Working student: What you need to know!

Working students

Working students offer companies many advantages: A flexible workforce for project-related work, up-to-date specialist knowledge from universities and the opportunity to identify and develop potential future employees at an early stage are just some of them. Here, companies and students can find out about the advantages of employing working students and what they need to consider in terms of working hours and social insurance.


Definition and delimitation

Working students are students who are employed alongside their studies and enjoy a special legal status: If they work no more than 20 hours per week during the semester, they are still considered students and do not have to pay into health, long-term care and unemployment insurance. In addition to the theoretical input of their studies, they can therefore gain practical experience in working life. They can also work full-time during the semester break without losing their student status.

Working students are not interns: As a rule, they work for the company for a longer period of time, are actively involved in the company's daily work processes, contribute to specific projects or tasks and are always remunerated in accordance with legal standards. Internships that are completed as part of a degree course, on the other hand, are often unpaid or only paid a small amount. The distinction between working student activities and internships is relevant for the legal classification of employment relationships and the associated regulations in employment, social security and tax law.

In the best case scenario, the work of the student trainees is geared towards the content of their studies. This is the only way for companies and students to benefit equally: Companies gain young people who are interested in flexible employment; students gain an insight into the world of work and can effectively contribute to the fulfillment of company goals. In addition, working students can have their work credited as a compulsory internship.

In order for students to be employed as working students, they must fulfill certain requirements:

  • You must be properly enrolled at a university, college or recognized university of applied sciences.
  • You must not be in a semester of leave.
  • You must not yet have collected all the certificates, i.e. have completed all the required examinations.
  • You must not have studied for more than 25 semesters.
  • You may work a maximum of 20 hours per week during the semester.
  • You may work more than 20 hours for a maximum of 26 weeks per year.

Working hours

Working students are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week during the semester. This is central to the definition of working students. Exceptions are work during the semester break, evening and night work as well as work at the weekend. These do not count towards the regular weekly working hours limit - as long as they do not interfere with studies. However, these exceptions are also limited: Over the course of a year, working students may work more than 20 hours per week for a maximum of 26 weeks or 182 calendar days. If students exceed this limit, they lose their working student status and become fully liable for social security contributions.

Important: If students increase their working hours, for example during the semester break, employers must check whether the 26-week rule is complied with or whether an insurance obligation arises.

In this context, companies must pay particular attention to ensuring that the working hours of their student employees comply with the provisions of the Working Hours Act (ArbZG). Among other things, this law regulates maximum working hours, rest breaks and rest periods between work assignments.

Time sheets are therefore essential. Companies are obliged to accurately record the working hours of their employees and keep corresponding records. These ensure that the 20-hour and 26-week rule, rest breaks and rest periods are adhered to. Potential legal conflicts can be avoided in this way.

Companies can employ working students on a temporary or permanent basis. Fixed-term employment contracts offer a certain degree of flexibility, as they can be adapted to the student's course of study. For example, companies can tie a fixed-term employment contract to the duration of a semester or a specific project. However, under German law, fixed-term employment contracts may only be concluded for a maximum duration of two years and may be extended or renewed a maximum of three times during this period. Exceptions apply to specific collective bargaining agreements or, for example, the employment of academic staff at universities. If students work for the company on a long-term basis or provide continuous work that is required over a longer period of time, an open-ended working student contract is suitable.

‍Billingand social insurance

Working students are exempt from health, long-term care and unemployment insurance - as long as they do not exceed the 20-hour limit. However, they do pay into pension insurance. This is just 18.6 percent, which is shared equally between the employer and the working student. For companies, this means that working students pay lower social security contributions than regular employees. For students, this means "more net from gross", as these costs are also not incurred. Compared to other student jobs, working students receive attractive remuneration in this way. The exemption from insurance only applies - as we have already guessed - as long as the weekly working time limit of 20 hours during the semester and the 26-week rule are adhered to. Otherwise, students lose their status and are fully liable for insurance. To ensure correct accounting and compliance with social security contributions, companies must keep accurate records of their employees' working hours.

It is important for students to note that they are not entitled to unemployment benefit I after completing their studies, as they have not paid into unemployment insurance as working students. If a student also receives BAföG, he or she should check whether working as a student trainee is really worthwhile, as the income earned is likely to exceed the BAföG allowances. This can lead to a reduction or even elimination of the BAföG entitlement.

Simply record your working students' working hours digitally

With Sawayo, your employees simply record their times digitally. Working time account balances are calculated automatically - so you stay up to date on how many hours your student workers are working and can take appropriate action if necessary.

Recruitment potential and talent development

A crucial aspect of hiring student trainees is their recruitment potential and their role in talent development. Companies gain the opportunity to get to know and develop potential future employees at an early stage. Working students, in turn, can prove themselves during their time at the company and show how well they integrate into the team or how quickly they can familiarize themselves with new tasks. In this way, the working student program not only functions as a short-term solution for project-related work, but also as an investment in long-term employee development and retention.

Practical experience and expertise

Fresh perspectives and up-to-date specialist knowledge - that's what working students usually bring with them. This is particularly valuable in industries that are developing rapidly and where innovative ideas are in demand. Products, services and processes can be improved in this way. Thanks to the close connection to the university environment, companies can also benefit from current trends and developments in their field and keep their knowledge up to date.

Flexibility and adaptability

By employing working students, companies generally gain flexible and adaptable employees. By studying at the same time, students are trained to use their time efficiently and set priorities. They can adapt quickly to new tasks and working environments and are often willing to take on additional responsibility. These skills are particularly valuable in dynamic working environments where requirements and projects change quickly.

Simply record your working students' working hours digitally

With Sawayo, your employees simply record their times digitally. Working time account balances are calculated automatically - so you stay up to date on how many hours your student workers are working and can take appropriate action if necessary.


We would like to point out that the contents of our website (including any legal contributions) are for non-binding informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice in the strict sense. The content of this information cannot and is not intended to replace individual and binding legal advice that addresses your specific situation. In this respect, all information provided is without guarantee of accuracy, completeness and timeliness.

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