Paying & Employing Undergraduate Researchers


  • Students must be paid for all hours worked.
  • Time spent on mandatory employee trainings should go on timesheets/WorkDay.
  • During the Fall and Spring semesters, students cannot work more than 20 hours per week from all jobs on campus combined unless that have special permission to work 25 hours per week.  During the summer, students may work up to 40 hours per week when they are not enrolled in classes.

Scheduling Students

  • Students should never be scheduled when they have a course.
  • On average, research students work 5-10 hours per week during the academic year, but each student’s courseload and research workload will vary and should be taken into account.
  • Consider giving the student time off for mid-terms/finals.

Student Expectations

You must directly tell students your expectations. For many students, this may be their first job so do not assume they know even basic office communication and courtesy. You will likely need to teach them the basics of workplace etiquette.

Suggested expectations of students

  • Student will show up to all scheduled hours. If a student cannot make a shift, they must contact their supervisor before their shift begins.
  • Supervisor should explain their preferred method of communication (phone, text, email, etc.).
  • Student will check email at least once each workday to see if any important communications have been sent and reply to them in a timely fashion.
  • Student will be polite and professional with all research staff and fellow student employees. Should disagreements arise, the student should speak to the faculty mentor or to the LSU Discover office.
  • If a student’s task has been completed, they should inform their supervisor and ask what should be done next.  Students should not used pay time to work on homework, look at your phone, etc., unless given express permission by your supervisor.
  • Students should ask questions when confused or needing further information/explanation.
  • Student will submit their hours every (or every other) week in time for payroll deadlines.

Suggested expectations of mentors

  • Mentor will discuss the training plan for the student.
  • Mentor will review all expectations with the student and provide a written/emailed copy of their expectations or provide a link to this page.
  • Mentor will meet with the student as least once per week to discuss progress and to make sure they know what they should be doing.
  • Mentor will be responsive to emails from student staff.
  • Mentor will approve worked hours as soon as possible to ensure that the student is paid on time.

Recommended pay

LSU Discover recommends a starting hourly wage of $12/hour for all undergraduate research student workers. Students with more experience should be given a higher pay rate. [Note: advanced research students funded with an LSU Discover Project Grant are paid a minimum of $15/hour.]

  • The median hourly wage on campus across all student worker jobs is $10/hour. Undergraduate researcher student workers have a higher level of responsibility and skillset required than the vast majority of these jobs and should be compensated for their work appropriately. For example, LSU Discover pays our Office Student Workers a starting pay of $10/hour for a job that entails completing simple office tasks, but we pay our Project Grant recipients a minimum of $15/hour to conduct research with a faculty mentor.

To pay a student more than $15/hour requires a budget justification. Here is an example of the budget justification used by the LSU Discover Office: 

Pay justification for [Student’s First and Last Name}:

[Student’s First Name] is an experienced student participating in research.  Due to this experience, his/her/their skill set, and the requirements of this position he/she/they should be paid $15.50/hour.

Pay rate increases: students should be given a $.50 increase to their hourly pay rate after each semester worked.

On-boarding students into WorkDay

In order to pay a student worker, you must either pay them from their President’s Student Aid, Work Study, or a budget code.

The staff member in your department who serves as the Student Employment Partner (SEP) is responsible for onboarding student workers into WorkDay, the same program that students will use to log their hours.


Work Study is a federally funded work study program that allows students to earn money through an on-campus job.  The amount of Work Study available to students each year is based on their family income.  Most work study students can earn $2,000 - 3,000 in hourly wages each academic year.  N.B.: Work Study funding is only realized if a student obtains a qualifying job and works each week to earn a bi-weekly paycheck.

President's Student Aid (PSA) is an LSU funded work study program awarded with certain freshman merit-based scholarships that offers students an opportunity to earn money while in school.  Students with PSA can earn up to $1,550 each academic year.

Summer Funding Sources

▪ Work Study
▪ LSU Discover Project Grants
▪ Ronald E. McNair Research Scholars Program
▪ College of Agriculture Undergraduate Research Grants
▪ Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC)
▪ College of Humanities & Social Sciences - ASPIRE Undergraduate Research Program
▪ College of Science - Beckman Scholars Program
▪ National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs)