10 Tips for Balancing an Online Master’s Degree and Career

Written by Grad School Center Team We are a passionate team of experienced educators and advisors at, dedicated to guiding students through their graduate education journey. Our experts, with advanced degrees across various disciplines, offer personalized advice, up-to-date program information, and practical insights into application processes.

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Updated: February 29, 2024, Reading time: 11 minutes

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For most working professionals, achieving a work-life balance is already a struggle. Adding grad school into the equation makes the hustle even more difficult. The decision to pursue a graduate program involves balancing work, personal life, physical health, time, family, and other life responsibilities.

Prospective master’s degree students are left feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about continuing with higher education as a result of all of these factors.

The days when graduate school students had to juggle working full-time and physically attending university classes are long gone. Thanks to the development of technology, one’s graduate educational journey can now begin online.  Schools and universities have introduced online graduate programs to keep up with the times and to accommodate all grad school students, especially those who are working professionals.

Working professionals, full-time employees, and newly hired college graduates won’t have to choose between pursuing grad school or getting a full-time job. Online degree programs have made it possible to balance work and graduate school at the same time.

There is no longer a need to put off the start of a career or put on hold any professional development goals and opportunities for promotion or career advancement.

Balancing an Online Master's Degree and Career - fact

Types of Online Graduate Programs

Online programs can be classified as either synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid.

Synchronous classes have a similar structure to those held on school campuses; however, they are conducted virtually but require the same time commitment. Every student must be present at the designated time for a virtual class. The lesson is more interactive and engaging with faculty and other current students because it is being held in real-time.

There are degree programs that are offered through asynchronous learning. This provides a more flexible class and coursework schedule and is best suited for students working full-time. The university specifies a due date for finishing assignments, school projects, and other school work. Due to the fact that the coursework is all given at once, students are not restricted to completing one task at a time but rather can work ahead at their own pace.

Students who enroll in hybrid or blended degree programs can benefit from both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments. This is best for students who need an in-person school learning experience for the degree program’s success and are unable to focus on an online class alone.

Pros of Online Master’s Degrees

There are numerous benefits to obtaining a graduate degree online, in addition to the apparent ease that online classes offer.

Online students have the flexibility to study on their own schedule and how they want. Grad school students don’t have a predetermined course or set schedule of classes. Online programs are made to support balancing work, school, and life obligations.

As long as it falls within the allotted time range to complete the coursework, students are free to choose when to attend class. In addition to schedule flexibility, several online degree programs permit students to review lectures and return to any topics they find challenging.

An online degree not only saves time but also costs considerably less. The cost of a graduate degree online program is less than that of an on-campus program for other students.

The idea of grad school is no longer confined to local options and would not require major life adjustments. The far-off university or college you have been eyeing to take a grad school program with is now reachable online. You don’t have to leave your life, your family, and your friends behind. Because of this, online degrees present opportunities to meet people and make friends from a wide range of backgrounds.

One of the overlooked advantages of earning a degree online is that there is no need to travel and commute to or from university or from work and school, which can be a hassle at times. Travel time is easily converted to study time.

Easy Tips to Follow for Balancing an Online Master’s Degree and Career

Here are 10 strategies for balancing a full-time job with an online degree program.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

1. Set Your Goals

Set Your Goal

Pursuing a graduate program while in the middle of a career requires a lot of determination and perseverance. It can be uninspiring and exhausting at times. To never lose the reason why you began in the first place, set your goal.

Answer the following questions: Why did you choose to enroll in the program? What do you plan to achieve by attending university? Does this correspond with your career goals? Will attending an online school help you accomplish it? Write down your objective and your answers to these questions.

After setting a goal, develop a plan of action. This plan is your road map for success in accomplishing your goal. Looking back on them will help you stay on track, and keep you motivated and goal-focused, especially when work, school, and other life obligations appear to be overwhelming.

2. Learn To Manage Your Time Well

Learn To Manage Your Time Well

If possible, the suggested course schedule should be followed. The majority of online programs are already designed to cater to career and life demands. However, there would be times when it would be difficult, if not impossible, to strictly follow the schedule. This is where one’s time management skills become a determining factor for success in the program.

Set aside time to attend or watch lectures, read study materials, do assignments, and complete coursework. Integrate them into your daily schedule until they become part of your routine. The week will pass quickly between school and work.

Maintaining a monthly calendar can be beneficial, so you can see upcoming deadlines and exams and be ready for them. Keeping track of school holidays might help you plan getaways and free time. This will get rid of any schedule conflicts between work, school, and recreation.

3. Work Smarter

Work Smarter

Pursuing an online program does not require you to devote all of your leisure time to studying and schoolwork. You could include your graduate-level coursework in your career if your professional work and obligations would permit it. A school project, for example, may be connected to a task you are working on right now.

Just make sure it won’t hinder your ability to do your job and will help you advance your career. Always get your employer’s approval if in doubt. This advice is especially relevant if your employer originally supported your graduate program.

Working smart also means practicing mindfulness whether doing professional work or school work. Maintaining focus on a current task will help you finish that task sooner and more efficiently.

4. Build a Support System

Build a Support System

Include your family and friends in the choice to pursue an online degree. A lot of sacrifices have to be made for this undertaking, especially time. Orient them about what it entails and the additional effort required. The load will be less if you have a support system that is aware and understanding of your circumstances.

Individual family members may choose to play certain roles to help you in this endeavor. Even a small act of assistance in daily life, such as making dinner, picking up laundry, or doing dishes, for example, makes a great difference. Take all the help you can get.

Remember that earning a degree is not just a personal journey. It involves your loved ones, and your success is their success.

5. Communicate at Work

Communicate at Work

Good communication can help professionals continuing education online manage their work and school schedules. From the time you have decided to go back to college, you must inform your employer of your intent. Expectations can be controlled, and allowances can be made in this way.

For example, if you let the boss know in advance about your schedule, they might give you time off during a time when school is particularly stressful. It’s a win-win situation because you can concentrate on your studies and your professional performance won’t suffer. You can show your appreciation for this by diligently catching up on work once you’re back.

Sharing this decision with your coworkers might also be very helpful. The number of coworkers eager to lend a helping hand so you can complete your coursework could surprise you.

6. Always Ask for Advice

Always Ask for Advice

Experience may be the best teacher, but asking those who have completed a graduate degree program before you will expose you to different viewpoints. For example, your supervisor, coworkers, college friends, or even your professor. You can then decide and put into practice the one you think will work best for you.

You’d be surprised at the variety of responses you’ll get from people from different backgrounds when you ask them how they managed their jobs, family obligations, and degree programs. You might even come across someone who is in your exact similar situation.

It won’t always be a how-to or what-to-do guide. A list of things to avoid doing while in graduate school will also be given to you. Some of them might even be humorous, which will help you realize there’s no harm in having a good time while attempting to pursue career advancement through a master’s degree.

7. Get Rid of All Distractions

Get Rid of All Distractions

The fact that online programs are online is also a drawback. Students who access the internet may be steered to other websites, where they may find themselves watching completely random videos. Mobile devices and pop-up notifications that aren’t important are another major distraction. By the end of the day, you still haven’t finished your coursework due to all of these.

Focus is greatly influenced by the atmosphere of the space where you choose to take your online course. Do not attend classes in the TV room, bedroom, or kitchen. Establish a dedicated space or “classroom” in your home where you can concentrate and do your schoolwork successfully. Studying in a café or library might be more effective for you if your home is too comfy or full of distractions.

You can install website blockers or productivity-tracking tools on your devices to manage and reduce distractions.

8. Do Not Procrastinate

Do Not Procrastinate

Why do things tomorrow when you can and have the time to do them now? Procrastination is a student’s worst adversary when it comes to completing coursework. The tasks keep piling up until you start missing deadlines and feel overburdened by the amount of work still left to do. Your stress level rises as a result of the overwhelming amount of schoolwork, and your motivation starts to dwindle.

Procrastinating will not only affect your online degree program but also undermine all your career-building efforts. It will also affect the way your professors, colleagues, and employers perceive you.

Even if you manage to meet deadlines despite putting them off, the quality of your work may be compromised, and your performance during exams may be poor due to a lack of preparation. It’s a matter of prioritizing and organizing tasks. Arranging chores properly is necessary.

9. Establish a Good Network

Establish a Good Network

Online degree programs involve projects where you will have to collaborate with others. It is a great opportunity to get to know your peers better and form mutually beneficial relationships. You can help each other on research projects, discuss lectures, and assist each other with assignments. This interaction and reciprocity can make the workload of a master’s degree lighter.

Graduate school is full of career-oriented people from different backgrounds. These are the same people who you will be working with, not just for school projects but for prospective work as well. It is a good start for adjusting and adapting efficiently with future colleagues.

Your interactions need not be limited to school-related matters. Sharing the same experience is a good foundation for building rapport with each other.

10. Take Care of Yourself

Take Care of Yourself

Avoid getting too caught up in the chaos of juggling a full-time job with an online degree program. Make time for exercise and observe a nutritious diet. Pressure and time restraint can make you neglect these two important things.

A healthy body means a healthy mind. Spend a few minutes moving around or stretching each time you get up from sitting to attend lectures or study materials. Exercise is also a form of stress reliever or release.

To function and concentrate well, fuel your body with the right foods. You must admit that surviving the day solely on caffeine and sugar is unhealthy and will have an impact on your health. Ask for help or take advantage of eateries that sell and deliver well-balanced daily meals if you find it too difficult to prepare nutritious meals on your own.

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