Other Employment & Volunteering

Nonprofit organizations frequently depend on the service and commitment of volunteers as well as labor of employees. At first glance, the simple difference between these two types of workers is that employees get paid and volunteers do not. International students and scholars cannot accept paid/unpaid positions without approved work authorization. Although, volunteering may appear simple, it can be very complex and could have many pitfalls that could result in risking the international student or scholar’s immigration status. The U.S. Department of Labor regulations govern legal volunteering and enforce sanctions for violations of regulation. The information below will explore the definitions of employment versus volunteering and what factors the U.S. Department of Labor may use to determine valid volunteer status.


Employment is an agreement between an employer and an employee that the employee will provide certain services on the job in return for compensation. At the employer’s designated workplace, the employee will facilitate the accomplishment of the employer’s organization’s goals and mission.


A volunteer is defined as a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task without pay. Under section 3(e)(4)(A) of the FLSA and 29 C.F.R. 553.101 and 553.103, United States Department of Labor defines volunteers as individuals who volunteer or donate their services, usually on a part-time basis, for public service, religious or humanitarian objectives, not as employees and without contemplation of pay, and are not considered employees of the religious charitable or similar non-profit organizations that receive their services. These individuals are not taking the place of regular paid employees.

  • To determine whether an individual is a true volunteer engaged in “ordinary volunteerism,” the Department of Labor considers a number of factors; however, no single factor is determinative. The factors include:
    • Is the entity that will benefit/receive services from the volunteer a nonprofit organization?
    • Is the activity less than a full-time occupation?
    • Are the services offered freely and without pressure or coercion?
    • Are the services of the kind typically associated with volunteer work?
    • Have regular employees been displaced to accommodate the volunteer?
    • Does the worker receive (or expect) any benefit from the entity to which it is providing services?
    • A volunteer position at the nonprofit organization is likely to be regarded as “ordinary volunteerism” and safely exempt from the minimum wage requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act if you can answer “yes” to the first four questions and “no” to the final two questions.
  • Missouri S&T Student Employees are defined as employees who are enrolled as students at Missouri S&T and whose primary association with the university is related to the pursuit of an academic program.
  • Due to immigration regulations governing F-1 and J-1 visa holders, Missouri S&T international students are limited to 20 hours per week per academic semester, and can work full-time during academic breaks.

Students who meet the following criteria are eligible to work as a student

  • You must be enrolled at Missouri S&T. Enrollment during a summer is not required as long as you were enrolled during the spring semester, or are admitted or enrolled for the fall semester.
  • Your association with the University must primarily relate to the pursuit of an academic program.
  • Your employment is not required to be in your field of study if you are an undergraduate, but may be required for graduate assistantship appointments.
  • Faculty, staff, and international students must use judgment and care in the use of volunteers. In accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the University considers a volunteer to be an individual who performs hours of service for the University for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered. See University of Missouri HR-513 Volunteers.
  • If you are employed by the university in any capacity, you may also volunteer hours of service to the University. Employees paid on an hourly basis are restricted to volunteer services that are not the same as or similar to the type of services for which they are employed. Similar volunteer services are defined as activities requiring the same skills/knowledge or that directly or indirectly support the work for which you are compensated.
  • A department’s senior administrator is responsible for the approval of volunteer assignments.