Finding Time for a Master’s Degree While Working Full-Time

For women, education is the key to a successful and fulfilling career. And while earning a bachelor’s degree can lead to better financial outcomes than having only a high school diploma, many employers are upping the ante, asking for master’s degrees where they once asked for bachelor’s degrees. Believe it or not, a master’s degree can boost your salary into the six-figure range, depending on your field.

But many women can’t afford to take time out of the workforce to earn an advanced degree. If you’re already out of college, with bills to pay and kids to take care of, can a master’s even fit into the picture? It can, if you go back to school online. Online master’s degree programs allow working adults to juggle the responsibilities of a graduate degree with those of work and family life. However, it’s not easy to juggle the responsibilities of grad school, a job and a family. You need great time management skills, supportive friends and family, cooperation from your boss and your academic advisor and a certain amount of stamina to make it to graduation day.

Manage Your Time Well

If you’re an adult and a parent living and working in the world today, you already have some knowledge of time management. You had to use good time management skills to make it through high school and college, and you have to use them again every day to coordinate your own and your family’s schedules. You’ll have to take things up a notch to succeed in online classes.

Most students who successfully complete online degrees do so by blocking out chunks of time on a regular basis to do schoolwork. Online programs are designed with the needs of working, adult students in mind, but you’ll still need to meet assignment deadlines regularly. You can expect to spend about 10 hours a week on schoolwork for each class you take. Mark your calendar in regular intervals, whether it’s an hour or two at one time or a whole day. Keep these times sacred for studying.

Get Those Close to You on Your Side

You’re going to need the support of your family and friends to maintain good study habits for the years it will take to complete your degree. You may need to make sacrifices, seeing your friends less or choosing to spend less family time. You may need to study part-time, taking only one or two classes a semester, to make time for an advanced degree. Your friends and family will need to understand how to work around your new schedule, and your spouse and kids will need to agree not to disturb you while you’re studying.

Talk to Your Boss and Your Advisor

You’ll need to speak to your boss about your intention to return to school. Not only could you possibly get tuition reimbursement, but you may need adjust your responsibilities at work at certain times of the semester, so you can focus on final exams and projects. You may need to take time off to attend on-campus residencies. You may need to stop working overtime or staying late to have time to study. Talk to your boss about your needs.

It’s a good idea to keep lines of communication open with your academic advisor, too. The best online degree programs have dedicated advisory staff for online students. These professionals are steeped in the issues online students face and are primed to help you succeed. For example, the William & Mary School of Education provides each online student with a student success coordinator to help them navigate the online education process. These individuals are often indirectly responsible for W&M success stories because they help online students meet challenges that on-campus students don’t face and manage their expectations regarding online education as a whole.

Keep Your Strength Up

Earning a master’s degree, whether online or in-person, takes a long time, and it’s important to protect yourself from burnout. Just as you should block out time to study, you should also block out time to spend with friends and family, or just to rest and recharge by yourself. Make time to exercise regularly and prepare healthy meals. Doing so will help you manage stress and maintain your stamina as you work toward a goal that can often seem far away and impossible to reach.

Going to graduate school while working full-time and raising a family isn’t easy, but it’s a path more and more women are choosing to build a brighter future for themselves and their families. The sacrifices you make now will pay off for years in the future as you claim the greater job security and higher salary a master’s degree can bring.

Thanks to Jackie Roberson

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