Going to college, working full time job, and maintaining some semblance of a life — it's a difficult path that students often find themselves taking. While working any amount of time in school can be stressful, it is especially demanding for those with full-time jobs.
Juggling your studies, work, and personal life is very challenging, but it isn't impossible. You can work toward finding a balance that is right for you. It's important to note that everyone's life and circumstances are different, and it can be difficult to find a routine that works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Read further for some tips that may help you improve your relationship between school, work, and your personal life.
The Yin and Yang of Working and Going to School
Like anything else in life, going to school while working full time has pros and cons. Some people make the decision out of more necessity than others.
After standing at your high school graduation or receiving your GED, you may be left with the decision to work throughout your college experience — whether you are attending a university, trade school, community college, a vocational school, etc. It can be beneficial financially; it can reduce the financial strain brought on by the general cost of living, and of course, student debt. However, it leaves you with less time to study, attend your professors' office hours, sleep, and socialize.
How to Balance Work and College
It's not simple, but it can be made easier. Time management is a big factor that works differently for everyone.
For example, if you're a night owl, it may not be best for you to force yourself to wake early to study. You may prefer staying up a little later to finish your assignments. On the other hand, if you're a morning person, you may find it easier to get up a little earlier before you head off to work, so you can have evenings to rest.
It may also be easier to rotate your mornings or evenings that are dedicated to studying. If you are feeling burned out, perhaps you could dedicate Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings for studying before work, and leave your Tuesdays and Thursdays to sleep a little longer.
Some other work/study (or sanity-maintaining) tips:
- Keep sight of both your long-term and short-term goals. Remember why you're working toward your degree.
- Plan ahead. Study when you have a good window of free time to do so.
- Try to study on any days you have off, even if it is for a little.
- Doing a little is better than doing nothing — if completing an entire project is too overwhelming (and it's not time-sensitive), try to complete an outline, or the first part of it. It will pay off in the long run.
- Break apart your study sessions. If 3 hours together is too long, try allocating different time slots of your day to studying.
- Let your employer know you are in school. It may leave room for some flexibility, or even, assistance.
- Prioritize having time to yourself throughout the week to recharge.
- If bouncing from campus to your job is challenging, try to take some of your courses online.
- Bring your materials everywhere with you — if you have some unexpected downtime, you could knock out some studying.
- Make time to socialize too. Only studying and working can make you feel stir-crazy; when you're caught up on school work, grab dinner or coffee with a friend!
- Try not to get frustrated when having an off-day. Especially if your assignment is not time-sensitive, it's okay to take a day off and hit the books tomorrow!
Careers and Classes to Consider as a Parent
Many options allow you to get your degree either fully online or through a hybrid online course, which combines in-person classes with online courses. Online and hybrid courses are great for parents who need to further their education.
Out of many, here are a few career options with fast-paced and flexible programs for you to consider:
- Registered Nurse: This career can be rewarding both emotionally and financially. You have three ways to become an RN. You can choose among a certificate (16-22 months) through an approved nursing school, an associate degree (2-3 years), or a bachelor’s degree (4 years), but many hospitals do require their RNs to have a bachelor’s degree. To work as an RN, you must be licensed, so you’ll be taking the NCLEX-RN.
- Medical Billing or Medical Coding: Medical billing and medical coding are two separate careers that often get lumped together. They may live in the same house, but they have different rooms. These careers fall under the medical records and health information systems heading. A certificate (typically a year or less) or associate degree (2 years) is necessary to enter the field, and both can be done entirely online. You could also choose to go through a physical program at a community college or trade school.
- Dental Hygienist: Dental hygiene is one of the highest paying trades, and it’s known to be highly satisfying as well. Dental hygiene programs usually take 1-3 years to complete. Community colleges, technical schools, and colleges all offer dental hygiene programs. Every state will require you to become licensed.
- Cosmetology: To start a career in the beauty field, you’ll attend a trade school or beauty college (usually under 2 years to complete), and you will need to take a licensing exam to work as a cosmetologist. Once you graduate and have your license, you’ll work as an apprentice for up to 2 years. This is where you will learn all the ins and outs of salon life.
- Medical Assistant: If you’re interested in becoming a medical assistant, you’ll need to complete a certificate program. These can take up to a year, and you can find them through community colleges and trade schools.
- Paralegal: To work in law, you should go after an associate or bachelor’s degree. An associate degree is the most common path, and it only takes 2 years if you go full time. You can take either online or physical courses if you’re getting your paralegal degree.
- Lawyer: Depending on where you are in your educational career, it could take you up to 7 years to become a lawyer if you go to school full time. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, expect another 3 years of learning. Your program must be accredited by the American Bar Association, otherwise you won’t be permitted to take the bar exam. To get into law school, you will need to pass the LSAT.
- Massage Therapy: Massage therapy programs are, on average, 500 hours of both practical and hands-on learning. Some programs may have 1,000 hours or more of education. Typically, that translates to 7 months to a year of schooling. Most states have some sort of regulations in place for massage therapists, so check with your state to find out more. The exam you’ll need to pass is called the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx).
- Early Childhood Education: To work as a preschool teacher, you’ll first need to get an associate degree (2 years). While many public schools require their educators to have a bachelor’s degree, you will still be able to find a job through private preschools. States require licensing for teachers that needs to be renewed every 3 years.
- Pharmacy Technician: Some pharmacy techs get trained on the job. You can also go to a community college or trade school through the pharmacy tech program. Online options are also available. It takes up to a year to complete the program if you attend full time.
So, take a deep breath, have faith in yourself, and reach for the stars. Applying some of these practices, along with your own determination, can help you reach success.
To find a broader list of career options, check out our programs page.