7 Tips on Pursuing a Master’s Degree While Working Full Time in Education
Juggling full-time work with a family and full-time study can sound daunting. And while it certainly won’t be easy, there are strategies that can lessen the load and make obtaining a master’s degree while working possible. Here are seven strategies that can help educators like you turn the dream of a obtaining a master’s degree into a reality.
1. Consider Online, Hybrid or Night Programs
If you’re an educator you likely don’t have the flexibility to attend class in person during working hours. Enrolling in an online or hybrid program, however, can give you the flexibility you require.
As Karl Frank, a USD alum who received his M.Ed. with a focus in STEAM, remarked, “With two young kids and a pretty busy teaching schedule there would pretty much no way for me to get a master’s degree in person. The structure and flexibility of an online program served me perfectly.”
English teacher and USD alum Kelli Schledewitz echoed this sentiment, remarking, “With an online program, I felt like I could have the flexibility to work at my own pace and on my own schedule. I am very busy so it seemed to fit well with my lifestyle.”
Today, there are many reputable universities offering degrees online. Some programs are 100% online, which means you are able to interact with professors and students through a virtual environment from anywhere in the world. The options really open up when you don’t have to consider geography. Plus, many online degree programs are cheaper than their in-person counterparts because the university does not have to invest as heavily in physical infrastructure.
Hybrid programs are another great option that mix the in-person classroom with the virtual component. Oftentimes these programs will be structured in cohorts and require students to meet on campus for a couple of weeks at the start of the program, so everyone in the cohort can get to know each other before the online classes begin.
Finally, there are night classes that can be a great option for those teachers who prefer an in-person approach. Night classes, however, do not offer the same level of flexibility as an online or hybrid class and still require you to be at a physical location at a certain time. After working all day in the classroom, it can be challenging to motivate yourself to spend your evenings in class as a student.
2. Plan Ahead
If you are juggling a full-time job with full-time study and possibly a family on top of that, planning ahead can make all the difference. Scheduling out your vacation days in advance so you can take them around final exam week or when you know you have a big project due can help lessen the stress and allow you to allocate time appropriately. While you are in school it is best to take vacation days here and there as needed as opposed to taking one large chunk of time. This approach will allow you not only to focus solely on schoolwork when it is most needed but will give you a little time to rejuvenate without falling behind. If you are a teacher, taking large chunks of vacation time might not even be an option. Taking any vacation days can be hard enough if they don’t fall in line with the school vacation schedule. However, by planning in advance you can line up substitutes for the days you do need to take and factor in the school vacation times and holidays to see how they will work with your program schedule. If you have kids who’ll be off during these weeks as well perhaps you forgo the trip to Disneyland this year and sign them up for local activities instead – giving you some uninterrupted study time.
3. Capitalize on Small Chunks of Time
Depending on your specific schedule you may be able to fit in study sessions during your down time or on your lunch break. An hour lunch break each day dedicated to schoolwork can really add up and help lessen the workload you have to get through at the end of the day or on weekends. Coming in an hour early, leaving an hour later or a combination of the two can also help you get more done throughout the day.
4. Make Sure You’re Passionate About the Topic You’re Studying
If you are looking to pursue a master’s degree while working you should be passionate about the topic you are studying. When you are in a master’s program its all about the specialization. So specialize in an area that excites you, be it STEAM, Literacy and Digital Learning, Curriculum and Instruction, Inclusive Learning or School Leadership. Working through a master’s program while also balancing work and family life takes commitment and dedication. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re studying it is going to be hard to put in the extra effort needed to be successful.
5. Stick to a Schedule
It’s all about discipline, which can be hard. But making a schedule and sticking to it can help students who are balancing multiple commitments stay disciplined and focused. As Rudy Escobar, a teacher and USD alum, remarked, “I have seven children and it was hard to put it all together — I had to really be disciplined in my timing, but I also had the support to make it possible.” If you know you have X amount of things to do every day in a specific order, you can start to check things off as you complete them, which helps to keep a productive momentum going while keeping you organized and efficient. It also can be helpful to mark off specific chunks of time that you dedicate solely to study – you don’t answer parent calls, respond to email or work on anything else besides schoolwork. Limiting distractions helps you be more efficient and get more done in less time.
6. Incorporate Schoolwork in Your Classroom
One of the best things about getting a master’s in education degree is the direct effect your education can have on your students. If you are in a strong master’s program you will be working on projects that are immediately applicable and relevant to your classroom. Take the assignments you are given and apply them to your classroom whenever possible to cut down on your workload. For example, if one of your assignments is to write a lesson plan that is STEAM based you could write the lesson plan for your master’s program and then implement that same lesson plan in your classroom. One USD M.Ed. student said, “Everything I did in the USD program I was able to implement in my classroom. My kids and I conducted a project on climate change and we conveyed our different problems through art. Art had never been a strong point of mine but going through the University of San Diego program taught me that art is also science.”
7. Solicit Support From Your Employer, Family, Friends and Professors
Taking on a master’s program is no small feat. And if you are juggling multiple obligations – school, family and teaching – you are going to need the support of the people around you. Let your principal or supervisor and your co-workers know that you are working toward your master’s. They are more likely to offer flexibility and leniency if you need coverage in the classroom. Similarly, the professors in your program should offer support and help you manage full-time study with your other obligations, offering extensions or flexibility if something should come up with your personal or professional life. Supportive professors will also be responsive and timely if you have questions, especially if you are enrolled in an online program.
So if you think you are ready to take the leap consider a degree from the University of San Diego! At the University of San Diego we offer a 100% online Master of Education degree with five specializations to choose from. To learn more about our nationally accredited program speak with an admissions advisor today.