It’s no secret that teachers go above and beyond to deliver exceptional instruction. This means, of course, spending more time prepping for class, meeting with students, and correcting papers. After all this, it can be difficult to find the motivation or energy to also tackle grad school while working full-time.
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Completing a Master of Education may not be easy if you’re already employed, but it’s a challenge worth taking on if you’re serious about climbing the career ladder or simply improving your abilities and reputation as an educator. Many teachers have successfully balanced these demands—and they’ve even found that the insight they gain as grad students can promptly deliver better outcomes in the classrooms in which they serve.
In this guide we highlight the benefits of teaching while getting master’s degrees, as well as top challenges that get in the way and solutions to help you thrive.
How to Earn a Master’s While Working Full Time
If you’ve decided to move forward with earning a master’s degree and teaching full time, you might be nervous about the busy schedule that lies in your future. Yes, you can expect a lot of hard work, but this will be accompanied by a deeper understanding of the cutting-edge concepts and solutions that promise to move the field of education forward.
We understand it can be a big step to apply for an M.Ed. program when you’re already committed to teaching. Still, there’s a lot to be gained from these simultaneous endeavors—and we’re eager to help you make the most of this valuable opportunity. Here are some ideas that can help as you consider the next step In your professional advancement.
1. Take Online Courses
Juggling extra hours of work and study can be difficult enough as is, but in some cases, directly conflicting schedules make it even tougher to balance teaching and grad school. Therein lies the value of online learning: a greater degree of flexibility.
Depending on the structure of your classes and your teaching schedule, if you choose to pursue an online Master of Education degree, you can learn at your convenience, logging in during the weekends, in the evening, or whenever you find the time. If you have an internet connection and a quiet space available, you can focus on your coursework.
Online classes also limit your need to commute. This is a huge consideration if you already spend a lot of time in the car. That extra hour that would ordinarily be spent driving, parking, and rushing to class can instead be dedicated to studying or working on your next lesson plan.
2. Build a Support Network
Support is crucial if you are going to take on the challenge of working full time and earning your master’s degree. Grad school students understand exactly what you have on your plate—and why you’ve decided to take on an extra commitment when teaching already keeps you busy.
Whether your program primarily consists of online or in-person classes, your effort to build a network of fellow students and professionals will pay off. You can consult these individuals not only while you are enrolled in your M.Ed. program, but also long after you graduate and take the next step in your career.
Your support network should also include coworkers who understand the unique demands associated with your teaching job. Many will have already earned graduate degrees or may plan on entering grad school themselves. They may be sympathetic to your concerns as a busy student and teacher and will be happy to step in when you need a helping hand.
Don’t forget the importance of loved ones. They can either help or hinder your progress as a graduate student. Spouses and partners, in particular, should be on board. Ideally, they will be willing to step in with childcare, household tasks, and other essentials when you’re busy. They should also respect your time and study space. This means providing a peaceful area in which you can focus entirely on your coursework without worrying about being interrupted.
3. Know Expectations
Balancing full-time work and graduate education is possible, but only if you understand exactly what is expected for both endeavors and whether it’s possible for all this to align. Scheduling may be less of a concern for your coursework if you choose an online program, but you’ll also want to understand the basics of how your teaching schedule will look for the next year or two.
Expectations may go beyond sheer time commitment to include considerations such as the use of technology and the role of capstone projects. These can vary not only between colleges and programs but also based on the specialty you choose. Some classes may call for mini-projects or direct technological applications, both of which require greater organization and an increased time commitment.
4. Adapt or Rearrange Your Schedule
As a teacher, you likely have more control over your work schedule than you think. For example, you may be able to dedicate your prep time to studying for grad school, as this is considered professional development. Depending on how many prep hours you’re allotted, this could provide a considerable amount of time for focusing on your coursework, thereby freeing you up from constant studying when you are home.
Keep in mind that you may need to step back on coaching, organizing fundraisers, or assisting with other projects you may have previously enjoyed. Learn to say no, even when you desperately want to get involved. Even commitments that seem modest can easily cause you to feel overextended when you already have so much on your plate. Don’t feel guilty about stepping back—the new insights you bring to your environment will prove just as valuable in the long run as the activities you miss out on while obtaining your M.Ed. degree.
Schedule adaptations will go beyond your work as a teacher. Your personal or family life may also change to a significant degree while you’re enrolled in grad school. Be willing to temporarily step back from hobbies that require a major time commitment. Likewise, you may need to enlist help from loved ones, nannies, or babysitters as you deal with childcare concerns.
Work with your partner or other family members to develop an at-home study schedule so that, no matter what else is going on, you can always depend on having a specific block of time carved out for grad school.
5. Align Your Teaching Activities with Your Studies
Considerable overlap exists between your graduate coursework and your everyday work as a teacher. Take advantage of this by aligning your teaching activities with your studies whenever possible.
If, for example, one of your graduate courses delves into practical implementations for emerging technology, why not make an effort to integrate new devices or apps into your next lesson plan? Likewise, you can draw on theories on everything from differentiated instruction to culturally responsive education in your everyday interactions with students and coworkers.
6. Take Time for Yourself
Burnout is a huge issue among educators and grad students alike. When the two pursuits are combined, the potential for overextending yourself is especially significant. If you don’t purposefully set aside time for self-care, you could be vulnerable to burnout. In addition to harming your performance in both academia and work, this could lead to major stress or even contribute to the development of long-term mental health concerns.
After a successful study session, don’t hesitate to treat yourself to a massage, a long bath, or some other indulgence. You’ll also want to set aside time for exercise and, of course, a solid night’s sleep. The occasional getaway will also do you well, even if it simply means spending a night in a hotel and relaxing without feeling the need to handle chores or errands. Remember, you will accomplish far more as both a student and teacher if your physical and mental health are in a good place.
Many teachers have survived—and thrived—while working and attending grad school full time. A busy schedule need not stop you from pursuing a Master of Education; with a little planning and a lot of support, you can accomplish both your academic and career goals.
Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!