Juggling an Online Master’s Program and Full-Time Job
According to a “Forbes” report, the reasons for going back to school after joining the workforce run the gambit.
Some professionals see an advanced degree as a way to get ahead in their careers, some fields require continuing education for licensure, and some people simply love to learn. Whatever your reasons for taking some online classes toward a master’s degree, it’s important you maintain a balance between your education and your job.
Why an Online Program?
Tom Snyder, President of Ivy Tech Community College, is convinced there are several benefits of online graduate programs.
“I strongly believe that the future of higher education lies with online learning,” he wrote in “The Huffington Post.”
Snyder says ongoing education is simply a part of the modern career path, and he sees online courses as an excellent way to learn at your own pace. He also points out that online courses are every bit as intense as in-person classes. Furthermore, Salary.com reports that a degree from an accredited online university has real credibility in professional circles. The key is to seek out a reputable online institution.
What’s more, if you’re not sure an online program will work for you, there are ways to “test-drive” them without spending a dime. Massive Open Online Course’s (MOOC) offer cost-free online learning to anyone. “The New York Times” recently reported that one of the few downsides of such courses is they do not result in a degree. The quality of education, however, is top-notch.
Before You Enroll
Online courses offer some nice perks in the form of convenience, but once you choose an online program, you’ll need to do a bit of prep work to set yourself up for success.
“U.S. News & World Report” covered several helpful tips. First and foremost, be sure you know the technical requirements of any online course before you sign up. What software is required? Is your computer compatible with the web-based tools used? The same article advises eLearning students to carve out space specifically for coursework.
“One thing online and in-class courses have in common is that students still need a place to study or complete assignments,” the article states. Especially if you have children, it’s imperative to find a place where you can work undisturbed, whether at home or somewhere else, like a local library.
Finally, iron out your schedule. Arizona State University (ASU) is currently tied at fourth on “U.S. News & World Report’s” list of Best Online MBA Programs. The ASU website includes a guide for online classes which advises students to allot six hours per week for every one hour of course credit. Make sure you’re prepared to set aside the time you’ll need for the classes you plan to take.
Balancing Work, Classes, and Life
Once your classes start, you’ll be wearing one more hat. Keeping yourself sane means finding ways to maintain a sense of balance.
Dr. Savitri Dixon-Saxon is the Associate Dean for the School of Counseling and Social Service at Walden University. She encourages online students to download all available coursework to a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
“Whether commuting to and from work on public transportation or waiting for your child’s sports game to start, little blocks of time can provide you with an opportunity to work on readings and assignments,” she wrote in “Expert Beacon.”
Dixon-Saxon also sees the value in online study groups. She advises students to plug into study groups with others as early on as possible. This will keep you from feeling isolated and give you one more tool to boost learning and retention. But what if other students aren’t local? Lifehacker.com calls Google Hangouts “one of the best video chat and conference services,” making it an ideal resource for online study groups. As an added bonus, Google Hangouts is totally free.
With classes and study groups throughout the week, you’ll need to be ready to guard your schedule and stick to it.
“Set aside a block of time daily for schoolwork, preferably at the time of day you are most comfortable studying…your time is more valuable now than ever,” they advise.
Finally, keep your priorities straight. Your job comes first. “I’d rather have mediocre grades and keep my employer happy about my performance,” wrote one About.com user. You’re studying to advance your career, not end it.
Online degree programs are a viable, smart option for the working professional. Balancing an online master’s program with full-time work is simply a matter of being prepared and maintaining a high level of organization. Do that, and you’re on your way to online educational success.