Good Part-time job ideas for design students

I am not sure if this question has been asked before as I was having difficulty narrowing search results because of the word “job”, please redirect if it has been answered.

As an Industrial Design Student I was hoping for some advice from my peers and more experienced members of the Industrial Design/Design community.

I would like some suggestions on jobs that are beneficial to the field that could be held while simultaneously going to school full time. Working 20 hours a week is not a problem and I do have retail experience. What I am really looking for is out of the box and/or more respected jobs that would be creative in nature and possibly even give direct real world experience. I’m looking for a job that would be one step below internship/junior designer status.

I appreciate any and all advice!

P.S. This is also my first post in a forum.

I’d look for a part time graphic design gig in a creative company or field.

Yeah, it’s not industrial design and you don’t want to get pigeonholed, but it does present good opportunities (and money). It’ll improve your layout/storytelling skills, you’re ability to work with clients or take creative direction, and if you end up in the right place—might connect you with other creative professionals and companies(ideally, those in ID).

Welcome to the boards!

I got a part time job at a sign shop in college. Gave me some good exposure to design and how it relates to manufactured products (especially exposing lazy graphic designers…)

Next thing you know, I’m in my 12th year in the industry.

My summer job as a student was a screen print designer and preparer.

I had to design the prints for kids sleepwear then prepare the screens. My tutor said my sketching ability had improved like he couldn’t believe when I came back after the break.

I worked as a fabricator for a firm that designed and built stage sets for plays… it was helpful. Definitely improved my sense of materials, model making, and even sketching.

Welcome - thanks for choosing ID as your career path. In my opinion, almost any job you can get will be valuable in one way or another (except retail sales at a department store and sanitation collection).

Here are the jobs our guys had before they could get a full time gig;

  1. home builder’s assistant (did all the menial labor around the construction site but was also able to learn the fundamentals of solid construction),
  2. typesetter (wtf, how old is this guy workin for us?),
  3. sign shop lackey (was able to see all the various parts that are required to build a long-lasting, durable, weather safe product),
  4. used car salesman (definitely learned how to sell anyone on anything),
  5. security guard (had lots of time to sketch),
  6. go-kart track employee (got to see how a small business is run and how to control cost to reap profit).

I think a graphics position would be nice, but if you cant find one of those, something in the manufacturing field would be good as well. I spent a summer being a button pusher on a CNC machine and it taught me a lot. I also did another summer at a high end wood furniture manufacturer (cabinet shop). When it comes to my ID work, I always think back to my time at these jobs and how I would have made the product in those shops. Also, when it came time for model/furniture class, I was always confident at the tools I was using (unlike several others int he class).

All my favorite designers spent time in cabinet shops and fabricators either between school and their first job or between high school and college. Nothing like getting dirty and really learning what it takes to make something that stands up.

I’m probably biased though.

All my favorite designers spent time in cabinet shops and fabricators either between school and their first job or between high school and college. Nothing like getting dirty and really learning what it takes to make something that stands up.

I’m probably biased though.

People skills are worth their weight in gold.

Starbucks & Mc Ds teach you how corporate works and how systems make companies profitable.

My first job was at Micky D’s on the cash register… ah, the smell of the fry vats in the morning…

Thank you everyone for your interesting responses! I think they are all great options and I would love to get my start working at any of the fore mentioned jobs, excluding used car salesman!

I worked for a scale-model fabricator before as my first ID related gig for the summer.

It’ll definitely give you the edge on model building because of experience with cast resins, Bondo, silicon mold, and painting.

I help build the Indy cars for Rahal, Andretti, Villeneuve, and Tracy as well as some of the ships.

I always worked as a cook. It’s my other passion so was a good release for me. Also it too keeps the creative juices flowing.


In my sophomore year of school I worked part time as a short order cook a few nights a week during the semester… Free food!

I’d say any job related to design at all is ideal, but non-design related jobs will help you learn as well…

personally I think it is admirable to work while at design school to keep debt down. You have to have good time management skills and that’s always good to learn.

I think it also helps you get experience with different industries & better understand the perspectives of people who don’t design for a living - a lot of people we design for just want to do their jobs easily and go home

For me, I had a string of jobs in school:
bussing tables in restaurants
coffee baristas
art store staff
honeybaked ham cutter and flame blaster
archectural intern
sign maker
my favorite was a job restoring Stearman biplanes from cropduster wrecks. I was in charge of the wing sections and later the experience helped me get a job in Aerospace

I bet you can cut a mean meat spiral :slight_smile:

My favorite was the flamethrowers to melt the sugar on the hams!

The jobs I have had while in school for my previous degree or now my current endevor as an Industrial Design student have always related to the field, the best advise I can give you is do not take no for an answer, and be persistent. Go to gallery shows, send out emails network. I think as well informed students we know some jobs are a bit out of our reach until we can get an internship or two but their are plenty of others that will help bridge the gap. With that said This coming semester I am planning on not working and focusing very hard on school, working and being a focused student can be tough.

Jobs all while in school:

  • Worked for Porsche/ Audi and eventually Volkswagen; started as a porter ended up working in sales at Porsche/ Audi then became a VW tech.
  • Apprenticed under an amazing woodworker and eventually this lead to a position in his furniture restoration shop
  • Worked for a furniture designer/ cabinet builder

Find what ever you are really interested in whether it is cars or furniture and send out emails just asking to interview people about the industry and then stay in touch, even if you don’t get a job out of it you will learn a lot about how people work and the industry. I know this has been really helpful for me.

Here’s my list of jobs, in chronological order.

Before studying ID:

Burger flipper/chip fryer
Supermarket stacker
Sheep shearer’s roustabout
Car Radiator solderer
Hardware store shelf stacker
Chocolate factory worker
Landscaper’s assistant
Earthmoving assistant
Commercial cleaner (supermarkets and businesses - while at trade school)
Wood machinist
Gymnastics equipment machinist/assembly/finisher/upholsterer

While at university:

Gymnastics equipment machinist/assembly/finisher/upholsterer
Electronics POP assembly/testing
Fruit picker/thinner (apples/cherries/grapes/peaches/plums/pears)
Hardware building supplies sales

Since graduating:

ID (full time since 2009)
Pyrotechnics assistant (weekends)
Bar and function work (weekends)
Furniture restorer (current project)