Lessons Learned Earning a Master’s Degree While Working Full-time

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a limited social life and looking at a computer screen more than 14 hours a day, I’ve got just the idea for you: get a master’s degree in addition to your full time job! No more friends to worry about, no more stressing about things to keep you busy, no more free weekends you angst to fill with activities. You’re life will be determined by the work you get paid for, and the work you pay for. After a while it all kind of blurs together.

Still sound fun? Well, good luck. It’s hard. But, in the end, you’ll be rewarded with some fancy letters next your name and the freedom to correct people for being wrong for the rest of your life. So I guess what I’m saying is — it’s worth it!

So with that, I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned as I near the final weeks of my master’s program.

Go Digital

I’m not a fan of Amazon as a company; I think they’re bad for the mom-and-pop, or niche e-commerce retailers. They’re the internet equivalent of Walmart. That said, using an Amazon Kindle for reading textbooks and articles has unequivocally been the best decision I made in grad school.

reading article on kindle

I’ve done the bulk of my class reading on the commute to work, which consists of riding a bus across the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco, and then Razor scootering for a mile through San Francisco en route to the Jotform office. I don’t want heavy textbooks weighing me down for all that. Nor do I want piles of printed articles. The Kindle handles both. It’s a one-pound, four by six-inch saver of time and space. If you’re doing grad school while you work full-time, get one.

Double Dip When Possible

On more than one occasion, my boss and my professor asked for the same thing within the same week. Is it cheating to turn in a project to class that you worked on already at the office? Absolutely not. You’re in school to be a better professional, so take the opportunity to have a your professional work reviewed academically. There aren’t many other opportunities you get in life to do just that.

Turn Assignments in a Day Early

Oh do I wish I knew this fun little trick in undergrad. You’ll thank yourself a million times over by moving your assignment deadlines up a day. You have time to do them still. Don’t worry. But you’ll essentially give yourself one less stressful day by knocking it out early. For my program, all of my assignments have been due on Sunday evenings, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the day before returning to the work week doing a paper or project. A day early means I get to enjoy my Sundays with sleep.

Build Breaks Into Your Schedule

This is related to the point above, but it’s important to think about separately. Take evenings off, even in the middle of the semester. For me, I’d rarely look at classwork on Monday nights, even if I had something due that week. Having at least a night or two each week that I didn’t do classwork allowed me to reset myself, and ultimately made me more productive in the long run.

Treat Yourself

Parks and Rec wasn’t short on life lessons, but perhaps the most enduring for me came from Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle: “treat yo self”. You will be drained taking on a full work and school schedule. I promise you. You might even have a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel if you’re in a long program. I’ve made it through my program by treating myself to little gifts whenever I get small victories, like good grades. I’m easy to please, so it’s usually as simple as a sweatshirt or hat from my school. Doing so breaks up the time I’m in my grad program and gives me little wins when things get tough.

Adhere to these tips and you’ll manage to get through with your sanity. Just remember, going to school is temporary. And the payoff stays with you the rest of your career.

Have you considered going back to school while keeping your full-time job? What helped you through your journey?

Chad is a former VP of Marketing and Communications at Jotform. He’s also a frequent contributor to various tech and business publications, and an absolute wizard with a Vitamix. He holds a master’s degree in communication and resides with his wife and cats in Oakland, California.

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