How to Work and Study at the Same Time

There are some definitive benefits of working while you’re getting a degree. Among the most obvious, you’ll be earning a paycheck. Additionally, the structure provided by balancing two or more schedules may actually help you be more productive generally. However, working while going to school can also be challenging, and can prevent you from fully devoting yourself to your studies. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to find the perfect balance of working and studying.

Method One of Five:
Working While You’re in School

  1. 1
    Get a “work-study” position. Many colleges and universities offer work-study positions that provide the perfect opportunity to work and study at the same time. Some of these positions are associated with a financial aid award that goes directly towards your expenses as a student, and some are jobs that are only open to student applicants. Types of work-study positions and the specific parameters these positions entail will vary by country, state, and type of institution. Begin your job search by researching opportunities associated with the institution you are attending.[1]
    • Not only are these positions designed for students, they are also more likely to fit into a student’s schedule. Your superiors will be well aware that you are also a student, and will likely take this in to account when scheduling and other specific issues arise.
    • Examples of positions you may be eligible for as a student include working at the library or in a residential hall.
    • Keep an eye out for a position that may even offer the opportunity to study while on the clock!
    • You can likely register on an email list that will notify you when new student positions are posted.
  2. 2
    Look for job opportunities within your department. For example, if you’re pursuing an anthropology degree bachelor’s degree, see if they anthropology department has any part-time positions open. At larger universities, specific departments will often employ several students to help with administrative tasks, etc.
    • Working for the department in which you are studying is also a great way to expose yourself to the faculty and students in the department, and stay-up-to-date on any opportunities relevant to your course of study.
    • Alternatively, ask your favorite professors about good entry level jobs with relevance to your interests. They may even know of a few gigs that other students with your interest have held previously, and may be able to point you in the direction of a potential employer!
  3. 3
    Assess the number of hours you can work per week. If you’re spending time, money, and energy on an education, it should probably take priority to your job. The important point is that you should make an honest assessment of the time you have available to spend working. Fortunately, you’ve got plenty of options regarding types of jobs to consider. [2]
    • If a weekly part-time seems to be a bit too much, you could always work during breaks in your academic schedule.
  4. 4
    Consider not working while class is in session. If, for instance, you’re beginning an education program that is extremely involved – such as law school or med school – it may be worth taking out loans to cover you expenses and focusing on your studies. Similarly, if you want to avoid needing to work while studying, consider deferring going to school for a year and work full time to save some money.
    • If you're studying within an extremely competitive program wherein your success will likely determine the quality of the job you get, it’s likely worth prioritizing your studies. Depending on your discipline, the job you'll end up landing could potentially make short work of your debt.
  5. 5
    Remind yourself of the benefits of work experience. If you’re on the fence about working while studying, or if you’re hoping to work more for the sake of experience than financial compensation, there are a few important factors to consider. The “real-world” insights offered by a job are often seen as equally – if not more – valuable than a degree. While many professions will want to see both, getting your foot in the door somewhere may also lead to an easier job search following graduation.[3]
    • Even if your work and studies are completely unrelated, work is still providing you with experience prioritizing responsibilities, communicating, etc.
  6. 6
    Consider non-traditional methods of generating income. One of the classic examples of quick gigs for students is participation in academic studies – some of which pay surprisingly large amounts of money. You can also potentially tutor other students, particularly if you know a language that other students are studying.[4]

Method Two of Five:
Going to School While You’re Working

  1. 1
    Assess the number of credit hours you can handle. You want to make sure the time, money, and energy you’re investing in your studies are worth potentially working less or having an extremely busy schedule. For instance, if you’re going to school to earn a higher degree while working a career-oriented job you already enjoy, your job may take precedence.[5]
    • Some students work full time while attending school part time. This may work especially well for supplementary degrees.
    • Talk to a counselor at whatever school you’re considering about class or program options that will work for your work schedule.
  2. 2
    Take advantage of any crossover. If you have solid job, you likely want to keep it, and may even be working towards a promotion. Having a degree may even help you pursue the career goals you’re already working towards. Fortunately, you may be able to incorporate the experience you’re gathering at work into academic assignments as well.
    • For instance, if you your job requires you to monitor the business’s social media account, you can likely apply the knowledge you’re acquiring at work to a marketing assignment in a business class.
    • You may even be able to select topics for assignments based on your job. For example, if you are assigned a project on designing a new marketing campaign, you could model the campaign on the business you’re already working for, and win points with both your professor and your boss in the process.
  3. 3
    Keep your boss informed. Avoid inundating your employer with the specifics of your schedule outside of work. However, it is worth telling them ahead of time when you know you’ll be tied up with academic responsibilities. Especially if you’re only studying part-time and working more consistently, you should remind your boss when finals are coming up. Let them know as early as possible to make it easy for them to accommodate a bit more time off for you.[6]
  4. 4
    Consider switching jobs. If you need to work but are trying to acquire some credits towards a degree, consider switching to a job that will offer a more flexible schedule or a lower time commitment. Particularly if the job you have now is unlikely to allow for career advancement, you may be able to find a job that will keep a paycheck coming while allowing a bit more time for work.
    • For instance, lots of service industry positions can allow for evening-and-weekend-only work schedules. Accordingly, they may also allow you to take an extra class.
    • Consider a job bartending or serving at a popular restaurant or bar. These positions, though sometimes challenging, have the potential to earn you a high hourly wage, and are potentially less likely to be a source of distraction when you’re not at work.

Method Three of Five:
Keeping A Routine to Enhance Productivity

  1. 1
    Keep a detailed schedule. Get in the habit of keeping a weekly plan for yourself and ensure that you set aside time for your studies every day. This can be written in a tangible calendar, or electronically with one of various electronic scheduling programs. Vary the study times to fit in with other commitments, including your job as well as exercise and social engagements.[7]
  2. 2
    Schedule time to work on specific academic tasks. As soon as you receive assignments or are made aware of an upcoming test date, schedule specific blocks of time to prepare. You may also need to adjust your work schedule to ensure you don’t work the evening before a big project is due or an exam is scheduled.[8]
    • At the start of the term, transfer everything from each class’s syllabus into your calendar, so you know exactly when important dates are coming up.
    • One good practice to try out is studying for an hour or two either right before or after each shift you work.
    • Once you’ve got a good week plan in place, try to stick to it. For example, don’t pick up a shift if it will cut into time you intended to study, unless you know you can make up that study time the next day.
  3. 3
    Establish cooperative relationships with your classmates. The proliferation of easy-to-use communication and information sharing technologies has made collaborative learning not only more feasible, but more beneficial. That said, it’s even better to sit down with other students and work through challenging material together.[9]
    • Include cooperative studying sessions in your weekly schedule – perhaps at the campus café every Thursday evening?
    • Make use of group message boards, which are often even facilitated by the class itself. If one does not already exist, make one and invite your classmates using their school email addresses.

Method Four of Five:
Staying On Top of Your Studies

  1. 1
    Find or set up a reliable place to study. Find a go-to spot where you can know you can go and focus on your studies. This applies to getting quality study time in general, which is all the more important if you’re working as well. Whether it’s a particular nook in the library or a clean desk in your bedroom, make sure the time you spend studying is productive by placing yourself in an environment free of distraction.[10]
    • Make sure to avoid rooms with televisions or other things that may draw your attention.
    • Turn your phone off, and put on headphones if other people are around. If you listen to music, choose music without lyrics to help you focus.
    • Get in the practice of keeping everything you need to study all together, perhaps in the place you study or in a backpack.
  2. 2
    Commit to several study sessions per week. It may be tempting to get all of your school work done in one or two marathon sessions each week. However, your memory and focus will work better in one or two hour sessions. Accordingly, avoid trying to get all of your schoolwork done in one sitting.[11]
    • To keep sessions consistent, get in the habit of studying at the same time four or five days a week.
    • The regularity that results from a consistent study schedule will also make your study sessions more productive. Your mental focus will be improved, as your brain will anticipate focusing on schoolwork for that part of the day.
    • Having regularly scheduled study sessions also means you can occasionally miss a study session as long as you get back into the routine as quickly as you’re able.
  3. 3
    Study with a specific goal in mind. This will help you avoid procrastinating, and it will make your study sessions more productive. Sitting down with a specific task or goal in mind will provide direction that can help you get right to work. Further, if you have multiple tasks to complete, you should start with the most challenging or most important task first.[12]
    • Since more emotional and mental effort will be required to comprehend challenging material, address it first while your mind and body are fresh and focused. More routine, busy work can be accomplished as you coast through the later part of a study session.
    • Revisit your class notes before starting an assignment. It’s very important to fully understand the specific requirements, as well as the learning objective, or assignments before you begin.

Method Five of Five:
Maintaining Mental and Physical Health

  1. 1
    Take time to decompress. In other words, schedule time for casual play as well. Even if it feels like you don’t have the time to spare, it’s important to take a break to let your mind recuperate. You can’t always work and study! Ideally, plan social activities with friends – the more physically active, the better.[13]
    • Even on especially busy days, take breaks. Go for a walk around the block, and leave your phone at home. Try not to think about what you’re working on. Instead, appreciate the way the sun and air feel on your skin, the color of the leaves, the angles of a building you’ve never noticed before.
    • Try working for about 50 minutes, and taking a 10 or 15 minute break before hunkering down for another 50 minute session of focused studying or working.
    • Plan a trip – whether to Vegas, or a campsite just out of town – to follow an especially busy period of time. Not only will the trip allow you to decompress, it will provide something for you to look forward to in the meantime.
  2. 2
    Exercise. Your body requires maintenance to be able to run on all cylinders, and to allow your mind to stay focused throughout the day. In particular, make a point of scheduling three to four 30 minute cardio sessions every week. If you don’t know when to schedule them, try getting up a bit earlier and going for a jog before you start the day.[14]
    • Though it may be challenging to include exercise in your routine initially, stick with it! You’ll soon be looking forward to each session!
  3. 3
    Get plenty of rest. It’s often tempting to stay up later, cramming in a bit more study time or a final prep session to prepare for work the following day. However, it’s often more important to ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Specific requirements vary from person to person, but shoot for eight hours a night.[15]
    • Learn the specific amount of you need by sleeping without an alarm for three days in a row next chance you get. The amount of time you naturally sleep for on the second and third nights is likely what your body requires.
    • Try to get at least seven hours a night.
    • If you find yourself sleeping in on the weekends, this is a sign your need more sleep during the week.
  4. 4
    Eat with health and energy in mind. Another trap of busy work and study lifestyle is eating grab and go meals that may be quick, but are often unhealthy. Instead of hitting a fast food restaurant for lunch, slip into a grocery store and grab some hummus with veggies or a pre-made salad. Grab a few pieces of fruit as well, to eat later in the afternoon, both as a healthy treat and an energy boost.[16]
    • Eat breakfast. Not only will this help sustain you throughout the day, it keeps your metabolism in a healthy rhythm. Try whole grain granola with Greek yogurt, sweetened with honey or fruit.
    • Keep healthy snacks with you. Raw or lightly salted nuts are a great option.
  5. 5
    Know your limits. If you’re constantly stressed, tired, or otherwise not feeling well, you may need to slow down a bit. Whenever you’re feeling overworked, talk to your boss about taking a week off from work. Use the time to catch up on rest and focus on your school assignments. On the other hand, if the amount of coursework you have is detrimentally affecting your standing at work, talk to a school counselor about your options or plan to take less credit hours next term.

Community Q&A

  • I'm 24-years-old, and right now I'm working a normal 9 - 5 job, but I don't like this job at all. I'm thinking about going back to college to further my studies. Is it a little bit too late to start college at age 24?
    Answered by Pink_Star
    • Absolutely not! It's quite common for students to still be in college in their mid-twenties, so you'd likely be the same age as some of your classmates. Even if you are older than them, that's perfectly fine -- there are people in their 50's, 60's, and 70's who are still going to school and getting their degrees. It's never too late to go back to school and further your education!
    Thanks! 17 0
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