It may seem absolutely crazy and nuts to some, but for many it’s a reality: working full-time and taking one to three graduate school classes at the same time. If you flashback to your college days where most of us simply went to class and that was that, it seems like a near-impossible feat. Work all week and take on a thick course load? No thank you. That may be the general response, but the fact of the matter is, getting your master’s is expensive and many students simply don’t have the option of just going to graduate classes and not working at the same time. It can be a stressful and very difficult juggle, but it’s definitely doable.
The biggest reason people work and go to graduate school at the same time is that getting your master’s degree or your PhD is expensive, expensive, expensive. You may have been able to scoop out some help for college from your parents, or if you were lucky maybe they even gave you a free ride. For most though, if you go to graduate school you’re on your own. I remember my parents gave me a concrete rule: we will help you pay for four years of college. Anything after four years, you’re on your own kid. This was definitely motivation to stay on the right track and finish college in the traditional time slot, but it also meant that any graduate school was all on me. And rightfully so; I understand that. Many other graduate school hopefuls find themselves in the same position.
That is why earning a paycheck and also earning your degree at the same time is so appealing. Well, let’s not say appealing since it is a really difficult task, but it seems to be the most economical. That said, doing both at the same time is probably one of the most difficult things. Imagine your college work load. Take that and double it, perhaps triple it. Now add 40 hours of work to the mix and your head starts spinning. That is why it is so important to really think graduate school through. In fact, just yesterday Spark News published an article that helped grapple with the question “is getting my master’s degree a good idea?” It’s a question you definitely have to ask yourself before you dive in.
If you decide that it is a good idea for you right now, then you should take a good chunk of time to figure out your financial situation and what kind of funding, scholarships or grants you can receive. Once you decide that graduate school is for you, take out at least a couple of months to research all of this and get your finances in order. It’s likely that all of the deadlines for scholarships, grants, etc will be on different dates, so that is why it’s a good idea to give yourself a good chunk of time to get it all organized and sorted.
Since you are working full-time already, you should let your boss or manager know what you will be getting into. Work is obviously a large part of your life right now and graduate school will be another large part, so it’s important that these two things coincide together. It’s also important to make it understood to your boss that although you will be putting in time for school, it won’t interfere with your work schedule or the quality of your work. When you say this though, you have to mean it. You’ll see right away how difficult it is to manage these two things and you have to work hard to make one not negatively affect the other. You should even make it known that getting this degree will make you more marketable and sharper in your professional world- particularly if you’re going for your master’s in the same industry you currently work in. In some cases, your employer may even pay for you to get your master’s degree. This is obviously very dependent on the industry as well as the company, but it does happen.
Choose your graduate school with care. You need to think about cost, time, reputation and also travel. If you work in location A and your potential graduate school is at location F, that may not be so feasible. Think about how much you are going to have to travel from work to school or from school to work and make sure it’s doable and won’t add tons more stress to your plate. Have you considered getting your degree online? This is something you should think about as well.
Once you get going on your school work, it’s a great idea to make yourself a schedule of when you will work on certain things. If you can fit homework time into part of your work lunch break, go for it. Set aside certain times after work for your school work and make sure you stay committed to your schedule. If you commit to two hours of school work after each work day, or every other day, then make sure you stick to it. Turn off your phone and really focus on your work. Sticking to a schedule will really help you out when time is as valuable as your paycheck. It’s also important to stress that time for yourself is needed as well. With so many things taking up so much of your time, it can be easy to lose yourself in the work. Make sure you are setting aside time for relaxation, fun and whatever you enjoy. Not doing this can stress you out and really take a toll on your overall happiness.
It all seems really difficult and taxing, but it’s definitely something that can be done. It has to be since thousands of graduate students do it each year. If you don’t think you’re cut out for this kind of work-school balance, then perhaps you need to weigh your options and see if this is really for you. If you can work and save up a good chunk of money and go to school without working, then maybe that’s a better idea for you. You need to find what’s best for you and run with it.
IMAGE: Courtesy of Choose Degrees