Should I Attempt a Master’s Degree Program While Working Full Time?

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If you're thinking about going back to school, you may be wondering whether you should attempt a Master's degree program while working full time. There are a number of considerations when thinking about adding higher education to your already complex work-life balance, including the flexibility of your lifestyle, the type of degree in which you are interested and its specific requirements, and the variety of educational programs available to you.

Your Lifestyle

First, you'll want to consider the kinds of obligations you currently have in your life. Family duties can be quite time consuming, and there can be a good deal of stress involved when adding the academic requirements of a Master's degree to the mix. Another factor to consider is how flexible your current or intended job may be. If you are already overwhelmed by the time and mental commitments of your job, you may need to think about making some changes (such as delegating certain responsibilities or not committing to overtime) before deciding to take on the rigors of higher education. Going back to school for a Master's degree while working full time is possible, but it requires an honest look at your lifestyle. See Forbes' "12 Tips for Professionals Who Want to Go Back to School" for further advice.

Your Program

How demanding your academic Master's degree program is will also have an impact on whether you decide to work full time. College can be a full time job in and of itself. Not only will you be attending classes in person or online, but you'll also need to set aside a great deal of time for studying. A common rule states that for every hour you spend in class, you should spend two hours outside of class studying. So if you are taking a three-credit class for three hours one day per week, expect to spend about six hours each week preparing for that class. Some majors are also more demanding than others in terms of outside requirements. For example, if your program of study requires an internship or clinical experience, you will want to consider whether your schedule makes it possible to fulfill those requirements for your Master's degree while working full time at your job.

Your Options

For many busy professionals, pursuing a Master's degree online is a desirable option which allows you to read, view lectures, take tests, and communicate with your instructor via computer, saving you time that may have been spent commuting or sitting in class. Online learning is also flexible, so you can coordinate work and studying around your own schedule. If you're looking to get an MBA, read here about the Top 20 Value Online MBA Programs. It is also important to remember that you don't necessarily have to go to school full time while working full time. Most Master's programs allow you to take classes on a part time basis, and enrolling in a course or two, whether online or on campus, may help you decide how you would handle a full course load.

When considering whether you should attempt a Master's degree program while working full time, it is important to personally assess your needs and situation; with information, communication, and compromise, you will get your degree in the way that is right for you!