fire Fighter Monthly Calendars (to keep your room looking… pretty).

Calendars are a great way to plan your day, week, month or even year if you’re a cross-country organiser. You can schedule your appointments, uni classes, work shifts, assessments, social obligations, and important events like Christmas, Hanukah, Ramadan, Independence Day, International Women’s day, International Star Wars Day, Trivia nights and the local pubs’ Happy Hours.

On your calendar you can create blocks of time for; studying, working, socialising, sleeping, eating, eating some more… the possibilities are endless! Just make sure you factor in extra time to what you expect an activity to take, so you have time to think, breathe and other bodily functions.

Organisation Tip 3: Use A Checklist

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Do we need to explain what a checklist is? Basically, just tick off when you’ve been a good student who made it to class on time, a good student that turned up for their shift, a good student that completed their assessment, a good student that paid their phone bill, you get the gist.

There are probably other ways to organise yourself, but these are our top three, and three’s the magic number right now.


Takeaway Thoughts

Working while studying in Australia is always going to be a hard slog. But plenty of students, Aussie or International, do it and so can you. That’s uni life after all. Having too much life going on to cope with. The up side is you have an excuse not to overwork yourself… the Government visa conditions simply won’t allow it!

Just make sure you stick to the 40 hours a fortnight condition, get some good quality student accommodation, and check in with your calendar and checklist. Like the Aussies say, you’ll be right.