Thousands of students take online courses each year, primarily in pursuit of associate or bachelor’s degrees. However, a growing number of students are choosing to pursue master’s programs online, which are far more rigorous and require more time, effort and research than online undergraduate programs. At the graduate level, many students are also working full time.
Some of these master’s programs are even in the healthcare field. Students can pursue a master’s program for family nurse practitioners fully online and complete their clinical training at a general hospital near where they live. So not only must they complete difficult classwork online, but they must also show up outside their home in a medical setting to perform hands-on clinical duties. On top of all this, many maintain full-time jobs as registered nurses, a high-stress job in and of itself. Staying on top of a schedule like this is not easy, but it’s certainly possible.
Balancing work and going to school online will require meticulous time management skills. You will need to buy a planner or use a free online planning program and map out your day to the hour. Begin with the hours you are required to work and map out your week from there. Once you’ve gotten off of work and commuted home, you will need to log on to your classes, listen to any lectures, work on assignments, complete any assigned reading from textbooks and study for upcoming exams. These two tasks in and of themselves take up the lion’s share of your day.
However, there are other things required of you in a typical day. You’re going to need exercise on a daily basis to stay healthy, you’re going to need to make time for dinner, as well as spend time with your spouse and/or friends and family. And you’re going to need time to relax and release the stress from your day. It might seem silly to schedule these sorts of things into your day, but when you pencil these activities into your planner you can be confident that you are dedicating yourself to your education without your friendships, marriage, and personal health suffering.
To balance work and online school, you will also need to set firm priorities and let some hobbies and extracurricular fall by the wayside. For instance, if you usually volunteer to walk dogs at the local animal shelter during the evenings after work, you may have to set that aside for a semester while you are taking graduate courses. After all, there is only so much time in your day. If you normally participate in a bowling league one night a week, you will need to evaluate if you have time for that now that you are working and going to school, or whether you need the bowling break to maintain your sanity. Chances are you can keep a once-a-week fun activity in your busy schedule, but you probably won’t be able to keep up with hobbies and responsibilities that take up more time than that.
You may also have to start waking up earlier to fit exercise into your life. While on the surface it seems like the most feasible thing to cut out of your life is working out, staying physically fit is vital to providing you with the energy you will need to handle a busy lifestyle.
Finally, consider either working part-time or going to school part-time so that you can excel at both. This isn’t an option for everyone, but for those who can reasonably do this, it will free up more time in your week to devote to being the best student you can be.
This guest contribution was submitted by Jamie Davis, who specializes in writing about masters degree. Questions and comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.