There are a number of ways to approach grad school but the main two are traditional full-time programs and attending school while working a full-time job. No situation is perfect, so like anything else there are pros and cons to both. Since I recently completed my master’s degree while working full-time, I wanted to share some of the pros and cons in case grad school is something you are considering.
This is the absolute best pro in my opinion, the money. That guap. The mula. Your coins. Who wants to be a broke college student…again? Keeping that full-time paycheck is so clutch for a number of reasons. It’s great to know you can afford to eat better than the stereotypical broke college student staples; ramen noodles and cereal (ew), rinse and repeat. You can afford all the over priced and more often than not useless required textbooks for your classes. Joy.
Con: Extremely Limited Time
When we were upset about not being allowed to work in high school my parents would say that our job as children was to be a student. Their job as parents was to provide the things we needed and some of the stuff we wanted. It was disheartening because that meant we likely wouldn’t be able to afford all the frivolous crap teenagers want to be relevant, but after observing my ‘working’ classmates, I understood.
The time those classmates spent working was time they didn’t have for their school work, which should be the priority. Even if they were passing or doing well, imagine how much better you could be if you had more time to put towards your assignments. Obviously there’s a distinction between having to work and choosing to work but the result is the same.
The same thing happens during undergrad and grad school. The more obligations you have is the less time and energy and focus you have to put towards everything. Throughout my master’s program I chose to be a full-time student while working full-time and there was literally no time to spare between work and my assignments and studying. Naturally, with such a tight schedule some things fall to the bottom and get neglected.
For me those things were mainly going to the gym regularly, in depth meal prepping, and a somewhat limited social life. I say somewhat because during 2016 I still managed to travel to 8 new countries, but not without sacrifice. I would have to take work with me on trips and sleep a lot less before, during, and after to make it work. Last but not least, because your time is so tight you will often feel like you have no time for yourself. You feel guilty when you take take time to sleep, for self-care, or to have a little fun.
Pro: Financial Support
You’re probably thinking, what’s the difference between money and financial support? Well the money you are making and the financial support you are receiving. Full-time jobs commonly provide some kind of financial support or tuition reimbursement for educational advancement or external training. The level of support definitely varies from company to company.
Some companies have a fixed number per calendar year or semester, some provide a certain percentage, or if you’re lucky you’re at one that covers tuition 100%. This support, no matter which kind, rarely comes with no strings attached. The most common contingencies are that you owe the company a certain number of years of service in exchange and/or you must earn at least a B in each course or you’re on the hook for the cost of the course.
While my agency doesn’t cover 100% for me, they also don’t have any grade requirements, years of service requirements (position isn’t permanent anyway), and there is no hard limit on how much they are willing to cover. I am saying all of this to say, if you’re trying to decide if you want to work through school or not, find out if your company will contribute to the cost of your education. If so, what are their contingencies? You may be surprised at how much they are willing to invest in your advancement.
Con: Increased Stress
See the first con. Need I say more? Constantly feeling like you don’t have enough time to get through an exceedingly long list of things to do is super stressful. Add to that trying to get through classes and assignments you are struggling with and chile, you might need to sit on someone’s couch and monitor your blood pressure regularly.
Pro: Keeps You Focused
I’m going to be hypocritical here. I dedicated a con to tell you about how strapped you will be on time but in some ways that is also a pro. I know, confusing right? Think of it like this. When I was in undergrad at RIT it was on the quarter system which means your classes run for 10 weeks instead of 15 like with traditional semesters. The quarter system is a blessing and a curse (mostly blessing in my opinion) because the 10 week time frame forces you to manage your time efficiently to succeed. When you don’t have time to waste you make the most of what you have…or you fail. But failure is not an option. Ode to Mr. Christopher, Kenmoor Middle circa 2002.
Con: Personal Connections & Resources
This is probably one of the strongest cons in my opinion. Working full-time and throughout school most likely means you will struggle to make connections with other students in your classes or program. These connections can literally make all of the difference. Unlike traditional on campus full-time programs, you’re time around other students, professors, and resources (such as labs and tutoring centers) is extremely limited. After all, you have work the next day so you’ll have to keep the all-nighters to a minimum.
Another fantastic pro about working through school is if your employer is invested in your academic development it’s an investment in your career as well. In plain terms this means they have something to gain. Your new degree will either make you better in your current position or qualify you for a better one. In either case you will bring more skills to the company assuming you stay. No need to worry about finding a job when you already have one or know one is waiting on you.
Did you work through grad school? What were your pros and cons?