Many people don’t go straight into a master’s degree after graduating from university. Perhaps you found a full-time career that you love, spent a few years working, and now you’ve found yourself with an adult life to live, a house, family and work commitments – and you’ve decided that now’s an ideal time to return to education in order to get your master’s degree and improve your future career prospects.
But, while it’s certainly not impossible, as many students do it every year, juggling a master’s degree and working full-time can be difficult. The key to success is planning ahead, figuring out how you can fit the two around each other, and managing your time wisely.
Between working full-time and studying in their free time, many master’s students who work find that they have little time left to spend with their family, enjoy a social life, or do anything other than work or study. It’s important to be prepared for the fact that the process can be very gruelling, but the good news is that there are several strategies that you can use in order to make it easier to get through, and there is plenty of support available for you to take advantage of.
If you’ve got no intention to quit working full time while getting your master’s degree, here are some options to consider to help you manage the two at once.
Read Also: Tips for Adjusting to Life After College
Online degree programs are by far the most popular option for students who want to get a master’s while causing as little disruption as possible to their life as they know it. If you need to work 9-5 and have a family that needs you, a degree that you can fit easily around everything that you normally do as part of your regular routine is important.
The good news is that today, it’s more accessible than ever before. As more students are deciding to attend university later in life and with more commitments, packing up and moving to campus and dedicating all their time to studying is no longer an option. Many universities now offer online courses for all or some of their syllabus and some traditional brick universities now have an online learning branch, like the University of Exeter Online, which provides helpful advice for students looking to juggle studying with a full-time career.
Plan Your Time:
The key to success with juggling study and work is planning your time in advance. When you study online, you don’t need to worry about being at lectures or seminars for a certain time; you can finish these whenever is most convenient to you from the comfort of your own home or the local coffee shop or library. As a result, planning your studies around your work becomes more convenient than ever. Look at your schedule and determine where you have free time that you can dedicate to studying instead of what you’d normally do. If you tend to get home from work and watch TV for an hour after having dinner, use this time for studying instead. While it’s important to take some time off, consider whether you can fit any studying into your weekends. Going through your schedule and determining how much time you have to study will help you decide whether a full-time or part-time degree is the best option for you.
Finish Assignments Early:
Getting started on your assignments as soon as you are given them and finishing them as early as possible will help you stay ahead, avoid stress and keep on top of your workload. Procrastinating never helped anybody, so make sure that you give yourself a head start on any work that is assigned to you so that you have extra time to move onto the next one. Plus, finishing an assignment early often means that you can take a short break in between now and moving onto whatever is next, so you can use that time to catch up with friends or indulge in some entertainment which wouldn’t be possible if you were cramming and scrambling to try and get an assignment finished right at the last minute.
Give Yourself Some Breaks:
Life isn’t all about work, and never letting yourself get a moment to yourself because you’re always working or studying is only going to leave you feeling burned out, tired, and unable to focus. Not giving yourself a break is going to wear you down and leave you feeling completely overwhelmed with everything. Remember to take some time to relax, even if you have to schedule it in to make sure that you are maximising your time. Taking a break is often just as important as spending time studying as taking some time to regroup and give your mind a rest means that you can return to the work with a fresh mindset and outlook, which will likely result in you doing a better job of it.
Use a Schedule:
When you’re already juggling studying with working full-time, the last thing that you need is to try and keep track of everything mentally. You can’t remember everything, and not using a schedule could mean that you end up forgetting about important things until the last minute and struggle as a result. So, make use of a schedule; this could be in the form of a physical timetable on your wall or you could use an app on your phone. Many students find it useful to use a reminder app on their smartphone to send them a push notification a few days or hours before something important so that they can plan their time around it and be prepared. Schedule your week out in advance and make sure that your school and work schedules are lined up and fit in well with each other. If your job requires you to work different days or hours each week, sit down at the beginning of each week and figure out where you have the time to study.
Form Good Habits:
Good study and self-care habits are absolutely essential to successfully juggling full-time work with getting a master’s degree. Spend some time focusing on the positives and repeating them in order to create new, healthier habits. While breaking old habits can take some time, don’t forget that creating new ones can be just as easy when you are committed to doing things differently. Good sleep habits, for example, can be easy to get into once you get into a good routine, so focus on going to bed early and getting an early start to spend some time getting work done early in the day, rather than staying up late to work and feeling the effects of it the next morning.
Take Advantage of Down Time:
When you are on a tight schedule juggling work and study, it’s important to remember to take advantage of any downtime that you have. You can use this time to plan ahead and determine what your schedule for the week is; even if you only have ten minutes to spare, you can get a lot more out of using that time to set reminders for your study times rather than spending it scrolling through Instagram, for example. This step is key for improving your time management, which will help you make the most of studying for your master’s degree while you work full-time.
Don’t forget to reward yourself for all the hard work that you have put in and all the sacrifices that you have made in order to successfully balance working full-time and studying for a postgraduate degree. While the degree at the end of it and the subsequent career progression is the ultimate reward, breaking it up into smaller sections and rewarding yourself when you complete each one will make it easier to handle overall. For example, when you complete an assignment with time to spare, you could reward yourself with a nice meal out with your family or friends or taking a day to yourself to indulge in watching your favourite TV show. Rewarding yourself doesn’t have to be huge, but having something to look forward to, no matter how small, will help you stay motivated and keep going.
Ask for Help:
Anybody who has successfully managed to juggle working full-time and studying for a master’s degree will probably tell you that it’s impossible to do it all on your own, especially if you’ve got a family to look after too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; that’s what your family, friends and support staff from university are there for. University support teams will be able to help you choose the right courses and put a schedule together that works best for you, while friends and family can help with the practical side of things like babysitting or simply lending a listening ear when you need to talk things through.
Working full-time while studying for a postgraduate qualification is a lot to take on, so keep these tips in mind in order to come up with a plan that works well for you.