How to Earn a Masters Degree While Working

Three Methods:Finding the Right Program for YouSucceeding AcademicallyBalancing School with Work and Family

Even if you have built a successful career, you might feel that you would benefit from furthering your education. Maybe you will get a promotion or a raise if you earn a Master's Degree. If so, there are several steps you can take to get your degree while you continue to work. It will take determination and a big time commitment, but you could see big returns on your investment.

Method 1
Finding the Right Program for You

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    Write down your priorities. If you are thinking about going to graduate school, you need to carefully select your program. You will be making a large financial investment, and also investing a lot of time. Your first step is to figure out your priorities.[1]
    • Make a list of what you want out of a Master's program. Are you looking for flexibility? Consider finding a program that is all or mostly online.
    • Are you looking for a program that will offer a lot of faculty-student connections? Write that down as a top priority.
    • Maybe you want to finish your degree as quickly as possible. Write down, "Accelerated program" at the top of your priority list.
    • Is reputation important to you? Make sure to list that a renowned school or program is a big factor in your decision.
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    Research different schools. Once you have listed your priorities, it is time to begin looking at individual programs. Make a list of schools in your area. If you are interested in an online program, you can include schools outside of your geographic area.[2]
    • Contact the school directly. You might need to contact various departments to find all of the information you want.
    • Talk to the admissions office. You can e-mail them with questions about the application process and requirements.
    • You can also e-mail the program that you are interested in. For example, if you are looking into an MBA, contact the School of Business and ask for information on course offerings and schedules.
    • Keep all of your information organized as you gather it. That will make it easier to compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of each program.
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    Talk to professors and students. When you are in graduate school, it is important that you make connections with faculty and fellow students. You will need their support and advice. As part of your research process, reach out to current and past students.[3]
    • It will be helpful to get a perspective of a student in the program. Ask the department if they can put you in touch with a student who will be willing to speak to you.
    • Ask questions such as, "How do you handle the workload? Do you find the material stimulating?"
    • You will also want to talk to a faculty member. You can send an e-mail with questions, or ask to set up a face-to-face appointment.
    • During your meeting, you can ask questions such as, "Can you tell me about some of the projects that will be assigned? How often are faculty available to meet with students individually?"
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    Plan a budget. A Master's program can be very expensive. When you are selecting a program, make sure to take financial costs into account. Find out how much each graduate credit hour costs.[4]
    • Inquire about additional costs. For example, some schools charge more per credit hour for online courses.
    • Write down a financial plan. Figure out your monthly budget, and look for ways to cut costs so that you can afford school. For example, maybe you don't need to have cable while you are working on your degree.
    • Talk to your Human Resources department at work. Many companies will pay for at least part of the cost of a graduate degree.

Method 2
Succeeding Academically

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    Create a schedule. Once you have started actively working on your Master's degree, you will want to make sure that you are a successful student. Going back to school can be an adjustment. When you are working full-time, it is crucial that you make a schedule so that you can devote the proper amount of time to your classes.[5]
    • Plan in advance. Read the syllabus for each of your courses when the class begins. Write down important dates on your calendar.
    • Schedule other things around critical times in the school year. For example, do not plan to go on vacation during midterms or finals.
    • Devote time to school almost every day. Successful students do not cram all of their learning into one day a week.
    • Even if your class just meets on Monday nights, make sure to schedule time throughout the week to work on it. For example, set aside time on Wednesday for starting the readings for the next class.
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    Adjust to online learning. Many Master's programs take place in an online setting. This is so that professionals like you can continue to work full-time while pursuing a degree. Online courses offer a lot of flexibility, but they can take some getting used to.[6]
    • Treat online classes seriously. Just because you may not have to physically attend class, you still need to be present.
    • Carefully read all of the requirements. Many online courses require you to interact with classmates through online discussion. You might also be required to be "in" the classroom for a certain amount of time each week.
    • Ask questions. If you are going back to school, you might be unfamiliar with online learning. Make sure to contact your professor with any questions that you have.
    • You can send an e-mail stating, "I am unclear on how to access the resources mentioned in the syllabus. Could you please point me in the right direction?"
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    Succeed in your courses. A graduate program might consist of online courses, in-person courses, or a mixture of both. Whatever the structure, you want to make sure to find a way to succeed in each of your classes. Take steps to find a learning method that is right for you.[7]
    • Read for information. Master's programs frequently require a large amount of reading. Practice carefully reading the introduction and conclusion of each article or book, and skimming the rest to find the information that you need.
    • Reflect on the material. This material should be information that you will find useful in your career.
    • Don't just memorize material for a test and then forget. Take time to think about ways you can actually implement what you are learning in your job.
    • Try different study strategies. For example, maybe you will find that you do your best work early in the morning. Start setting your alarm an hour earlier each day.
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    Seek supportive relationships. Try to make friends with other students. Graduate programs can be very stressful. You will find it useful to get to know others who are in the same situation.[8]
    • Form a study group. Try sending an e-mail to the class asking if anyone is interested in joining a weekly group.
    • Socialize after class. If you are in a night class, ask the students sitting around you if they want to grab a bite to eat. You'll enjoy school more if you can socialize and relax a bit.
    • Find a faculty mentor. If the department doesn't assign you an adviser, ask one of you professors if they would informally mentor you.
    • Ask your mentor to help you figure out which classes to take. Your mentor can also offer you advice on future career moves.

Method 3
Balancing School with Work and Family

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    Talk to your boss. When you are earning a Masters degree while working, you will need to actively balance your career and school commitments. Once you have decided to pursue a degree, it is important to have a conversation with your boss. Schedule a time to address your questions or concerns.[9]
    • Tell your boss that you are pursuing a graduate degree in your field. Ask how this will affect your career path.
    • You can ask specific questions. Try saying, "Will there be a raise once I have earned a Master's degree?"
    • Ask for flexibility. If your night class starts at 6, you might find that you need to leave work a little early on those days.
    • Tell your boss, "I need to leave early a few days a week. Please understand that the information I am learning will help make me a more effective team member here at Business Corp."
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    Continue to perform well at work. Earning a Master's degree is hard work. School will take up a lot of your time and mental energy. However, it is important to remain committed to your career throughout the process.[10]
    • Recognize that you might need to make sacrifices. For example, weekends might not just be days off from work anymore. You might need them to work on your school projects.
    • If you are having trouble finding balance, talk to your boss. Ask for suggestions on how you can remain an effective contributor while giving attention to your coursework.
    • Use your vacation time wisely. While it might be tempting to use PTO to take of for a weekend vacation, it might be better to save those days to use during finals week.
    • Apply what you are learning. You don't have to wait to have your degree to begin using your new skills. For example, if you learned about a new accounting system, ask your boss to let you demonstrate your new found knowledge.
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    Communicate with your family. Balancing school and work can be difficult. Finding time for your family and friends can seem even more impossible while you are earning a degree. Take some time to talk to your family about the situation.[11]
    • Explain your motivations. For example, you can say to your spouse, "I may have less time for fun right now. Please know that I am doing this to further my career so that I can better provide for us."
    • Ask for support. You can say to your friends, "I really appreciate you sticking by me even though I'm so busy lately."
    • Make time for the important things in life. You might have to stay up late or get up early to fit everything in, but do make time to attend your child's soccer game.
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    Life a healthy lifestyle. Balancing school and work and family can take its toll. In order to handle the pressure, you need to stay physically healthy. Take steps to take care of your body.[12]
    • Eat a healthy diet. Your brain will perform more efficiently if you eat a balanced diet of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and leafy greens.
    • Get moving. Physical activity can relieve stress and boost energy.
    • Aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Grab a fellow classmate and quiz each other while you go for a hike.
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    Relax. You might feel stressed while pursuing a Master's degree. That's normal. Remember to take some time out for self-care. This is especially important when you are juggling a hectic schedule.[13]
    • Take some time for yourself each day. Even if it is just 20 minutes to read a novel, you'll feel more relaxed.
    • Try meditation. You can download apps that provide guided meditations, some of them as short as 1 minute. Try adding this to your daily routine to reduce stress.
    • Stay positive. Remind yourself that this situation is temporary and their will be benefits for all of your hard work.


  • Motivate yourself. Remind yourself that you are working this hard for a reason.
  • Don't forget to enjoy life. You're busy, but you can still have fun.
  • Balance your priorities. Don't neglect school for work, or vice versa.

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