Skip to Content

Division of Human Resources

Hiring a Student

The following is a general overview of considerations when hiring a student employee.

The processes and procedures to select a candidate and extend an offer to student employees vary widely across USC. Your college, division or department may have additional requirements or guidelines that you will need to consider and abide by when hiring a student employee.


Quick Tips

  • It is highly recommended that you hire your student employees for the full academic year (August 16 – May 15) and process a separate hire for the summer (May 16 – August 15) as applicable. However, a student employee cannot work past their graduation date so the expected end date must be set accordingly.
  • Visit the training page for more information and step-by-step job aids for initiating student hires.
  • Dates for Work-Study hires differ from other student employees. Please refer to the Federal Work-Study website for the correct dates. 


General Employment Considerations

Any student is eligible to work if they are enrolled full- or part-time in a degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate program. You may need to speak with the student or supervisor directly to verify that the student is currently actively enrolled. The Student Employment Policy provides guidelines on enrollment requirements.

  • Enrollment data is part of the nightly feed from the student Banner System into the HR/Payroll System. If a student claims to be enrolled but the enrollment data is not appearing on the Student Hire eForm in the HR/Payroll System, please attach proof of enrollment to the hire request.
  •  If a student does not meet the enrollment guidelines as specified in this policy, the student may be hired as a temporary employee through the quick hire process in the PeopleAdmin system.
    • Please reach out to your area HR Contact for assistance with this process as there are implications to be considered.
    • Temporary employees must complete the application and onboarding process in PeopleAdmin, will not be FICA exempt, and will be provided the option to participate in Benefits (retirement).  
  • Students from other higher education institutions participating in certain on-campus programs, such as the Gamecock Gateway, are not eligible for student employment as their enrollment is not with USC.
    • If your department would like to hire a student that falls in this category, please reach out to your area HR Contact and request a temporary quick hire through the PeopleAdmin System.

Generally, student employees should not work more than 20 hours per week during the academic term in which they are enrolled as they are first and foremost a student.

  • Undergraduate students working multiple jobs must not work over 40 hours per week across all active on-campus appointments.
  • International students cannot work more than 20 hours per week during the academic year while classes are in session. International student employees may work over 20 hours per week during official university breaks or during the summer if they intend to enroll for the subsequent semester.
  • Federal Work Study students cannot work more than 20 hours per week.
  • Graduate students are generally capped at 20 hours per week, however graduate students may submit a Graduate Assistant Appeal to the Graduate School to request increased hours during the Fall and Spring semesters up to 25 hours per week. No appeal is necessary during the summer, but graduate students are capped at 28 hours per week.

Be as accurate as possible in establishing the number of hours the student is expected to work each week. Many students have multiple jobs and Inflating the hours per week may cause issues given the recommended limit of 20 hours per week.

FICA is the combination of Social Security tax and Medicare tax. All employees are subject to FICA taxes, unless an exception applies. Students who are enrolled and regularly attending class may be exempt as defined by IRS Section 3121(b)(10).

  • The primary relationship of the employee with the university must be “student” and not “employee.” Career employees would not be granted the exemption.
  • There is no bright line test to define a student employee in the tax law. Therefore, the university has developed reasonable guidelines based on enrolled hours and work hours per week to determine whether an employee qualifies as a student employee. Please note that these criteria are subject to change and exceptions may apply.
  • If a student employee’s student status changes, for instance, if they continue to work over the summer when not enrolled in classes, their FICA exemption may change.

Questions regarding FICA taxes should be directed to the Payroll Office at 803-777-4227.

See the section titled ‘Hiring International Students’ below for FICA information pertaining to international student employees.


Hiring Tips for Special Employment Categories

Before you can consider hiring a work-study student you must ensure your college, division or department is a Work-Study Employer by calling the University of South Carolina Federal Work-Study Assistant in the Financial Aid Office 803-777-3216.

  • Work performed by work-study students must be in the public interest. Therefore, work-study students may NOT participate in USC's for-profit activities such as rental of athletic fields, auditoriums, theaters or parking lots.
  • Advertising a Work-Study position must be done through USC’s Financial Aid Website, other recruitment platforms are at the discretion of the hiring unit.
  • For more information about advertising a Work-Study vacancy and hiring a Work-Study student visit the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Student Hire eForms submitted in the HR/Payroll System utilizing the student’s Federal Work-Study dollars will automatically workflow to the campus Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships for approval. Any subsequent changes to the Work-Study job will follow the same workflow.

Before hiring a graduate student be sure to utilize the Student Job Codes [pdf] quick reference guide to assist in your job code selection.

Once the appropriate Graduate student job code is selected, several key data elements will default including the FLSA status of exempt or nonexempt and whether the employee will be paid on an hourly or salaried basis.

The SGNA (Graduate Student – No Assistantship) job code has no minimum enrollment criteria per the policy. SGNA may be used for continuing graduate students who:

  • are not enrolled for the semester,
  • are not yet enrolled for summer/fall due to a pending placement as a graduate assistant and who will be moved to an appropriate GA job code when appropriate,
  • are working in jobs for less than 10 hours/week, or
  • are working in jobs for more than 20 hours/week.

It is the responsibility of the Student Hire Representative to confirm and verify that the SGNA student is a continuing student.   

Student Hire eForms submitted in the HR/Payroll System for graduate students with the exception of the SGNA (Grad Student – No Assistantship) job code will automatically workflow to the Graduate School for approval. Any subsequent changes to the graduate student job will follow the same workflow.

Graduate student workers, both salaried and hourly, on the Columbia campus should make at least $15.00 per hour. Please use the graduate student wage calculator[xlsx] to determine if the salaried graduate student makes the minimum of $15.00 per hour for the designated appointment period. 

For more information about hiring graduate students visit the Graduate School website on Assistantships.

Supervisors may request to pay a student employee out of their grant or sponsored project account; this is prevalent in academic units when a Principal Investigator (PI) wants to hire a student to assist with their research.

If you identify a grant or sponsored project to fund any portion of a student hire, the Student Hire eForm will automatically workflow to the Office of Grants and Funds Management.

  • Grants and Funds Management will review the Student Hire eForm and answer the following questions:
    • Is the student job eligible to be paid through the HR/Payroll System according to the grant agreement? If no, Grants and Funds Management will deny the Student Hire eForm and add comments notifying the initiator that the student should be paid through Accounts Payable.  If yes, Grants and Funds Management will continue to review the Student Hire eForm and move to the next step.
    • Are there sufficient funds in the grant to pay the student as requested on the Student Hire eForm? If no, Grants and Funds Management will recycle the eForm back to initiator with comments asking for a funding change.  If yes, Grants and Funds Management will approve the request and the eForm workflows to the next step.    

If a student is enrolled at a different campus other than the campus on which they are being hired to work, a student hire request form  will need to be completed and emailed to the designated service team for manual entry.  The student hire request form  may also be used if a student does not appear in HCM PeopleSoft search. A manual student hire requires an offer letter for the student worker.  The student hire offer letter will need to be emailed with the student hire request form. Please use the template offer letters for first time hire  and rehire  as a guide.

There are special considerations to take into account when hiring international student employees, such as:

  • hours per week cannot exceed 20 during academic term, but can be up to 40 during official school breaks;
  • passport and immigration documentation must remain valid through the duration of on-campus employment.

It is important to ensure that international students are hired correctly, paid appropriately, and abide by the terms of their immigration status.

To better assist you with the specific details of hiring international students, please visit International Student and Scholar Support.

International Student Hires will be required to complete the Foreign National Tax Information form [pdf], which you must attach to the Student Hire eForm in HCM PeopleSoft.

  • Any questions about the International Tax Information Form should be directed to
  • This form must be updated upon each rehire so that Payroll has the most up-to-date biographical information and travel history.
  • Please ensure that the necessary immigration documents, such as visas, passport, and any other relevant supporting immigration documents for the visits indicated on page 3 of the Foreign National Tax Form, are included in the scanned form submission.

For J-1 or F-1 students who are considered a non-resident alien for tax purposes and are performing services for the purpose of their visa, they are granted the FICA exemption under IRS Section 3121(b)(19).

International employees’ W4s’ are subject to restrictions and therefore are issued and monitored by the Payroll Department. The Payroll Department will send W4 forms to these employees so that they can be sure to fill out the form correctly. All questions on entering W4 forms should be directed to Payroll.

Students who participate in student activities, such as student run media and student government, are not considered employees for FLSA consideration based on the Department of Labor guidance. Typically, there is no employment relationship for students who participate in extracurricular school activities if the activities are primarily for the student’s benefit and part of the institution’s educational opportunities.  Some of the examples cited include student government, student media, and band. In addition, any minimal payment for participation in these types of activities would not necessarily create an employment relationship.  For this reason, these types of students are paid though the AP process.


Required Forms and Actions

Some student hires may be required to complete a background screening.  The standard screening consists of a current county search, National Sex Offender Registry, Social Security Number trace, and the Widescreen Plus National Criminal Search.

Most students do not require a background screening unless they fall into certain categories such as:

  • handling money,
  • working with minors,
  • involved with direct patient care, or
  • have key access.

As the Student Hire Rep, you should contact for the following:

Once the Background Check team has initiated the screening request, the student will receive an email from USC’s Background Check vendor HireRight which will direct them to complete online forms.

The background invitation must be completed within 7 days or the invitation will expire. To ensure there is no delay in processing the background screening, students should provide all required information.

See university policy HR 1.90 Background Screenings for additional information on background screenings.

The processes and procedures to select a candidate and extend an offer vary widely across USC. You may need to work with the supervisor to ensure that the specific or special considerations in your school or unit are followed.

Offer letters are not required for students. The Student Hire eForm may be processed in HCM PeopleSoft without an offer letter but if an attachment is desired, that is always as option. Once the hire is processed in HCM PeopleSoft, the student will automatically receive a system-generated email confirmation including the specifics of the state and end date, pay rate, hours per week, supervisor, and other pertinent information at their USC email address.

All U.S. employers are responsible for the completion and retention of Form I-9 – Employment Eligibility Verification – for each individual hired after November 6, 1986, for employment in the United States, including citizens and non-citizens. As part of USC’s employment process, student employees are required to complete a Federal Form I-9 to establish their eligibility to work in the United States before they can start working.

  • On or before a student employee’s first day of work, you should initiate a case in the I-9 Advantage system and electronically send section 1 to the student employee. Once the student completes section 1, you will receive an email notification that it is time to complete section 2 or you may simply monitor your dashboard in I-9 Advantage for pending items.
  • Within the first three days of starting a job, the student employee will need to present UNEXPIRED and ORIGINAL documents to you so that you can complete section 2 of the verification. Failure to comply could jeopardize the student employment.
  • The I-9 case is valid as long as the student employee is continuously employed by USC or has not had a gap in employment of one year or more.
  • If the student employee has been separated for one year or more, you must initiate a new I-9 Advantage case and verify the employee’s documents.
  • There should only be one current I-9 Advantage case on file for each employee, duplication of cases may result in fines from the Federal Government which will be passed to the department responsible for the duplication. Before you initiate an I-9 Advantage case, please reach out to to check if a valid case is already on file.

As a Student Hire Representative it is your responsibility to ensure the student employee has completed all required forms and actions so that their first paycheck is accurate and received on time.

When the student’s hire has been approved in the HR/Payroll System, they will receive an email alerting them that they have access to log in to the system. Several key tasks are important for the student to complete in Onboarding for first time student hires.

  • All USC employees are required to participate in direct deposit. Instructions for setting up or updating direct deposit elections in HCM PeopleSoft are available. Please provide this job aid to your student employees. Failure to complete this CRITICAL step may cause a delay in the receipt of their pay.
  • All employees must complete a federal W-4 form to accurately report to the Federal Government the taxes which should be taken from their pay. International student employees must contact Payroll to complete these forms as they will be display only in the HR/Payroll system.
  • A second W-4 form is required for the State of South Carolina for state tax purposes. Student employees should complete these electronic tax documents and should seek guidance from their parents or other responsible party if they have questions. International student employees must contact Payroll to complete these forms as they will be display only in the HR/Payroll system.
  • All employees must acknowledge the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace Exchange Notice which provides information regarding the Health Insurance Marketplace.


Entering a Student Hire in HCM PeopleSoft

  • Review the New Student Onboarding Job Aid [pdf] for step-by-step instructions. 
  • Once the above steps are complete, initiate the Student Hire eForm in HCM PeopleSoft.
  • Ensure that the hire action is initiated in time to workflow though all required approvals such as Financial Aid, Graduate School, and/or Contracts and Grants within the established HR Document deadline for the upcoming payroll.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.