These days, tons of adults are going back to school, even though they have to juggle their work requirements and responsibilities at the same time. Even I had to do some school while I was working. It’s no longer unusual – now it’s the norm!
But despite it being really common, lots of people have no idea how to work and successfully go to school at the same time. They think that juggling both will take too much time and energy and that one of them might suffer for it. But I’m here to tell you that nothing is further from the truth.
In this guide, I’ll break down exactly how you can balance going to school and keeping your job without losing either. Let’s get started.
Consider Degree Program Requirements and Format
Before signing up for any degree program, it just makes sense to look carefully at what a degree requires, plus the format it’s presented in.
Different degrees will be better suited for students who can devote all of their time and effort to school, while others will be better for adults that need to work simultaneously while completing their degree. I went for the latter since I had to work, but the former might be better for you.
As you research different degree programs, be sure to check for factors like:
- How many credits are required
- What classes are necessary
- What’s required from the degree in terms of project completion or capstone requirements – for example, some degrees will have you complete a project before graduation while others may require you to write and defend a thesis
But there are two factors in particular you should look at which can determine whether a degree program is a good choice for going to school while working.
Part-Time vs Full-Time?
Firstly, most part-time programs will be a better fit for folks who need to work as opposed to full-time programs. That’s because part-time programs can be accomplished over a greater overall timeframe while also requiring less work to be completed in a given week or semester.
Basically, a part-time program may have you complete a four-year degree in five or six years. Don’t worry! It’s not as bad as it sounds and it comes with some advantages.
What that actually allows you to do is work and juggle any other responsibilities you may have while still completing your degree as you would normally. Furthermore, part-time degrees are just as rigorous and valid as full-time degrees – you don’t lose anything in terms of connections, prestige, or even raw academic knowledge if you pursue a part-time degree instead of a full-time degree.
Plus, part-time degrees are usually a little less stressful, especially for those who need to work at the same time. You’ll be required to complete fewer assignments in shorter timeframes, plus be given more time to study your material. For this reason, part-time degrees are also good choices for those who may just struggle with college in general, not just folks who also need to work. You can still get financial aid, as well.
However, this isn’t to say that full-time degrees can’t be done by those working. But it’ll be harder to juggle a part-time job while going to school full-time, as most full-time programs are not very flexible with their hours. This means you’re working hours will likely have to be restricted to the evenings and weekends.
Whether or not you can swing this with your job depends on your industry and seniority. Entry-level workers probably don’t have this kind of pull, so part-time programs might still be a good choice.
Online vs In-Person?
Secondly, consider whether a program is online or in person. Online programs are also excellent choices for those who need to work while finishing their educations, and they’re super popular these days.
That’s because the majority of high-quality online programs these days are asynchronous. This just means that schoolwork is assigned and given a due date, but you can complete that work whenever it works for your schedule.
You also won’t be required to attend virtual classes in many cases (though there are some exceptions – a few online programs require you to watch a professor live stream a lesson in synch). This, again, frees up more time for you to work or juggle other responsibilities.
Many adults are looking to online education these days since there aren’t any downsides and you get the same quality of education as you would from an in-person university.
However, some people may still prefer in-person and part-time programs to their online counterparts. In-person programs allow you to network a little more readily with your peers and professors, and others might just be more comfortable visiting a physical classroom than policing themselves to start their work when no one is looking over their shoulders.
Online programs are undoubtedly better for go-getters who can self-motivate readily and regularly. You’ll have to make yourself turn in your assignments, plus motivate yourself to connect with your peers and professors. No one will do it for you, and peer pressure is basically nonexistent.
Either way, consider both of these factors before choosing a given program. They’ll help you find a program that’s perfect for your time constraints and educational needs.
Don’t Overextend Yourself
However, I should also caution you about choosing a degree program that is simply undoable with your current work arrangements. You might think you have the time and energy to balance a demanding grad school program while also working for a huge company as a manager, but you likely don’t.
It’s important to choose a degree program you can actually manage with your available time and resources. You can have it all, doing school and work at the same time, but you can’t have the absolute best of both worlds. There has to be a compromise somewhere.
Tips for Going to School While Working
After choosing a program, you’ll still need to complete all of its requirements in order to graduate and get your degree. Many adults find this easier said than done, especially when much of their energy and attention is taken by their regular work or other responsibilities.
Take it from me – going to school while working is not easy. But there are things you can do to minimize distractions and maximize your chances of success. Let’s break them down one by one.
Keep a Rigid Schedule
First and foremost, I’d recommend keeping a rigid schedule if possible. This is likely a no-brainer, as going to school while working means you’ll need to figure out a schedule with your employer.
For example, maybe you’ll go to school while working in the traditional format, working a part-time job in the evenings and on the weekends, and going to school during most weekdays. In this case, your rigid schedule is made for you!
But other programs might be a little more flexible or be one of the asynchronous, online options I mentioned above. In these cases, you should still draw up a schedule for yourself and try to adhere to it as often as possible.
We’re most productive when we have solid schedules and deadlines for all of our tasks. For instance, it’s easier to keep all of your assignments on track and finish all of your essays for worksheets on time if you have a scheduled time to do your schoolwork. It’s a lot more difficult to sit down and study when you don’t have a schedule to follow.
Many students, in fact, learn this very lesson during their first year of college when no one but themselves is responsible for them attending class.
Routines Are Your Friend
Next, I’d also recommend sticking to routines if possible. Routines can get a little boring, but the point of finishing your education is to get your degree, not to go wild.
Routines, more importantly, help you to stick to your commitments and complete your assignments on time. They turn work into an automatic decision that you don’t have to motivate or work yourself up to every time.
For instance, you can make sitting down and doing a little homework a routine at the end of every workday. Once this becomes an automatic habit, you won’t accidentally skip your homework one day, nor will you need to constantly talk yourself into sitting at the computer and breaking out your notebooks.
It’s tough to make hard decisions, duh. But it’s a lot easier to keep at your degree’s requirements if you turn as much of your daily routines into habits. By the time you’re finishing your last year of school, all of this will be second nature and you’ll coast through all of your assignments without breaking a sweat.
Remember to Request Time Off When Necessary
Lastly, don’t be afraid to request (or even demand) some concessions from your employer. Chances are you’ll have to explain that you’re going to school to your boss or manager before you even start. In this case, they should be aware that your school taxes your time and energy considerably.
But some workplaces won’t give you the time you need to study or prepare for big exams unless you ask specifically for that time. Don’t hesitate!
Remember, most of your bosses and managers also went to school, and many of them may have had to juggle school and their work at the same time. They may have literally been in your shoes. Ask for time off, and try to make your schedule as flexible as possible by being clear about what you need to finish your education.
People are more generous than you might think, especially when it comes to finishing school. If you need more time to study for a test, try to switch one of your work shifts around and give yourself the time you need to succeed.
Ultimately, working and succeeding in school is one of the hardest things you’ll likely do. But it’s more than possible once you set up good routines and choose a degree program that has a schedule that works perfectly for your job restrictions.
Furthermore, you can find many of the best school programs for working adults using resources like ConsiderSchool.com. Contact them today to get started!