Balancing School and Work: Graduate School

Victoria Donohue
Victoria Donohue
High school math teacher; M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instructional Technology and Administrative Leadership
E-education learning concept; someone uses a laptop with a graduation cap, book, and video icon floating around them.

Finding the right balance between graduate school and work is not an easy task. Many go from college into the work field and later go back to pursue a graduate degree. Achieving a work-life balance as a full-time teacher can be pretty challenging and stressful at first. In today’s world, many options are available to help make balancing school and work much more manageable and smooth. It is not as impossible as it might seem at first.

Find the Format for You

With the help of technology, graduate school does not have to be a huge, extra burden for educators. There are many different models and formats to help the working educator navigate how to balance work and school. These different models are meant to allow teachers to have the flexibility to teach and pursue a degree. It allows teachers to continue their education while still working.

Many colleges and universities’ graduate school of education offer different options for master’s degrees, such as online, hybrid, or in-person. Schools use a range of teaching formats to support busy professionals and provide flexibility to students. These different formats help students to work and gain a degree.

In-Person

The in-person model is just that — when you attend all of your classes in person; this is typically the traditional school approach. This allows the student to learn from the teacher during class time. It also requires the student to have the time to go to campus for the day and time of the class.

Online

The online model allows the student to work on their own to complete the materials for the course. In many online classes, the teacher will post the different modules and assignments for the course, and the students dictate when the work will be completed based on their schedules.

In many online classes, the course runs for a designated period with different due dates throughout. The student can work at their own pace to complete the assignments. Some online classes also post all the assignments for the entire course at once, with the due dates being the last day of the course. With this type of online model, the teacher could post the lectures for the student to watch on their own time rather than having the student attend.

This format allows the student to have the freedom to complete the material on their own time when it works best for them. This model puts a lot on the student, but the freedom to complete the work on one’s own time can be more beneficial and worthwhile, especially while working full-time.

Hybrid

The hybrid model combines the in-person and online model. This model has students attend class in-person and also complete online work. In some cases, educators teach remote and in-person students simultaneously using tools like video conferencing hardware and software.

Another way the hybrid model works is that students attend an online lecture during the week but have the opportunity to complete the work independently. The online lectures help students to understand the material and assignments that they will have to complete. These lectures are typically required.

The students have the freedom to complete the work on their own just as they would in the online model. This model allows students to access their teacher, whether in the classroom or through an online platform such as Zoom, and the ability to complete assignments on their own time.

Use Your Time Wisely

Regardless of which model of classes is chosen when pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree, it is always best to use your time wisely. Again, it is challenging when balancing work and classes since many classes require a lot of reading and lengthy assignments.

It is best to understand what model works best for you and your lifestyle. When deciding on a program, it is best to pick the right program that fits your needs academically and logistically. To do this, it might be helpful to reach out to your friends, family, or colleagues to see what they have done and what worked for them and their schedules.

Your support network may offer ideas or suggestions you have not considered. It is important to understand what you are undertaking before you fully commit. Some colleges or universities let you take a course or two before fully enrolling. This allows you to see the coursework and style of the program you want to complete, which will be helpful down the line for how to balance school and work, and give you a taste of the work load.

Many programs also offer weekend or evening classes and summer programs so that you can complete a degree while working during the day. Many colleges and universities want to make obtaining a degree possible. They will offer more flexible course options to help those who work. It is extremely important to look into all of these options when considering a program.

Communicate with Professors and Cohort

Once you are enrolled, it is extremely beneficial to reach out to your professors and classmates to help one another. One of the best things I did while completing my online master’s degree was have a group chat with all cohort members. Since the program was solely online, we did not have the opportunity to collaborate in the classroom face-to-face.

However, by obtaining phone numbers, email addresses, and having a group discussion board through the school’s learning management system, we could communicate with one another to help each other. If one person did not necessarily understand the assignment, they could ask our group for clarification. This made the learning process much easier and more manageable.

Many of my professors also offered online office hours where you could host a Zoom meeting with them to have a discussion. Professors want you to learn what they are teaching and do your best, just like we as elementary or secondary teachers want for our students. If there is an issue, most professors are available to meet, whether through email or to set up an appointment.

It can go a long way if you are open, honest, and willing to reach out to your cohort and professors. It is worthwhile to make the connections and can help with future endeavors.

Additional Tips and Tricks

Overall, choosing the right graduate program is so important; time and money are the two most significant factors in the decision. The best advice I can give is to take your time researching programs. Make sure you choose a program that suits your needs. The right program is out there for you; taking the time and effort to find it is well worth it in the end.

Are you interested in taking the next step in your career and pursuing a graduate degree? Check out our available graduate education programs and get started today!

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