4 answers

What are your best strategies for pursuing an advanced degree and working at the same time?

Asked Seattle, Washington

I am interested in going back to grad school, but I am focused on my career path. At this point, it seems advantageous to continue developing my career experience, but soon I will need an advanced degree to continue my growth. Am I going to still get a meaningful master's degree experience with the online, accelerated master's degrees for professionals? Is it possible to work full time while getting a masters? Can I run a small side business without compromising my academic experience? #career-path #graduate-school #masters

4 answers

Ken’s Answer

Updated Cleveland, Ohio

The best way to find out - and possibly the most important way to find out - what you might want to do is to consult with your current employer. From my many years in Human Resources, I have found that many times an employer will assist with payment of an advanced degree if it will help the employee to be more valuable to the company. The employer might suggest what kind of program would most assist the employee and the company with the best interest of both in mind. That also will give you more of an idea of a career path to follow. Also, it might be a good idea to talk to members of your professional associations related to your career field to see what others might recommend. If you are unclear about your direction you might want to talk take an interest and aptitude test to verify how your personality traits relate to careers situations and proceed appropriately. The following are some tips which I have seen others apply successfully to advance their careers.

Ken recommends the following next steps:

  • Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities is very important in your decision making process. During my many years in Human Resources and College Recruiting, I ran across too many students who had skipped this very important step and ended up in a job situation which for which they were not well suited. Selecting a career area is like buying a pair of shoes. First you have to be properly fitted for the correct size, and then you need to try on and walk in the various shoe options to determine which is fits the best and is most comfortable for you to wear. Following are some important steps which I developed during my career which have been helpful to many .
  • The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field and the future position which you are seeking.
  • Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
  • Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##
  • It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-informational-interview-thank-you-note-smart-people-know-to-send?ref=recently-published-2 ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-tips-for-writing-a-thank-you-note-thatll-make-you-look-like-the-best-candidate-alive?bsft_eid=7e230cba-a92f-4ec7-8ca3-2f50c8fc9c3c&bsft_pid=d08b95c2-bc8f-4eae-8618-d0826841a284&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_20171020&utm_source=blueshift&utm_content=daily_20171020&bsft_clkid=edfe52ae-9e40-4d90-8e6a-e0bb76116570&bsft_uid=54658fa1-0090-41fd-b88c-20a86c513a6c&bsft_mid=214115cb-cca2-4aec-aa86-92a31d371185&bsft_pp=2 ##

David’s Answer

Hi Joseph,

I think online programs have grown so much in recent years that they are considered just as fulfilling as in person programs, but the most important thing to note will be if you will have the time/energy after working full-time and also running a business to take your online courses. It's totally do-able (I completed a Master's of Science in Accounting while working full-time as an Auditor), but there is a huge time commitment.

You should think about whether you feel like you can learn online as well as you can in person first. If so, then maybe try an online course (many programs offer single courses!) and test it out. Then, look to starting a full program if that trajectory works for you.

Kim’s Answer

Updated Nipomo, California

Hi Joseph,

Ken has given you some excellent advice and guidance. I have a couple of additional points to consider as it pertains to higher education. First is to consider your level of effective management. This will be paramount to your success in maintaining a good life balance as you pursue your advancement. Secondarily, consider how the higher education enhances or has adjacency to your career. This makes more meaningful and "real life." Thus adding to enjoyment you receive as a result. Best of luck.

G. Mark’s Answer


There are two very practical approaches. First, find a job that requires very little mental stimulation. Many security jobs are like this, and I have used these as one of multiple part-time jobs while in school. The second is to find a job that dovetails well with what you are studying. You don't have to find something that is spot-on what you are studying, only something that you can use. As an example, I had a job at a programming center while I was studying for my CS work. I also worked as a mechanic while I was taking mechanical engineering courses. A bit of a stretch, but it worked.

There are also part-time jobs that take up little time -- possibly 10-20 hours per week -- and allow you time to carefully monitor your schedule so as to sleep, eat, and study with reliability.

Some jobs will actually allow you to be available to help them but to be studying during your downtime. Helpdesk jobs and customer response teams are like that. It also helps to be involved in a business that, as I've already said, dovetails with your major.

Be frugal with your partying and leisure activities. If your job requires mental focus, avoid scheduling any leisure time before those hours. You need to recover and refocus for many jobs.

Finally, look for jobs with other staffers that are studying for degrees, or better, studying for a degree an area close to what you are involved in. Trust me -- camaraderie is reinforcement for study habits.