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MyCQU - Working while studying

Working while studying

Most international students need to work while they are studying to help cover their living expenses. Before looking for work, it is important that you are aware of your visa conditions and work rights, have prepared the correct documents and are realistic about what jobs you may qualify for.

Visa conditions and work rights

It is important that you are aware of your both your student visa work conditions and your work rights in Australia.

As per your Student Visa conditions, you are permitted to:

  • work up to 40 hours per fortnight (every 2 weeks) while your course is ‘in session’ (first day of term until the last day of exams)
  • unlimited hours during official University Vacation Periods,

All workers in Australia, including those from overseas, have rights and protections at work. These cannot be taken away by contracts or agreements. Some of your work rights are:

  • minimum pay rates based on the type of job
  • payslips must be provided each time you get paid
  • you cannot be paid in goods/services (ie food, accommodation, clothing)
  • there are rules around how long you can work without a break
  • you should be paid from when you start your shift to when you finish. Set-up/pack-up should be included in this time (ie you cannot be asked to arrive 15 minutes early to set-up and not be paid for this time)

Knowing your work rights and carefully reading any employment contracts before you sign them is important. See the Fair Work Ombudsman website for more details.

Preparing for the Job Hunt

Before you start looking for a job, ensure you have the following items prepared:

  1. Tax File Number (TFN) from the Australian Taxation Office
  2. Australian bank account (most employers will directly transfer your pay into your bank account each week/fortnight)
  3. Up-to-date resume (CV) – the CQUni Careers team can review your resume – see the Resume Doctor link in CareerHub
  4. Copy of certificates relevant to the type of job you are applying for (ie Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA), first aid, construction white card, barista course, etc). Completing these short courses before looking for work may assist you in your job search.

Top Jobs for International Students

When looking for a job, it is important to find one that will work around your University commitments (class timetable, assessment deadlines and exams). Your study should be the most important aspect of your time in Australia and therefore, you should balance your work commitments around your University ones. You will also want to find a job that is easy for you to get to (ie close to Campus or your accommodation).

Flexible industries where students normally find work are:

  • Retail (including supermarkets) – these jobs involve helping customers, handling stock/money and cleaning. It can be a great way to improve your English and they usually have flexible work hours.
    • Positions are normally advertised through ‘Help Wanted’ signs in the store window. You will need to drop your resume at establishments (ensure you are dressed well when you do this and ask to speak with the manager/supervisor)
  • Hospitality – includes restaurants, takeaway food outlets, bars, hotels, cinemas, etc. Some positions may require specific qualifications (ie RSA/Barista), however, the hours are usually flexible (days, nights and weekends) and the pay rates reasonable.
    • Most of these jobs are not advertised (or are advertised through a ‘Help Wanted’ sign. You will need to drop your resume at establishments (ensure you are dressed well when you do this and ask to speak with the manager/supervisor)
  • Cleaning – this may include cleaning houses, office blocks and shopping centres. Most work will be at night and you will mostly work by yourself.
  • Call Centre – this will involve being on the phone all the time either selling something or helping customers. It can be a great way to improve your English and usually has flexible work hours.

Occasionally there will be opportunities available for students to work on-campus. These positions are normally occupied by students who are engaged in on-campus activities and have built good relationships with staff.


While you aren’t paid for volunteer roles, they can be a great way to build skills and meet new people. It can also open up doors to opportunities that may not be advertised.