Working Full Time and Going To School: A Challenge You Can Conquer

Working Full Time and Going To School: A Challenge You Can Conquer

Working Full Time and Going To School: A Challenge You Can Conquer
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Remember all those times you were in school, waking up way too early, having to do homework, and all that? Would you do it again? And what if you had to work at the same time? Well, believe it or not, being a working learner has many benefits, even if balancing school and work takes some skill.

Learning and Earning

Being a high performer at work while you try to earn a college degree may sound complicated and exhausting. But you can change the perspective and start seeing it as a favorable scenario for your professional growth. 

Why it’s the best time to do both work and school

The work and school combo is more common than before. You could say it’s a natural evolution considering our work-based society. It’s a massive opportunity for all the working learners who want to pave their way in the professional world. 

At this time, more students are working. Around 70 and 80 percent of undergraduates are employed. In most cases, it doesn’t matter their age or financial situation; they just want to get a head start on their career.

Working full time and going to school has many benefits for you. Whether you’re doing it because you need money for your college fees or just because you want to advance your professional career, you’re gaining work experience and an education, two much-valued assets in today’s job market. 

Aside from the proven experience in your resume and the references from your first jobs, the skills you developed in each step of your career will get you better opportunities when you finish college. 

Who are working learners?

The working learners’ term refers to individuals who are currently working and studying. Specifically, it relates to the people in the workforce who lack postsecondary credentials and are needed wage earners for themselves or their families. Over the last 60 years, college enrollment has risen from 2 million to 60 million students, bringing more variety among working learners. 

Actually, one of the reasons postsecondary enrollment grew so much is because, over the past decade, there was also a rise in the enrollment of older students. Even though, from the fourteen million working learners in the U.S., two-thirds of them are young students between the ages of 16 and 29, while the last 33% are between 30-59 years old.  

For many working learners, it is important to complement the knowledge gained from their classes in the field of their career. It’s about learning the right things in the right place at the right time. Some of the more common reasons why students lean into becoming working learners are the following:

  • Get financial support for living wages and school expenses 
  • Develop new skills and experience 
  • Gain professional networks 
  • Reinforce classroom teachings with on-the-job training

Why learn while being on the job? 

As mentioned before, many companies and hiring authorities are more likely to be interested in recent grads with more work experience than internships. As a working learner, you’ll likely have more opportunities to move upward and pursue managerial positions after graduating. 

It doesn’t matter if your student job isn’t exactly the role you want. Working learners are less likely to stay in the positions they were initially in, either because they get a higher position or to focus on a career in their major

Remember that aside from the financial benefits, it’s about getting used to the working grind and other skills useful for whatever daily activities you might acquire in your profession. Early work experience forms good habits and helps students make career connections. In general, you’ll gain abilities such as time management, communications, and conflict resolution, as well as other soft skills convenient in the workforce.

Pros of working and studying

If by now you’re convinced or considering working and going to school, here are some essential aspects for you to dive into and be fully convinced of the decision you’re about to make. Though this concept may cause hesitation for many people, here are the facts about the pros and cons of working and studying simultaneously. 

A more gratifying career

Increasing your professional experience and maintaining the salary and benefits associated with your job while you also progress in your academic studies is one of the many advantages of working full time and going to school. 

In addition to the tangible benefits earned while maintaining a higher education, such as health insurance or a steady income to afford grad school or avoid considerable debt, you’ll also enjoy a gratifying career in which you develop your trajectory and skills outside of your degree. 

Reskilling and upskilling

As mentioned before, many working learners have a job that’s not precisely related to their degree. Therefore there is a constant need to develop both soft and hard skills. Depending on your situation, you’ll have to go for reskilling or upskilling. 

For example, if you’re in a role related to your major, the studies and courses you take during college will improve your profile and performance at work. Basically, the match between your working experience and the knowledge you’re receiving will close the skill gaps between you and your most experienced teammates. 

On the other hand, reskilling will allow you to keep up with your current job, even if it’s unrelated to your major. Indeed, some of the lessons you’re learning in college will be useful in your day-to-day work activities. But if you feel that’s not enough, you can always seek on-the-job training or even get online courses that align with your work needs. 

The benefits of being self-taught

By working full time and going to school at the same time, you’ll have to develop organization skills such as time management, especially if you expect to keep a healthy work-life balance. Though you’ll face deadlines at both work and school, you can arrange a schedule that allows you to take control of your studies and choose the pace of your learning. Here are some benefits of self-study when it comes to upskilling or reskilling:

  • Encouraging effective learning
  • Strengthening problem-solving skills
  • Learning how to manage time and priorities

Top tips for balancing work and school

Having a full-time job is a professional commitment challenging in itself. Depending on your schedule and day-to-day tasks, you could find yourself struggling to maintain a work-life balance. Add college, online courses, or any other type of study, and you’ll find yourself facing an even bigger challenge. As demanding and complex as it may sound, balancing work and school is achievable, you just need to pull a few strings. 

Set a game plan

Organizing your time for almost every aspect of your routine is one of the keys to balancing work and school. Map out your assignments and important activities to make sure things don’t overlap. Plan ahead, especially if you anticipate having a busier week at work or school due to upcoming projects or deadlines.

Lay out your cards with both parties

This is about keeping both your employer and teachers in the loop. If your degree or course is related to or will help in your current field of work, your employer may be more flexible with your work schedule or give other kinds of support for your education. In a similar case, if you have a teacher that praises working experience, you could reach an agreement with them to skip some in-classroom sessions or extend the deadlines for a project or two.

Work smart

Working efficiently and sticking to your plan is another major aspect of balancing work and school. Aside from setting times, make your efforts count. Hit two target areas with one arrow by using any work situations or materials useful for your assignments. Keep index cards handy that’ll allow studying and note-taking in small intervals or review lectures during commutes. Take advantage of every spare minute; this will lessen the work and save you some time to enjoy your evenings. 

Beware of stress levels and burnout 

There will be times when stress can aid in keeping you focused and aware of deadlines. When managed correctly, it can lead you to work harder to get things done, but be careful about exceeding your limits. Be aware of any signs of burnout, such as falling asleep in classes, losing interest in your job, or becoming irritable. Don’t forget about self-care. Now and then, treat yourself to a hobby and let yourself get distracted to give some rest to your mind and body. 

Remember your why

During this work and school journey, there will be times when things don’t go as planned. Finding balance is no easy task, but you have to be resilient during those challenging moments and remember why you’re doing it. Why are you studying and working at the same time? What is the reward at the end of the journey? Ask yourself these questions and always keep the answers in your mind. Having the “eyes on the prize” will give you the boost you need to cross the finish line.

Contributed by Luis Arellano

The Key to Find Top Talent
Workforce Trends: Closing the Skills Gap
3 Facts on How COVID-19 Changed Recruitment


Subscribe to our blog


By clicking Send you agree to the gpac privacy policy and Terms of Service and you authorize gpac to contact you regarding gpac’s services at any phone number or email you provide, including via text message using an automated dialing system and/or artificial or prerecorded message.