Deciding to go back to school when you’re working full-time can be a hard decision. You might worry about juggling your job and classes, the master’s degrees affordability, and whether school time constraints will have a negative impact on your family life.
While there is a lot to think about, many people find earning an advanced degree to be beneficial. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, higher education definitely pays off.
The good news is that many working adults successfully manage both work and school and, more importantly, succeed. Here are five tips:
1. Choose Class Options Carefully
The beauty of returning to school to pursue an advanced degree is that there are many options. You can go part-time or full-time. You can register for an online master’s degree, take traditional classes, or hybrid courses containing elements of each. A huge benefit of online classes is their flexibility, making it easier to design a program to fit your busy lifestyle.
2. Take Advantage of Summer and Vacations
Teachers are fortunate that they get solid blocks of time off from work throughout the year, such as during summer, spring and winter breaks. Use these breaks productively to get ahead in your studies. This will relieve some of the pressure you feel during the weeks you are working.
3. Practice Strong Time Management
Graduate degree work is time-consuming, and possessing strong time management skills is essential to succeeding. This requires discipline and forming good habits, including:
- When you start a class, take a careful look at the syllabus and see what’s involved throughout the semester.
- Get ahead where you can. Do some reading every day, and bring your books wherever you go. That way anytime you have a few minutes, you can read a few pages. If you can get an audio textbook, you can listen to it while you’re in your car.
- Use a planner to track assignments to make sure no due dates fall off your radar.
- Carefully plan your classes because, realistically, some courses will be more difficult than others, so you want to make sure you balance your coursework. If you’re taking more than one class at a time, be sure to choose courses you can realistically manage.
Remember, be sure to build in a few hours each week to decompress and recharge your batteries, even if it’s only in short spurts.
4. Track Your Progress
When you see each class successfully completed, it will be easier to forge ahead because you’ll hit milestones. Through each semester, keep your goals in mind, and place your focus on your end game. When you feel overwhelmed or doubtful, remind yourself why you’re doing this and how amazing it will be when you reach the finish line.
5. Let Your Boss Know
Once you’ve made the decision to return to school, be sure to let your boss know and reassure him or her that you have a time management plan. There will probably be times of conflict, but a boss who is in the loop will be more likely to be understanding during exam or project times. Plus, it shows that you’re trying to build your knowledge and skills, which might prove to be valuable if an opportunity for promotion within your own school arises.