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Federal Work-Study - Employers

Employers and supervisors play a key role in the Federal Work-Study (FWS) employment program.  Both are responsible for making the assignment not merely a job, but also an opportunity for students to learn and test new skills while they earn necessary funds to support their educational expenses.

Below are links to the Federal Work-Study Supervisor's Handbook, as well as to individual sections of the handbook.

Federal Work-Study Supervisor's Handbook (PDF | 506KB)

What is Federal Work-Study?

Federal Work Study (FWS) is a federal program which provides a portion of student’s salary for both on and off-campus employment opportunities.  FWS jobs may include positions with the various departments and colleges or off-campus employment with approved employers and non-profit organizations. FWS is awarded to students based on their eligibility and financial need.  FWS earnings do not apply toward the university bill, but rather, are paid directly to the student to use for other living and educational expenses.  FWS positions are based on the academic year and normally restricted to fall and spring semesters.  

FWS is awarded as part of the federal financial aid programs administered by University Scholarships and Financial Aid (USFA).

What are the benefits to hiring a FWS student?  

  • Departments pay only 25% of a student’s hourly wage*
  • FWS program pays remaining 75%    
  • These jobs provide valuable learning experience for students
  • FWS students can add value to the department in which they’re employed   

*One semester cost comparison:

Non-FWS Employee works 10 hrs/week for 13 weeks at $8.50/hr = $1105.00 (Department pays)

FWS Employee works 10 hrs/week for 13 weeks at $8.50/hr = $276.25 (Department pays)

What are the responsibilities of a FWS supervisor?

The Supervisor plays a key role in the employment program.  A supervisor is responsible for making the assignment not merely a job, but also an opportunity for students to learn and test new skills while they earn necessary funds to support their educational expenses.

The Supervisor

  • Verifies the student has been awarded FWS prior to setting up interviews by checking RJASEAR
  • All payroll enterers have automatic access to RJASEAR but others may request access, if needed, by filing out the form
  • Creates a job description for each student position in the department
  • Reviews the position description with the student employee, provides a copy for the employee and places a copy in employee’s personnel file
  • Determines the number of hours a student can work*
  • Enters the department FWS position number when creating the new hire’s position in Banner
  • Does not allow student to exceed the FWS award.  HRIS Web Reports are available to monitor balances for all students by department or review by student on RJASEAR, Banner form.
  • Does not permit students to begin working until submitting all completed hiring paperwork to Human Resources/Payroll, including back ground check clearance (if required by department)
  • Removes or makes inactive job postings on when positions are filled
  • Ends position(s) when it becomes vacant on Banner
  • Notifies students of paydays and deadlines for submitting timesheets
  • Maintains departmental time records for accuracy, signatures and submission on a timely basis
  • Ensures that student(s) are working on assigned tasks in positions
  • Provides the student(s) with feedback on performance in a timely manner
  • *Example:
    $1500 (FWS award)/$8.50 (hourly pay rate) = 176 hours total for academic year (Fall + Spring)
    176 hours/25 weeks (25 weeks includes Fall + Spring semesters) = 7 hours per week

How can I recruit a FWS student for a job?

Students will go to Handshake Handshake for students to look for positions

Supervisors should go to Handshake for employers to post FWS positions 

Supervisors should always request that a position be a FWS – Federal Work Study position

State “Must have Federal Work Study (FWS)” in Job Qualifications section

Off-line advertising:  Flyers, brochures, departmental websites, announcements on bulletin boards and in classes/labs, etc.

A current and accurate job description is REQUIRED for each student job.  The job description should be maintained in the hiring office files and include the following:

Job Title

Name and address of student’s employer

Department or office in which the student will be employed

Location where the student will perform his/her duties

Name of the student’s supervisor(s)

Purpose/role of the position within the organization

Duties and responsibilities associated with the position and how they relate to the purpose/role

Qualifications for the position

Rate of pay for the position*

Work Schedule

Employment Start Date

Employment End Date

*Student wage rate depends upon several factors including what specific skills are needed to perform the job. FWS students may not be paid more or less than other student employees because they are FWS students (Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25/hour; current average pay rate on Virginia Tech campus is $8.50/hour)

What is involved in the interview process?

  • Before setting up interviews, verify that applicants have FWS by viewing RJASEAR on Banner. 
  • All payroll enterers have automatic access to RJASEAR but others may request access, if needed, by filing out the form
  • All applicants should be asked the same set of questions to ensure fairness and accuracy in the selection process. References should be checked and interview comments recorded
  • After reviewing applications and conducting interviews, the hiring supervisor/department makes the selection.  Supervisors are encouraged to contact all unsuccessful applicants.

What paperwork is needed for a new hire?

FWS Employees have the same paperwork requirement as any student hire with the University.  Please visit 
to find both payroll and human resources forms.

What do FWS students need in order to be successful in the workplace?


1.   CLEARLY DEFINED EXPECTATIONS.  Review student employee’s responsibilities with student.

2.   MISSION AND PURPOSE OF THE DEPARTMENT.  Relate student’s employee’s responsibilities with the mission, purpose and/or goals of the department/office.

3.   SUPERVISION.  Who should the student employee report to for daily tasks/assignments or priority projects?

4.   COMMUNICATION.  If the student employee has a question, problem or concern, who is the best person to assist and offer clarification?

5.   ATTENDANCE AND PUNCTUALITY.  How many times can a student be absent or tardy without jeopardizing his/her position?

6.   TRAINING.  Does the student employee receive formalized training?  How important is the training to the student employee’s job performance/evaluation?

7.   PHYSICAL APPEARANCE. What is the workplace dress code?  Is there a “dress down” day during the week?

8.   POSITIVE ATTITUDE.  Discuss attitude and how to handle stressful situations.

9.   CONFIDENTIALITY.  Will the student have access to confidential information?  What is the confidentiality policy pertaining to how the information should be handled?  Is the student comfortable with handling confidential information?

Top 10 suggestions on working with FWS student employees


1.    BE AN EDUCATOR.  How can you and your department contribute to the education of your student employees?

2.   SHARE GOALS AND VISION.  Invite student employees to regular staff meetings and allow for input.

3.   ALWAYS PROVIDE RECOGNITION.  Acknowledge student employees accomplishments whether privately or in front of peers or staff.

4.   TEAM PLAYER.  Encourage students to become part of the team

5.   BE FAIR AND CONSISTENT.  Do not be too lenient.  Campus jobs are substantive work experiences.  Treat student employees as you would any other employees in a given situation.

6.   FEEDBACK, FEEDBACK AND MORE FEEDBACK.  Provide consistent and appropriate feedback to student employees, on a regular basis and provide it with a positive spirit when possible.

7.   COMMUNICATE CLEAR AND PRECISE EXPECTATIONS.  Communicate the job standards and expectations to your student employees clearly, precisely and on day one of their job.

8.   BE FLEXIBLE.  Student employees are student’s first, employees second.  It is important to be flexible to accommodate their academic obligations.

9.   TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN AND KEEP ON TRAINING.  Take time to train students in other skills other than what is specifically listed in their job description such as time management, phone skills, quality customer service skills, general work habits and most certainly how to deal with difficult situations.

10.  BE THE EXAMPLE.  Remember they will watch and listen, so you daily approach to work will be a perfect example from which student employees can learn and model.

Important reminders about FWS employees

  • FWS students CANNOT work during scheduled class time
  • FWS students MUST be paid every 30 days
  • FWS students MUST be entered in RJASEAR on Banner as FWS employees
  • FWS students MUST have a job description on file
  • FWS students MUST NOT displace employees or impair existing service contracts
  • FWS students MUST NOT be involved in political campaigns
  • FWS students MUST NOT  be involved in the construction, operating, or maintaining of any part of a building that is used for religious worship
  • FWS students MAY NOT volunteer their services
  • FWS students MUST be paid for ALL hours worked