Graduate Programs Student Success

How to Successfully Earn a Master's Degree with a Day Job

By Fort Hays State University on August, 24 2020

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Going back to school after entering the workforce can be intimidating. Whereas with your bachelor’s degree you may not have had other responsibilities to distract from learning, you may have more obligations now, including your day job. Having more responsibilities doesn’t mean that earning a master’s degree is out of reach. You can successfully earn your master’s degree even while maintaining your day job and other obligations.

A master’s degree can be a catalyst for your future. It can open up opportunities for advancement where a graduate degree is necessary for promotion. A master’s degree can help you transition to a new career and can boost your earning potential. But before you can enjoy the benefits of adding an advanced degree to your resume, you’ll need to earn it. 

Successfully earning a master’s degree while maintaining your day job and other responsibilities relies on flexibility and finding a manageable balance. Your work schedule and master’s program need to be able to work together, and the more flexibility that both offer, the more likely you are to be able to sustain both effectively. You’ll also need to determine how you’ll manage your time and additional responsibilities outside of work and school. Let’s break it down further so you can create the best plan for your future.

Flexibility is Key for your Master’s Degree Program

When continuing your education as a busy adult, finding a school and program with flexibility is key. Many graduate programs are designed with busy students in mind and offer night and weekend classes, entirely online education, and resources for success. 

As you consider master’s programs, consider the flexibility of each one. Throughout your research, get in touch with an admissions advisor for each program and ask about student demographics. 

  • Have other busy adults completed the program successfully? 
  • Does that institution offer any resources or support for students returning to school while maintaining a day job?

Online vs In-person Degrees

One of the big decisions you’ll need to make when going back to school for your master’s degree is how you’ll be doing your learning — online or in-person. This may come down to location. If you live nearby a college or university with a flexible program you’re interested in, an in-person education can be a good choice. Many colleges and universities schedule graduate classes outside of typical office working hours specifically for students maintaining a day job. 

In many cases, an in-person education isn’t an option without relocation, long commutes, or quitting a full-time position. For a busy professional continuing your education while juggling other obligations, an online master’s degree can provide the flexibility to complete your degree successfully without any need for relocation or commuting. Online education also widely expands the variety of programs you can consider when you don’t have to keep location in mind.  

Finding Balance

The biggest roadblock in your ability to earn a master’s degree while working a day job is balancing your responsibilities. Successfully earning a master’s degree while working a day job is 100% possible, but be honest with yourself about your current lifestyle and commitments. If you’re already overwhelmed with responsibilities at work or in your personal life, you’ll need to delegate tasks to others, reprioritize, and lean on your support network to create the time and space in your schedule for considering another large responsibility. 

It can be helpful to remember that countless other students have found balance and successfully earned their degree. While there is no one-size-fits-all method for finding that balance, there are tips you can implement to create your own path to success.

Create a Schedule

When you have a number of responsibilities to manage, a schedule can be a valuable tool for keeping track of your time and tasks. Consider what time you have available in your current schedule and what time you could create for school. Consider the credit hours necessary for the programs you’re considering.  This can give you an idea of what type of program would work well for you and the flexibility you would need from your education to succeed. 

Once your master’s program begins, time management will be a key tool for keeping your professional, educational, and personal tasks under control. Keeping track of due dates is vital to ensure you don’t fall behind in any area of your life. A comprehensive schedule can help make sure that you’re dedicating time to complete your schoolwork and obligations outside of your day job. Time management strategies like the pomodoro method or time chunking can help you manage your time and stay productive.

Earning a master’s degree while keeping a day job is busy work. When you can, make sure to schedule time to rest and relax. A master’s degree will require time and effort, but avoiding burnout is important to completing your degree successfully and enjoying the knowledge and experiences you gain along the way.

Ask for Support

Going back to school is a big decision that can impact many areas of your life. It is also a decision that can lead to a brighter, happier future as you pursue your interests and enhance your knowledge. As you create your plan for managing responsibilities, consider who in your life could provide support while you pursue a brighter future. Have conversations ahead of time to determine who you will be able to rely on and how often.  

  • Maybe a partner or spouse can take on more household responsibilities. 
  • Parents or friends might need to help watch or transport your children. 
  • Friends may need to understand that your availability for socializing will be much more limited. 
  • Coworkers may be able to handle tasks that you typically take on after-hours. 

When considering your university options, ask about what sources of support the program offers its students. Many online programs strive to support students with digital office hours, career services, and online student connection opportunities. Asking for support from your friends, family, and school is an excellent way to manage the additional time and responsibilities required when completing a master’s degree.

Let Your Day Job Know

Going back to school is a commitment that will impact your day-to-day life. While your degree responsibilities won’t have to infringe on your work requirements (this is where a flexible degree is necessary!), it’s a good idea to let your day job know that you’re going back to school. This is particularly important if your company offers any kind of education reimbursement programs. 

Even if you’re not expecting education reimbursement from your organization, letting your boss and coworkers know that you’re taking on a new responsibility is important, especially if you often work overtime or if your classes might impact your work schedule. 

Completing a master’s program can be a powerful step towards the future you’re looking for, but it is also a big commitment. By choosing a flexible master’s degree program and creating your plan for balancing your various responsibilities, you can set yourself up for success. 

You don’t have to ditch your day job to successfully earn a master’s degree. For flexible, award-winning advanced degree programs check out Fort Hays State University.

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