Advanced Degrees While Employed

Dear, Anita,

I currently have a demanding full-time job, and young children. I’d like to get an advanced degree so that I can obtain a better position.  Is going back to school while working doable?

Dear, Striving Student,

woman-with-booksI applaud your ambition. Furthering your education while working full-time is definitely doable, but is not for the faint of heart!

  • Explore Your Options. I’m not sure if you have your eyes on a higher position in your current company or if you are looking to jump ship after getting your next degree. Regardless, it’s a good idea to talk to your manager about your educational plans before you enroll. Some companies offer tuition assistance for a work-related graduate degree. Put together a presentation on how your degree would add value to the company.  If you are planning to go to a local college or university, you may need to ask your boss if your work schedule can be adjusted for the needed class times. An alternative is to find a grad program that allows you to take some or all of your courses online, greatly increasing a working student’s chances of success.
  • Expect to Sacrifice. Be prepared to start burning the candle at both ends. Your time management skills will be put to the test. For some helpful hints, check out my recent post Tips for Time Management. Even with a well-planned calendar, you are likely to be more stressed than your co-workers and other full-time grad students who are not working. But don’t expect special treatment on the job, or at school, because you are juggling both at once. Ask for favors, such as project extensions, as infrequently as possible. Your boss and your professor expect your performance to be the same as any other employee or student. Compartmentalize: Make sure you’re not finishing up your paper for school while on the clock at work. You’ll have to make sacrifices in your personal life, whether it is going on fewer social outings, cutting back your volunteer activities, even skipping some household chores. (There – you have my permission not to dust!)
  • Muster Your Support System. Ask for help from family and friends. Can your neighbor pick up your son from soccer practice on the nights you have to race from work to class? Can your buddy change the oil in your car to save you a half-day getting to and from the mechanic? Be creative. Offer to host study groups at your house, so you won’t have to find a babysitter. 

It may take a longer period of time to finish grad school while holding down your current job, but once you get that promotion or better job offer, you’ll have no regrets.

Readers: Have you obtained an advanced degree while working part- or full-time? Can you offer any tips on how to achieve a work-life-school balance?

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

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  3. Julieta A. Lisbo
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 10:50:14

    Hi, I finished my post graduate course by taking it on Saturday because I worked full time from Monday to Friday. Anybody with a strong determination can do it too.


    • zcpose
      Oct 25, 2013 @ 03:25:06

      study while work is not fair to ur compay, and it is fail in both parts. please do a student in right time,and get the deep study under the company police.i think it is the right way for u.


  4. Kelly M
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 02:40:46

    I haven’t studied for any advanced degrees whilst working full-time but I did study for an undergraduate certificate in archaeology a few years ago and I can certainly relate to what you’ve mentioned above. Weekends were largely dominated by background reading and essay writing and I think some friendships suffered as a result of it, especially since I was studying for the certificate out of pure interest rather than for career advancement. If you spend a lot of time commuting to/from work each day, be prepared for trouble. Unless you’re able to fit in some study time during your commute (e.g. if you travel by train and are lucky enough to find a seat), you will really need to manage your time a lot better. Every delay on my commute home meant less time to devote to my studies in the evening and it got a little tough to juggle work, my studies and other commitments.

    Just be prepared to make some sacrifices in the short-term and pray that it all pays off in the long-term. And remember: where there’s a will, there’s a way. 😉


  5. Maggie Schoen
    Oct 14, 2013 @ 03:33:06

    I finished my Bachelor’s degree while working full time thru a program that met once a week for 18 months in the evening. It was 1 class at a time and that helped. After that I started a masters program that held classes in the evening and weekends or online. I took 2 classes a semester, All while working full time during the day.


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    Oct 09, 2013 @ 07:36:47
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  7. Herard Poitevien
    Oct 08, 2013 @ 15:15:30



  8. pzarookian
    Oct 08, 2013 @ 15:03:42

    The post is right on with the thoughts on getting support from both current work and family. At the age of 44 and 3 young children I set out to get my Exec MBA from an ivy program. It was an exhilarating and exhausting 22 months that changed my life for the better. It is never too late to open one’s eyes to getting better and smarter. However, without a supportive spouse it would have never happened. Go for it!


  9. Carlos
    Oct 08, 2013 @ 11:37:01

    To answer your question – the answer is yes. Your post highlighted some of the issues with getting an advanced degree. Just a word of advise if you are interested in taking a online course versus an in class course – The online course is in my experience, a lot more work! The reason is because you have to prepare the readings, participate in online discussion, take tests and complete assignments! Just because the course is online, does not mean it is easier in any way at all.
    I’m finishing off my MBA degree and I would also like to say that you should leave some time for just “you” if possible. Go to the gym, go for a walk, because there will be moments when you’ll have so much to-do’s you will need to clear your mind before starting off any new activities.


  10. Jan Keenan
    Oct 08, 2013 @ 08:49:27

    I attended law school while working full time. I was married, but I did not have any children at the time. Working full time and attending school is a huge commitment. It is no fun, but you have to go in with the attitude that it will not last forever. You just do what you have to do, every day, until you have finished. It took me 4 years, attending classes year round. I have been an attorney in private practice now for nearly 30 years. Those four years were the price I had to pay in order to do what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Grueling as they were; I’d say they were a good trade-off. Good luck!


  11. karmami
    Oct 08, 2013 @ 08:16:58

    I did and just as you mentioned. .you need to be creative with your time and make some sacrifices along the way.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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