Last Updated: Apr 7, 2017
Many students choose to go back to graduate school after a few years in the workplace. This is often a good idea, because students who have been in their field for a while are familiar with the specific career advancement they wish to gain as a result of their master’s or PhD program, and they will likely have more money to pay for tuition. But in today's ever-changing economic climate, the majority of experienced students prefer not to leave their job while they pursue graduate studies. Although this alleviates a number of financial concerns, it presents a tricky balancing act regarding time management. Graduate students who work 40 hours a week don’t have a lot of time left for the rigors of their program. However, there are a few things students can do to cope with this difficult issue.
Maintain a job within the university environment
In many cases, master’s and Ph.D. candidates are able to work full time on campus as an instructor or researcher. This can be convenient because the university will generally schedule the student’s employment obligations around their academic schedule. Also, because the job will be on campus, grad students can simply walk from one building to another rather than waste time driving from city to city. This can work well for grad students who wish to work in academia, research, or an applied field offered within the university environment.
Attend an employment-friendly university with flexible course scheduling
Many universities that offer professional degrees understand that students need to work full time elsewhere. Employment-friendly universities often offer flexible course scheduling where a student can take courses at night or on the weekends. Some even offer a one-class-at-a-time option where students can focus on one course from beginning to end and then take a week’s break prior to starting their next course. This option can be good for grad students who have an inflexible employer or for students who wish to keep their employment and academic life separate.
Seek out graduate programs that allow students to study part time
Although it used to be relatively uncommon, many of today’s graduate programs will allow students to study part time. With the recent economy, many students have stopped enrolling in graduate school and these programs now want to attract new students. Students who study part time (even though it will take them twice as long to finish their program) are often more able to handle a full-time job during their studies. Potential applicants are encouraged to talk personally with admission advisors prior to enrolling so they can honestly determine how flexible the university is when it comes to part-time study.
Attend a program that allows online study
With the advent of current remote and educational technology, students are more likely to be able to find a suitable online program. Many universities offer hybrid courses where students attend classes on campus once or twice a week and complete the rest of their studies online. Additionally, some universities will have a separate virtual campus where students who wish to study remotely can receive technical support and work with professors via e-mail. This can be a great option for students who don’t necessarily need to experience the social aspect of receiving a professional degree. Many of today’s adult students already attended a traditional four-year university when they were in their early 20s and now wish to simply earn their degree for career advancement purposes.
Although attending a graduate program while maintaining a full-time job can be extremely stressful, it can also provide students with an amalgam of opportunities. Maintaining a full-time job allows a student to have financial security while they go back to school, thus alleviating the stress of making ends meet during academic study. Additionally, students who earn professional or postgraduate degrees may be able to pursue career goals that were not within reach prior to their additional education.