8 answers

During high school, should I continue volunteering or get a job?

Asked Newark, Delaware

I am currently in high school and am an aspiring psychiatrist. Although there is a long way to go, I want to be as prepared as possible. I am aware that the cost of college and medical school is quite hefty and would like to tend to that as proactively as I can. However, is having money to pay for undergrad (at least) more beneficial than building a resume through volunteering? Simply put, money or experience?

I'm all for getting experience and volunteering is a great way to gain it whilst advocating for causes I'm interested in. In an opposing manner, in today's world, you won't get very far without money. Any suggestions?

Thank you so much in advance!

#volunteer #medicine #college #experience #job

8 answers

Toral’s Answer

Updated San Francisco, California

It's great that you are thinking ahead! Education certainly comes with a hefty price. That said, there are a number of ways to finance education, including scholarships and loans. So at this very early stage in your schooling, I'd suggest that making money should not be your sole focus.

Instead, I'd suggest pursuing experiences that resonate with you most. You will get much more out of any experience, volunteer or paid, if you are deeply engaged. A position to which you are genuinely committed can open up new previously unconsidered opportunities and better define your interests. Furthermore, it can help you build a well-rounded perspective on issues of interest to you, ultimately making you a more compelling applicant to colleges.

In short: focus on cultivating your interests for now!

I definitely hear what you are saying! Thank you for replying as well as for opening my eyes to see things in this perspective! I will try my best to find the balance and continue focusing on different interests and issues. Thanks again for the advice! Have a wonderful day!

Judeanne’s Answer

Updated Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Why does it need to be one or the other?

Firstly, both working and volunteering give you experience. Secondly, why can't you find a part-time job doing something related to the work you find fulfilling and want to study later on?

Don't be like others who limit themselves in their choice of work in their teens. Every office needs help answering phones, making copies, keeping organized, and most likely, promoting themselves on social media. Since you've already done volunteering, you have a really good idea of what you can offer that is worth a paycheck.

You don't need to flip burgers, bag groceries, or waitress to make money because you're in high school. You can do something that is in line with your interests and future field of study. Be creative. Be bold. You can make it happen.

Judeanne recommends the following next steps:

  • Assess your skills and how they relate to organizations you volunteer with. Which skills of yours are they willing to pay money for?
  • Don't limit yourself.
  • Speak to others in the organizations where you volunteer. Let them know you're looking for work. They'll understand and help.
Thank you for your reply! I will definitely consider your advice, but the only problem I find with it is that it physically and mentally becomes too much for me. With extracurriculars, basketball, volunteering, family and friends, AND academic coursework I don't think I'll be able to balance everything. I do like to challenge myself but I also know the importance of sufficient sleep and self-care! Thanks again though! Have a great day!

Karen’s Answer

Updated Saint Paul, Minnesota

Sounds like you are already volunteering (good for you) and continuing that can give you a wide variety of experiences, but you can also get a job and choose volunteering opportunities which are flexible.  I've found a variety of volunteer positions, like this one, which can be done whenever you have the time. There are also many one-time events where you can gain exposure to many different organizations and you could target those relating to your future career.

With every good wish -- and keep on volunteering!!

Thank you for responding to my question! I appreciate it, and I definitely will keep on volunteering. I just don't know if I'll be able to handle everything else I have going on (extracurriculars, sports, family and friends, coursework, etc.) AND a job, even if it's flexible. I try my best to balance everything and would like to still have time for myself. But I definitely will consider your advice for finding a more flexible volunteering schedule. Have a wonderful day!

Sanaz’s Answer


See if you can do both! Shadow 4 hours a week because the more experience the better and prioritize your time to get a job and start saving! It is so wonderful that at your age you are thinking about such a question but why does it have to be one or the other? It can be both so long as you are properly managing your time and not falling behind in school work! See if you can get a job in a doctor's office or in a health related field so it also works to your benefit!

Sheila’s Answer

Updated Hartford, Connecticut

Great question! In my experience you don't really have to choose one over the other. You can often handle working and volunteering, as volunteering often is done in small time increments.

Currently I work a demanding full time job, work a part time job, and still find time to volunteer more than 250 hours a year. You may find that prospective employers are looking for both experience and volunteerism, showing that you are well rounded and able to handle managing your time effectively.

Sheila recommends the following next steps:

  • Determine how many hours you will be in classes and doing classwork/homework.
  • Determine how many hours you would be willing to work.
  • Determine how many free hours you will have available and find a volunteer opportunity that will both allow you to help a cause you are passionate about and is in your potential job field.
  • Find an organization that is willing to let you volunteer around your work and school schedule.

Monica’s Answer


I was always told while in high school that less is more in terms of resume. While you want to show that you are involved, it is important to show that you are passionate about one or a couple things versus having many little things. If you are passionate about volunteering and believe that you can make an impact on the organization, then do that. If you are passionate about the workplace and believe that you can benefit personally, then get a job. Either way, it is great that you are being proactive about preparing your resume!

Grant’s Answer

Updated San Diego, California

With college entry becoming harder than ever, one of the biggest things universities are looking for are people who have done meaningful things in their community. I would say if you have to pick one, stay on the path as a volunteer, pick the hardest opportunities you can find and ones that have transferable, "job like" responsibilities.

Jamie’s Answer

Updated Los Angeles, California

Hi Mariya,

This is a great question! I would suggest looking for volunteer opportunities that will also provide you with professional development opportunities. For example, if you are hoping to work in the medical field you might consider volunteering at your local hospital or nursing home. While it may be helpful to have a source of income now, it is possible that your experience while volunteering could lead you to a better scholarship or future university, or might introduce you to someone who will help you with your career.

I hope this is helpful!