So, you already have a full-time job, but you've reached a point in your career where you've decided it's time to head back to school and pursue a graduate degree. You know that in doing so you'll open yourself up to greater career opportunities and enjoy better job security. At the same time, you can't exactly afford to quit your job and focus on school full time. Instead, you're going to have to learn how to balance your career with your coursework. It's a challenge, sure, but with the right plan in place, you can make it happen. Here’s how.
Have a Conversation With Your Employer
Start by talking with your employer about your plans to go back to school. If obtaining a graduate degree is going to make you a greater asset to the company, then your employer will likely be more than happy to accommodate you as you transition back to school. Some employers may even provide tuition assistance, which could provide you with reimbursement for some or all of the classes you pass.
Talk With Your Friends and Family
In addition to speaking with your employer about your plans to go back to school, you'll also want to sit down and talk with your closest family, friends, and loved ones. You’ll need their support in your decision to return to school, as it means your schedule will change and you’ll likely have to devote time to your studies that you previously spent with them. Maintaining your social life is going to take a little more effort and planning once you return to school, but it’s worth it to meet your academic goals.
Decide How Many Courses You Can Handle
Be realistic about just how much of an additional workload you can handle. If you're already working 40 or more hours a week, then taking a full course load may not be your best option. Speak with an admissions advisor, who clue you in to the demands of your specific degree program. Also, if you’re taking an online class, don’t think it will necessarily take less time. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from that format.
Use a Daily Planner
Time management is huge when juggling a job and school. Knowing how to best plan and utilize your time is key when you have so little of it! Invest in a daily planner and use it to block out dedicated study and homework time. This is also a great way to keep track of assignment due dates and exam dates that you could otherwise overlook. And of course, be sure to block out some time for yourself. Giving yourself some time to spend with friends, read a book, or even binge-watch your favorite Netflix series will help keep you motivated.
If a physical planner isn't your thing, figure out some kind of Internet- or app-based planning device that's right for you. A planning application on your phone that syncs with all of your other electronic devices — desktop, tablet, etc. — might be suitable. For some, a large, dry-erase calendar kept in a highly visible area of the home may be a better option. It's all about figuring out what works for you and sticking to it.
Ask Other Students and Advisors for Advice
Last but not least, if you need further advice in balancing your work life with your education, don't hesitate to reach out to an academic advisor or even other students. They'll be able to provide you with advice on when to take specific courses and what to expect from the program. A recent graduate may even be able to provide you with some insight as to what to expect from certain professors. See if the university you are interested in has an open house. Even online schools host virtual events. Plan on attending, and show up with a list of questions. Professors and staff will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the program.
Take Care of Yourself – Mind and Body
To successfully balance a full-time career and graduate school you need to take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. This means fueling your body with the right foods and finding the time to get regular exercise. All too often, busy people let their physical and mental health fall by the wayside, but it needs to be a priority. Don't skip meals, and always find the time to work in some exercise.
You might be surprised at just how much of a difference eating right and getting enough exercise can make when it comes to your performance in school. By properly fueling your body and getting the physical activity that's needed, you'll be able to stay better focused and more energized.
Continuing to work while going back to school may seem like a daunting task, but with a little bit of planning, foresight, and dedication, you can do it!
For more information on how Johnson & Wales University School of Online & Continuing Education can you help you pursue your career goals, contact us at 855-JWU-1881 or [email protected]. You can also fill out the “Request Info” form on this page.