Many people are unsure whether they will be able to balance part-time work and MSc studies, especially those who can’t afford to study without working. This was definitely something I was concerned about when embarking on this course. How would I be able to complete my university work and work part-time? Would I have enough time to still do the things I enjoy and have a social life? I’d managed to work part-time alongside my undergraduate study towards a BA (Hons) Management with Marketing at RGU.
When researching the course I was glad to discover the only timetabled days were Mondays and Tuesdays. This gives me five days of flexibility to work and study. Furthermore, it involves less commute time between uni, work and home. This also means that I can get the majority of my work hours completed over a couple of days. I find that working two eight-hour shifts is much easier to plan around than four shifts of four hours.
I work from eight to 20 hours a week in retail depending on the time of year. This changes based on the store’s operational needs for holiday cover, large deliveries and store visits. Therefore, I have been challenged with balancing heavier and lighter working weeks with my university workload. Personally, I really enjoy working alongside my studies. I find it provides a great distraction at times, taking my mind off upcoming deadlines. However, it does have its challenges at times but most can be met with a little bit of organisation!
My Tips For Balancing Part-Time Work and MSc Studies
As I am now approximately three quarters of the way into the course and have worked for the whole duration, I have used my experience to gather together five tips on how to balance studying full time alongside working part-time and conquering the small challenges that may arise along the way:
1. Be Organised
Create artificial deadlines for assignments. If I know I am going to be working a lot during the week of a deadline and have class on the Monday and Tuesday of that week, I will assign myself a deadline for completing a draft of my work on the preceding Sunday. This gives me a week to read over my work in my spare time and avoids panic around the deadline. This also means you will not have to compromise the quality of your work.
Be organised with your time and how you are splitting it between your part-time work and MSc studies. I find that having it noted in a diary or calendar really helps. This will ensure no nasty surprises (deadlines) creep up on you. In my diary for the few weeks leading up to a deadline, I will note how many weeks I have remaining. I use this countdown as a reminder of what is coming up and what I will need to do.
Carry a diary at all times or use an electronic one (I suggest using Google Calendar). Use this to note all your work, university commitments and plans in one place just to ensure there is no overlap.
Don’t be scared to revise your organised schedule, it is likely that something will change or come up, either within your studies or at work or within your personal life. You may have to move your plans around to accommodate for these. If you’re organised enough, a reshuffle shouldn’t affect your studies, just the timing of when you do the work.
2. Work Smart
Be creative about when you work. You can find opportunities to study, whether it be on your lunch break or on your commute to work.
At the start of each day write out a to-do list and in this list include all things work, university and personal. I find it helps to code this list based on items that are negotiable and non-negotiable and work my way through it based on order of priority
3. Take Time Out For You
It may be tempting to push yourself physically and mentally to receive the best grades and earn as much money as possible. But it is important to remember to take a break and focus on you. This can be overly exhausting! An afternoon off is likely to refresh you so much that it allows you to be twice as productive the following day and more relaxed after having taken a step back from your work to evaluate it later. It will generally have a positive effect on your performance within your part-time work and MSc studies.
4. Less Time For Procrastination
Working alongside uni encourages you to be more proactive with when you study. Often knowing I have four hours prior to starting my shift allows me to concentrate harder and work quicker than knowing I have all day to get the same amount of work done. I find this encourages me to be less distracted.
5. Don’t Overcommit
Work out exactly how much you have to work and how many hours you can afford to dedicate to work based on the requirements of your studies and don’t overcommit. It may be tempting to say yes when offered overtime to earn you a few extra pennies to spend on those shoes you’ve been eyeing up. However, I always tell myself that this is the only opportunity I am going to get to do this degree and do it to the best of my abilities so the shoes can wait and I prioritise my uni work based on that.
Do you have any tips for balancing part-time work and MSc studies? Let us know in the comments!