Is It Easy To Work While Studying For Your Master’s?
Postgraduate study is demanding but many students still manage to balance a master’s with part-time work. The trick is knowing what you should expect and balancing your time efficiently.
Working while studying can be financially and professionally rewarding, but balancing earnings and learning is tough. You’ll need to be well-disciplined and have access to a good network to be successful.
Getting the best from postgraduate study requires good time management, enthusiasm and dedication. To succeed, you will need to implement strict routines and plan each day in advance, but most importantly, see it through to the end. Should you work part-time while studying for a full-time or part-time master’s, you will need to have an open and honest conversation with your employer and potential course leader.
Full-time or part-time at your employment
If you are currently employed in a role prior to your master’s study, you should have an open conversation with your manager and/or employer about your ambition to complete the course and your desire to continue in your role.
In most cases, your employer will happily change you to a part-time role on a temporary basis and in some cases, can even contribute some funds for your course (sometimes with strings attached).
With fewer lectures to attend, you may be prone to concentrate more on work and leave your assignments until the last minute. Distracting work could result in deadline extensions, or an assignment lacking in quality – which is not ideal and will affect your grades.
Depending on your job and the course, you may have to work a tight schedule and a lot of travelling. You’ll have to juggle the schedule for at least 2 years in the UK, or at least 4 if abroad. The commitment may be too much for some people which could affect one or both studying and working.
If this happens, you must speak to both your employer and either a course leader or a university counsellor.
Studying full-time while working can be extremely stressful. You’ll require a great deal of discipline. You’ll be prone to missing tasks and deadlines and suffer quality work.
While you’ll only be studying for at least a year, your schedule won’t be too horrendous for long. You will still require to follow a strict schedule and your role will need to revolve around your studies. This can be tough for certain roles, but speaking to your employer can help create a schedule you can follow. If you have a role which does not follow a traditional schedule, this may not necessarily affect your workability.
No fixed employments
Many employers prefer their employees work during the company time and may not necessarily accept a part-time role position during your course as it could have an effect on the teams or departments’ ability to deliver results or complete their daily tasks.
In this case, you may be looking to work part-time on a different scale. Some people tend to work through different types of contracts during their studies, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages for postgraduate students.
Casual hours are a great way to earn the occasional extra income. This means the hours are not regular or long, but getting a shift could be a roll of the draw. Check your university to see if they offer any casual roles such as events and fairs. This is important because it could help build a relationship with the university which can give you more shifts, or introduce you to potential employers, give you a good reference or other opportunities.
While this isn’t the most optimal choice, it’s worth keeping an occasional eye out for.
There has been a lot of controversy over zero-hour contracts in recent years but the possibility of the government scrapping them has a scary effect on students.
Zero-hour contracts are a great way for students to work around their education, or whenever they want. If you fancy going home for a weekend or taking a much-needed week-long break, you can go without notifying them.
But if you have some free time and want extra shifts, you can tell your employer this and they’ll gladly give you some if they have them. But for this, you’ll need to work hard and keep good relations or they’ll cut ties with you.
Of course, you cannot keep a job on the sidelines with the possibility of receiving no work for long periods of time. The hours of a zero-hour will depend on the employer. Similarly to casual hours, this is a great way to gain extra money and experience.
Fixed-term contracts take two forms, a permanent or temporary contract. The latter is the most popular form of fixed-term employment.
Temporary work is a good way to earn a fixed salary payment role. This role comes with all (or most of) the benefits of a permanent role which includes paid holidays, bank holidays and any other perks. Temporary work can last a few weeks to a year and they are usually roles to cover maternity leave, help assist companies during their busy period, or during the holidays.
Some are flexible in work times and location which is ideal to work around your studies. While the commitment may be achievable during the beginning, it’s worth noting if it’s possible during the latter stages of your studies.
Which is best for you during your master’s studies?
Ideally, working part-time in your role during your studies is something you’ll want to continue. It guarantees you have a stable income with benefits while keeping relations with your employer high. In addition, they may help fund your course too if they see you as a key asset.
If you don’t have employment, you should consider fixed-term employment to try and reap any perks to help you as much as possible. You should also take advantage of any casual hours too, giving you extra disposable income.
But everyone is different so you need to work out which is best for you. Knowing precisely how much you can manage is essential to keep your work and study life stable, or else you’ll be chewing more than you can balance.
Manage your time
During your master’s, your time studying will be much lower than your undergrad counterparts. However, this means a lot more independence, where you will be expected to manage your time more effectively.
Overall, most universities recommend a full-time student work no more than 16 hours a week to help prevent burn-outs. But when you have a multitude of articles, books, modules and other research materials to study on a weekly basis, you don’t want to be doing any overtime.
While a master’s is rewarding, it can also be exhausting. Often, most postgraduate students experience periods of burnout, sleep deprivation and an impact on their social or family relations. Tie in the number of students who work during their studies, and the picture seems more daunting. But there are a few knacks that could help you learn to manage your time effectively:
Work in your best study environment
Most students are led to believe the best place to study is in the library. Fortunately, this is not the case. Not everyone is the same, some people prefer to study in a different location or at a different time of day. The problem you may encounter is figuring it out. As a postgraduate student, it’s likely you have been out of university for a while, which means studying is something you’ll have to relearn.
Finding a good place to study means when you get home from work, you’ll be less tempted to slack off or detest looking forward to studying. The best place to not study is your bedroom, you need to keep your room as your resting place.
So don’t be tempted to study the same way your friends do – it might not work for you. If you want to work at home, there is no shame in leaving a ‘do not disturb’ message or signing up.
Always take something to read
You should never leave your home without something to read. You’ll always have something to read on a weekly basis and there is no better place to read the material than while on your commute to work, class, or even a social event.
You’re meeting a friend and they’re late – good time to read a few pages. Your commute takes 45 minutes and you have a free seat – a good time to read a few sections. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be using your time wisely, your social media activity can wait another time. You may not feel like you are achieving much, but each snippet will soon add up leaving a starting mark.
Unless you suffer from travel sicknesses such as dizziness, you should find time elsewhere to study your materials.
Finding the right time to study
It’s always hard to be away from friends, and family, or to get away from your time earning, learning and relaxing. But creating a timetable that suits you personally will always have a bigger benefit in the long run. You may miss out on the odd drink or social, but it will be worth it in the long run.
If you don’t have a fixed work schedule, don’t be afraid to ask your employer to help change them. In some cases, employers can accommodate your need to finish or start earlier. By talking with them, you can find the best course for you.
Sometimes things don’t always align the way you want and you have to revert to sneaky negotiation tactics. Negotiations can happen in two ways, 1. with yourself and 2. with your employer(s).
- Sometimes life gets in the way and you may need to do something else instead of socialising or studying. In this case, you can negotiate a trade with yourself. Trade a future socialising slot to study while you use the current study time to relax, or vice versa.
- Sometimes work hours become a bit too much. Sometimes your employer won’t budge. You’ll need to ask yourself if it’s worth the effort? If not, you should look for employment elsewhere while you study, or find alternative methods to help you ease your schedule.
Other ways to fund your master’s study
Working during your master’s can be a great way to support yourself as a postgraduate. But it’s not your only option.
With Lendwise, you can apply for a loan that can cover your tuition fees as well as any study materials, living expenses and rent. To apply, click the image below.
9.2%* Representative APR (fixed). Credit is subject to status. Over 18’s only. Terms and conditions apply.
*This figure was correct as of 29 June 2023