Over 70% of students work while in college, and 43% are employed full-time. If you take online classes while working, your employer can provide tuition assistance and gain tax benefits. Online education adapts to your schedule, can help you avoid student debt and gain better career prospects. But it can also be stressful and overwhelming if you don’t set your priorities.
Online education has opened the door to many who want to earn a degree but can’t fit conventional education into their schedule. After all, working a 9 to 5 doesn’t allow traveling to morning classes.
Before the pandemic hit, over 7 million people were enrolled in distance education. The numbers increased tremendously during the last 2 years.
If you already work full time, why would you choose to take online classes at university? The subjects can be close to the field you work in, and a degree increases your chances of getting a higher position. Even if you’re longing for a completely different career, it’s still manageable with a full-time job.
When it comes to personal finance, one of the best investments you can make is investing in yourself. So let’s explore how you can combine a full-time job with online classes.
Advantages of online classes for full time employees
Unlike in-person classes, online classes are tailored to your needs. For example, if you work from 9 to 5, you can watch your classes in the evening and vice versa. This is highly convenient for full-time workers that also have a family and want to maintain a social life.
Two out of 5 students drop out of college because they can’t afford rent or child care. But with online classes, you can stay at home with your child and learn while earning an income to support yourself.
You save time lost by traveling to and from campus a few times a week. Your classroom is your computer and the comfort of your home. Your only commute will be to work.
Furthermore, 56% of full-time students drop out to look for a full-time job since they can’t afford to pay their tuition. With online classes, you can advance in the workplace and broaden your education.
You can learn literally everywhere. Whether you choose a cafe, a library, the patio, or your bedroom, it’s up to you. All you need is a stable internet connection, a laptop, and a headset.
You decide when to learn and deal with tasks. For example, you can schedule writing your papers to not overlap with important and stressful days at work. Deadlines are usually by the end of the week, so you can set to do the tasks when you’ve had a slow and relaxed day at work.
Be realistic with your expectations
It’s not all ideal; combining two significant parts of your life can bring a lot of stress. Jobs are stressful on their own, and you look forward to your free time most days. However, with online classes, you have to compromise. Giving up a hobby or routine you have that takes a few hours each day is inevitable.
You can’t do it all. Working full time and taking online classes is doable, but adding social life, family life, and hobbies becomes overwhelming. Cutting your Netflix time, a few coffee dates, brunches, and trips will help you stay on track.
Once you decide to take online classes, you need to set your priorities straight. Get prepared before all the invitations to hang out hit you.
Set a self-care day or an afternoon when you’ll do all the things you miss during the week. It might be catching up with friends, watching your favorite tv show, or reading a book unrelated to school.
Let your family and inner circle know your plans. They need to understand that you’re no longer available after work, and you will be skipping dinners here and there.
If you have kids, you need to discuss your schedule with your partner. It’s hard to say no to hanging out with your kids, but you need to stay focused once you sit down to learn. This is when your partner needs to step in and take care of them.
If you think it’s a big sacrifice, look at the bigger picture. According to APLU, college degree holders earn on average $32,000 more than high-school graduates.
Master’s degree holders are more employable at an average $1,500 a week salary.
Set boundaries at your work place
Discussing personal choice with your employer is a sensitive topic. But to dedicate the needed time to your education, you need to let them know of your plans.
This, of course, is up to you, but having them informed can help you avoid time-consuming obligations. Imagine teambuilding scheduled on the weekend you’ve planned to study for finals.
Tell them you will no longer respond to emails on weekends or after work. You won’t be available for overtime. A good employer will be delighted you’re working on your career. If your education is connected to your current job, even better.
But be prepared for backlash too. Sadly, not all employers are as supportive.
Get your employer to pay your online classes
Employers can provide tuition assistance up to $5,250 tax-free. The statistic shows that almost one-third of students in business and engineering receive some form of financial help from their employer. Most often is tuition assistance.
If your employer is unfamiliar, talk to them about the tax benefits the company will gain by financing you and fellow colleagues that want to attend college.
Remind them how much value you can add to the company by upgrading your knowledge. They might spend money on you, but you can help them earn more in the future.
But don’t get greedy. If available, apply for a scholarship and let them know that you’re actively looking for ways to lower your tuition.
Learn effective time management
Time management is crucial when trying to balance work and education. We all get the same 24 hours a day, but some people complete so many tasks. How so?
Time management is a skill. Just like you need to learn to manage your finances to be successful, you need to learn to manage your time to accomplish everything.
Set a strict schedule and alarms. Decide on a location where you’re going to study, a quiet room at home with a good internet connection, or the nearby library. Set a time in your week to catch up on studying or homework. It can be over the weekend or later at night.
Use your office breaks to accomplish something, but don’t occupy 100% of your free time. Burnout is real and will catch up on you.
Just because the classes are online doesn’t mean they’re easier. On the contrary, it’s equally hard to learn online and in person. Both forms require your undivided attention.
Be disciplined and eliminate distractions
Distractions are your worst enemy. Taking online classes while working leaves you with almost no free time. So you get deprived of social media, lengthy phone calls, tv shows, or aimlessly scrolling through social media. And once you sit down to study, it’s easy to cave into a ‘few minutes’ of Instagram.
Eliminate all distractions like TV and phone, and use a learning method, like the famous Pomodoro. It will allow you to concentrate for a set time and get some healthy breaks in between.
Check if there’s an online study group in your school. It can help you meet other people like you struggling to keep up with work and education.
Discipline is keeping yourself accountable. Did you decide to sleep in instead of studying? It will affect your schedule the next day. Staying disciplined is hard, but it makes things easier for you. One bite at a time, and you’ll get there.
Know why you’re doing it
Motivation keeps you going through the most challenging times of your life. Know why you decided to take online classes while working full time. Maybe you couldn’t go to college when everyone else did. Perhaps you have children and want to set a good example or provide more for your family.
Maybe you’re the first one in your family to get an opportunity to attend higher education. Whatever the reason might be, write it down to remind yourself why you’re doing it.
How can I take classes while working full time?
Everyone can take online classes while working full time but plan at least 12-20 hours a week for school. It’s manageable with a good and flexible schedule, an understanding employer, and a supportive family.
How many hours should online classes be?
A single class can take you up to 8 hours a week. Somedays, you might have 4 hours of online classes. Other days you’ll need to read research and papers. So it’s crucial to plan carefully and decide how many classes you’re willing to take.
Getting back to the classrooms as a student can be an overwhelming experience. Faced with a different generation, you might feel like you don’t belong there. Combined with your full-time job, you’ll feel overwhelmed.
Taking online classes is a good path for your career and financial situation. Employers can help with the tuition, and you can get a better position upon graduating.
But don’t underestimate online education. It’s equally challenging and requires commitment. However, you can build a schedule that works perfectly around your work and education with a bit of practice. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!