Balancing grad school with work can be a challenge at time, but it is one of the best investments a professional can make in their career. Statistics shown on EarnMyDegree.com show a significant earnings differential based on average salaries between a Bachelor’s degree and a Masters; over $10,000/year initially, with the variance compounding over time to total nearly one million dollars. Employers today commonly use degrees and credentials as initial screening criteria for potential candidates, and a focused, formal education is critical for success in the professional world. But graduate school, challenging enough for full time students, can be extremely daunting when combined with a full time career. Success requires developing and perfecting the skill of balancing work and graduate school. Read on for useful strategies:
1: Embrace what you are about to undertake! Do not underestimate the power of the positive attitude. Although it may seem like an overly simplistic, quaint notion, believing in your ambition and giving it all you’ve got will be invaluable, especially on those days when you think balancing grad school is tough.
2: Let your boss or superior know what you are planning, and obtain his/her support if possible. It is always wise to let your boss know that you are returning to school, and that regardless of your new undertaking you remain committed to maintaining a high standard of work. Your boss will appreciate your consideration and may be more supportive of your efforts if you talked with him/her in the beginning ; he/she may even be a good mentor, and may have some useful advice about degree programs that would be a good fit for your career path if you like what you are currently doing and would like to stay with the company after you earn your master’s degree.
3: Commit to a part time program, even if it means it will take you longer to finish. Balancing grad school means just that: finding the balance that won’t adversely affect your work performance. For most people, that means adding 20-25 hours of classroom, homework, and studying to a 45-50 hour work week. Don’t overload yourself by trying to blast through a grad program in 18 months, no matter how tempting that may seem. Taking it a little slower will mean sanity and better retention of what you studied to earn that expensive master’s degree when you are finished.
4: Attend an online program from a highly respected school instead of attending classes on campus. The online venue is becoming more and more respected with schools like Cornell, Boston University, Notre Dame, as well as Florida Tech, offering graduate degree programs. You will also find that distance learning is incredibly conducive to balancing work and graduate school; you attend class and study on your timetable. If you are also trying to balance a family this is not a luxury, it is a requirement; online programs have paved the way for working parents to return to school.
5: Balancing work and graduate school also means knowing when to relax. It is common to get wrapped up in your studies and become blind to the world at large. Learn how to shut your books from time to time and step back from your studies. Remember, it is about balancing work and graduate school, and to do this well, you need some R&R.
6: Bring your new knowledge to your workplace. Don’t wait to display what you’ve learned until after you have graduated. Apply your new knowledge, skills, and abilities in practical applications that will increase your value to your current boss, and may catch the eye of someone higher up in your organization.
Although challenging, it is possible to balance grad school with a career and a personal life. The keys to success are:
- A realistic time frame; don’t try to power through a Master’s program in an expedited program
- A strong sense of resolve
- Resisting the temptation to let grad school dominate your life (although there will be times when it feels like it is doing just that)
- Support from your family and friends
Notable accomplishments aren’t supposed to be easy- but if you take a holistic approach to balancing grad school, while never easy, you’ll find the experience more easily managed. You got this!