There are a number of financial aid options available for veterans, from scholarships to grants. One type of financial aid is typically underused is the Federal Work Study (FWS) program.  

what is a federal work study?

Need-based, it is for both undergraduates and graduates who would like to earn money working part-time to help pay their education expenses. Two unique features of the federal program are 1) it encourages community work and 2) when possible, the work is related to the student’s course of study. 

Job location 

Not all schools are part of the FWS program, but 3,400 post-secondary schools do participate. Check first with your school if interested in the program. Jobs may be on or off campus. If off campus, the work can be for a government agency at the federal, state or local level, or at a private not-for-profit or for-profit organization. However regardless of the location, the work performed will benefit the public interest in some manner. For example, some students in the program act as tutors to students in elementary and secondary schools.  


The FWS program pays at least the federal minimum wage set for the area. If higher graded skills are necessary to perform the work, the pay can be higher than the minimum. Because funds are usually limited, three other factors affect the amount of money awarded:  

  • When your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application is submitted. 
  • The amount of student financial need. 
  • The amount of funding given to the school by the federal government. 

Because monetary awards are on a first come – first serve basis, applying early, or as soon as the need is identified, is the best course of action to get into the program. 

How students are paid 

Undergraduates are paid by the hour, whereas graduate and professional-level students can be paid either by the hour or on a salary basis. Regardless of the earning method – hourly or salary – students are paid for the hours worked once a month by the school in one of three ways: 

  • Money is given directly to the student. 
  • Payments are sent to a bank account designated by the student. 
  • Money is applied by the school to towards tuition, fees or room and board.  

Using the Post 9/11 GI Bill in conjunction with FWS 

A caution with the last option should be noted: If the student is using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and designates money from the FWS program toward paying tuition, the VA will end up paying less due to the last payer rule. Under the last payer rule, all other forms of financial aid designated to pay tuition must be first applied before the VA pays their share. However, the amount of GI Bill entitlement deducted will be the same regardless of how much (or how little) the VA ends up paying. 

Lastly, earning money is not the only benefit of using the FWS program. Because the experience gained from these jobs is related to the student’s course of study, that experience looks good on a resume when the student is finished with school and ready to enter the civilian job market. 

Related News

Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.