If you’re a full-time professional considering diving back into academia for a graduate degree, you might be grappling with a sea of questions. Can you manage both? If yes, how?
You’re not alone in this; we’re here to guide you through. Rest assured, with the right strategy and determination, balancing a job with grad school is entirely achievable.
Advantages of Working Full Time and Going to Grad School
Enrolling in grad school and working full-time has many advantages. The biggest benefit is combining work with grad school provides an opportunity to marry your professional experience with your studies. You can apply what you learn in real-time, which can enhance your productivity and effectiveness at work.
Other advantages include:
- Enhancing professional competencies while still maintaining income.
- Increasing potential for higher earnings in the long-term.
- Allowing for immediate application of new knowledge/skills in the workplace.
- Enabling a more seamless transition if you’re earning a master’s in a different field.
- Broadening your network with professionals from diverse fields.
- Reducing a potential employment gap in your resume while pursuing further education.
Advice and How-Tos for Working Full-Time and Going to Grad School
Completing a master’s degree can be an enormous step in your career, helping you learn new skills to earn more money. It can also boost your self-confidence and, for many jobs, advanced education is a fast-track to promotions and leadership roles.
However, returning to school once you’re already in a full-time job does require some planning. Here is some advice for managing work and school at the same time.
Build an Attainable Course Schedule
One of the most common questions potential master’s students ask first is, “How many graduate classes should I take while working full-time?” Before deciding on online or in-person programs, evaluate your personal and professional responsibilities and consider the demands of the courses you’re interested in.
It’s beneficial to start with a single course and assess your capacity to handle more in subsequent semesters. Always maintain a balance that allows you to succeed in your job and studies without overwhelming yourself.
Additionally, many graduate programs are available part-time to cater to working professionals who need additional flexibility. In the Hopkins Engineering for Professionals program, we recommend starting with one and moving to no more than two courses each semester to allow for a good work-life-study balance.
Consider Online Learning
Online courses allow you to pick study times that fit around your job, and the courses are often asynchronous, allowing even more flexibility. No need to commute or rush to class; just log in from home or wherever you’re comfortable.
The quality is on par with in-person classes but with the added benefit of fitting into your busy life. It’s a common choice for those working full-time and aiming for a master’s degree. Many online programs also offer part-time options, making it even easier to build a flexible course schedule.
Check Your Employer’s Tuition Reimbursement Program
Many employers recognize the benefits of “upskilling” their employees. Your employer may have a program to help you pay for grad school. If you’re returning to school to learn new skills that will help the company, they may be willing to cover some or all of your tuition.
Make (and Stick to) Plans and Schedules
One of the best ways to stay on top of everything that needs to get done is with a schedule. Use calendars, reminder apps, and to-do lists to track what needs to be done and when.
Ask for Advice From Those Who’ve Been There
Do you know someone who worked full-time during grad school? Don’t be shy about asking for advice. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, and talking with someone who’s been there can help you plan for things you hadn’t thought about. It might also help you feel better to know someone else has been there and made it through.
These contacts can also help with selecting a program. The JHU Engineering for Professionals program, for example, enrolls a number of students because of a recommendation from a student or alum.
Even though grad school doesn’t last forever, it can certainly feel that way, especially when you work full-time and have family and friends who depend on you. Remember to take the time to celebrate small wins as they come up.
For example, say you completed a particularly grueling assignment — enjoy a date night with your significant other. If the semester’s over, take a long weekend to relax before the next one starts. These little celebrations will help you stay motivated and show you how far you’ve come just when you need that boost.
Be Open With Co-Workers and Family
Ensure your boss, co-workers, family, and close friends know that you’re going back to school and why. Explain to them your new schedule and what your additional commitments will be. Your boss may surprise you with how understanding they can be if they know you’re now a grad student working toward a degree that will make you a more valuable employee.
Let everyone support you and be happy for you, but also be realistic about expectations. Don’t plan for a weekend vacation with your friends if you know you have a major exam the day after you get back. Learn how to say no and learn how to prioritize your commitments.
Pursue a Part-Time Master’s While Working Full Time
At JHU Engineering for Professionals, we encourage you to explore grad school options even if you already work full-time. In addition to our on-campus, in-person classes, JHU offers online courses, Virtual Live classes, and asynchronous classes. Take one stressor out of your work-school-life schedule by eliminating your campus commute.
We even offer specialized services for our EP students, including career help and networking opportunities. Contact admissions today to learn more about our programs and resources for prospective JHU students.