Can I Earn an Online Degree While Working?

If you want to go back to school, having a full-time job can severely limit your class options. Most brick-and-mortar colleges hold classes Mondays through Fridays during work hours. Sure, you might be able to find some evening classes that fit your schedule, but in general, completing an entire degree program while working can be impractical.

But there’s another option: online classes. Many students opt to earn a degree online because it fits into their schedule more easily. When you take online classes, you can study and do assignments on your own time. Whether you prefer to get up early and do homework, stay up to do class work after your kids go to bed, or sneak in some reading on your lunch break, online classes offer far more flexibility than traditional classes.

Is it easy to earn a degree online while holding down a job? Not for most people – at least, not any easier than earning a degree at a brick-and-mortar school. But if you’re looking for a flexible way to continue your education, an online degree might be perfect for you. Here’s what you need to know about taking classes online while you’re working.

The Benefits of an Online Degree for Working Students

Whether you work from nine to five or your job requires more unusual hours, a full-time job takes up a significant amount of your time, especially if you have to commute. Fitting one traditional class (let alone several) in your already-busy schedule can seem impossible. Brick-and-mortar colleges just weren’t designed with working students in mind.

Taking classes online eliminates scheduling problems completely. You won’t have to pick and choose from the few in-person class offerings that will fit into your schedule. Many well-known and respected universities offer excellent selections of online classes that will help you meet any personal and career goals you set for yourself. As long as you can carve out time in your schedule to study, online classes will keep all your options open.

Should You Take Classes Part-Time or Full-Time?

You might want to finish your degree as quickly as possible, but is it a good idea to take a full class load while working? That depends on a number of different factors – your current schedule, your responsibilities outside of work, your level of motivation, and your finances. Don’t rush into taking a full class load until you’ve got a reasonably good idea of whether you’ll be able to keep up with it or not.

Remember, each class you sign up for represents a significant time commitment. For each three-credit class you take, you should plan to spend eight to 10 hours a week doing readings, listening to lectures, completing homework assignments, and writing papers. Going to school part-time and excelling in your classes is much better than biting off more than you can chew and getting poor grades.

Tips for Balancing Work and Online Classes

  • Make a schedule and stick to it. Time management is the to doing well in your classes and avoiding stress. Know when you’ll work, when you’ll study, and when you’ll relax.
  • Stay on top of assignments. Don’t try to do things at the last minute. Review your syllabus at the beginning of the semester and make a mental note of when your big deadlines are. Work ahead a little if you can, to give yourself some wiggle room.
  • Don’t study where you relax. Create a designated space just for studying at home, or study at the library or a coffee shop. This will help you focus.
  • Use pockets of free time. Carry your readings or homework assignments with you so you can work on them during your lunch break or when you’re waiting in line.
  • Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well, and make time to relax. A good work-life balance is essential for avoiding burnout while earning an online degree.