Going Back to School and Work? 5 Ways to Manage Both


If you're worried about balancing your education and work life now that it's time to go back to school, you're not alone! Almost 14 million people in the United States are both working and pursuing college or postsecondary training programs. Read on to explore 5 ways that can help you manage work and school.

Balancing Work and School

It's common for students to work while in school. According to a 2015 Georgetown University report, balancing a job and school is an issue that affects working learners of all ages. Working learners ages 30-50 are often employed at least 40 hours a week while in school. The issue also affects younger working learners ages 16-29, as over 1/3 of them are employed more than 30 hours a week while enrolled. Balancing these responsibilities takes practice, but it can be done by scheduling carefully, mapping course loads, and studying on the go.

Balance scale of work and studying when going back to school

1. Schedule Your Time

Scheduling your time is imperative for success at both work and school. You might consider using a planner that breaks your day down into small increments, so you can see how to prioritize your responsibilities, including work, family, and study time. As soon as you read your semester's syllabi, mark assignment and exam dates in your calendar, and see if you'll need to take any time off from work to study for tests or write research papers.

When highlighting big school projects or work-related events, consider using an online calendar that you can share with family members or roommates, which will allow them to add their own events as needed. It's not only important that they understand your many responsibilities but also that they won't be forgotten.

2. Study When You Can

Use your calendar to figure out when you can study. Going back to school means that on-campus students, as well as some online students, will need to schedule their class times into their week. All students need to schedule time for reading, studying, and completing assignments. However, there's a lot of time in the day that you can use that won't appear on your calendar in neat hourly segments; that time adds up, so use it!

Take for example, your commute. If you're on a train or bus, use your phone to read or review notes - you can also make notecards to take with you. For those who drive, listen to lectures or relevant podcasts. You can also study while you're eating lunch, exercising, making dinner, or even when taking a scheduled break at work. Find study tools that work with your learning style. With so much technology available, there's a way to study in almost any situation!

Man going back to school studies on his commute to work

3. Map Your Course Schedule

Prior to enrolling in your chosen school, meet with an academic adviser to explore options for full-time and part-time study and to find out when classes are offered. As soon as you're enrolled, map your course schedule. Also consider your work schedule. If certain times of the year are typically too busy, plan to take those semesters off from school, or reduce your course load.

Mental Health America recommends distance learning courses for their flexibility. So consider enrolling in an online program or taking an online class.

Additionally, try to set a tentative plan for your entire degree or training program that includes the classes you'll complete each semester until graduation, as it can be helpful to keep your last term in sight. However, things can change, so work with your academic adviser to make any necessary adjustments.

4. Integrate Your Work and School Life

Going back to school and holding down a job might feel like two separate obligations, but there may be a way that they can support one another. Even if you might not see how work and school are related, they most likely share some connections. Even working at a local coffee shop includes learning about business, customer service, economics, and more! So use any work and school connections to maximize your time.

For example, a work-related issue can become the topic for a research paper and give you the opportunity to apply real-world experience in the classroom. You might also want to consider passing your relevant schoolwork along to your supervisors at work - they might be impressed!

Man shares school work and projects with his supervisor at work

5. Take Care of Yourself

It can be easy to spend so much time thinking about work and school that you forget that you also need to take care of yourself. If you don't, neither pursuit will be possible. Don't be afraid to use your calendar to pencil in workouts and downtime. The Hechinger Report suggests scheduling one fun or relaxing event each week.

If you find yourself overly stressed, remember that students have access to school counseling and student support services. Don't be afraid to reach out for help!

Interested in earning college credit while you're working? Check out's online college credit courses, transferrable to over 2,000 colleges!

By Michelle Garrigan-Durant
August 2018
college college success

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