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Grad School and Full time Job
January 17, 2012 7:10 AM   Subscribe

Going to Graduate School with a Full Time job

I graduated in 2010 with a CS degree and have been working at my current position since April. The company has recently said that they would support me if I decide to go to grad school (financially and time-wise), so I'm looking into programs I could apply to.

I work very closely to where I went to college, so I'm looking at the CS program there. They have a program that is specifically designed for people working full time, with classes being all day Friday or Saturday, but the courses I would take have been decided for me. There is also a Masters program that I could apply to which would require 31 credits.

My question is, does anyone have experience working full time and going to graduate school? Is that going to be too much work to handle? I would definitely like to have this opportunity especially since I would be supported by my company, so is graduate school really that time consuming (it seems about 8 hours of classes per week is the norm? plus outside effort obviously)?
posted by Cloud King to Education (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Depends to some extent on your program. However, it is very likely that one of the following will end up severely neglected:

-sleep
-friendships/relationships
-quality of your work (at school and at work)
posted by ropeladder at 7:15 AM on January 17, 2012


My employer expects all of the new hires who come straight out of college to get a Master's degree while working full time. However, it is expected that you will only end up taking 2 classes per term, and the program does not require any kind of thesis. All in all, it takes 3-4 years to complete.

It also helps if your employer generally expects you to work a 40 hour work week under typical circumstances rather than expecting long hours from you.

I usually take about 1 graduate-level night class every year. It doesn't interfere too much with my life, and taking 2 wouldn't be much of a stretch. The tradeoff is that you lose your free time in the evenings and have to spend at a couple of days a week doing homework, again. IMHO, though, the program is less rigorous than a full-time Master's degree program would be.
posted by deanc at 7:18 AM on January 17, 2012


I haven't taken post-bac courses in CS, but I do take math and statistics courses "a la carte" while working full-time. The most I've taken in one semester is seven credit-hours. I've been able to stay afloat and do well in terms of grades on assignments and exams. On the other hand, taking classes has substantially reduced my available free time. I'm out of the house less often. Also, I feel that my job has a detrimental effect on my ability to attain a deeper understanding of the material, read the material with the attention it really requires, etc. And yes, sleep. That becomes an issue too.
posted by Nomyte at 7:19 AM on January 17, 2012


My mom got a stipend from her job and did her therapy masters over the four years I was in high school while working a rather hardcore job (team leader at a state mental health hospital) 60+ hours a week. It was a lot of work, but she pulled through. Time management becomes the most important thing really; knowing when to stop studying/working becomes as important as the amount of time you put into it.
posted by griphus at 7:24 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went to graduate school at night with a full time teaching job (and no it wasn't an education MA). It took 4 years like someone above said and basically demolished my social life. However I loved my courses and would do it again even though I had to pay out of pocket.

If the school is near you, your employers are will to pay for you and to make accomodations for your schedule, then I think you would be crazy to turn this opportunity down!!
posted by bquarters at 7:33 AM on January 17, 2012


The rule of thumb around here (I'm a CS PhD candidate) is about three hours of study for every one hour of class, and then spend the rest of your time on actual research that leads to a dissertation. A professional masters program would be a good fit, especially if your job will let you work flexible hours, but it would be seriously insane to attempt a PhD while working full time.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:35 AM on January 17, 2012


I'm doing it right now! I work full time and go to school part time, one class per semester. The school offers a Masters that does not require a thesis, so that's the plan for the time being.

One class is about four hours of classroom time per week, plus the travel to and from campus. Personally, I feel like the time commitment is about the same or slightly more than when I was doing community theater - stressful but not daunting. It also helps that when my day job is slow I can do homework there.

Is it a pain in the ass? Yeah. Is it worth it? Well, I was essentially told to get my Masters or don't expect any further advancement in the company, and since they're paying for it all I'm losing out on is time I would have spent watching TV.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:39 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I took a MBA part time. It took 4 years, with taking 2 -3 classes a semester, including summers. Mostly 2 classes a semester, though.

It didn't kill my social life, plus I had 2 kids during the same time. If the school is close to work or home, then totally do-able. I'd leave work at 5/5:30, classes were 6-9 pm (class 1, 6-7:20, 2nd class 7:30-8:50) tues/thursday, or M/W/F (3 classes a semester schedule).

I lived 1 1/2 hours away from work/school, though, so usually went out with some folks afterwards and caught the 10pm or 11:00 train home.

A lot of the group work and projects I used real-life work issues, so that helped, as well.

If work is paying for it and willing to give some extra time concessions, go for it. My work had a 2-year payback (had to work 2 years after my last grade/graduation or I'd have to pay back whatever they re-imbursed on a rolling cycle), but that never came into play.

Go for it.
posted by rich at 7:40 AM on January 17, 2012


I went to graduate school for my MSCS and it can be very time-consuming, particularly for programming-intensive classes and thesis work. As long as your job has no particular time limit you can always take the minimum number of courses to remain matriculated and give yourself some breathing room. But you have to be careful. I took some time off in the middle when my kids were born and I was in a position where some of my early courses were going to "expire" if I didn't complete my degree work.

I thought about a PhD, but there was no advantage to having one where I worked and the only PhD program available to me at the time expected students to be full time and available to be a TA or otherwise work in the department. That was just not compatible with my life.
posted by tommasz at 7:43 AM on January 17, 2012


My husband is in his second semester of working full time and getting a professional (non-thesis) master's in CS. He's in a program designed for working adults; it's time-consuming but he did manage to get through his first semester with good grades and a relatively happy spouse even though the schedule piled up work at the end of the semester.

Socially, I have to schedule some date time to see him, and we definitely are giving up some opportunities for fun stuff (concerts, vacations, etc.) to make it work. Because of the pileup at the end of last semester, we had to forego a family visit at Thanksgiving. I don't know how he'd manage it if he were trying to date. As it is I'm doing more stuff alone than I did before he started the program. I'm OK with that, but it's something to be aware of.
posted by immlass at 7:49 AM on January 17, 2012


I think the key is whether this is a research master's program, in which coursework is rather beside the point and most of your time will be devoted to research and writing a thesis, or if it is a coursework-based master's. The latter is perfectly doable with a full time job, the former is very, very hard since research alone is a full time job.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:52 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the program is Minnesota, mefi mail me.
posted by miyabo at 8:00 AM on January 17, 2012


I got my MBA in 13 consecutive quarters of night school while working full time. I also got marrried during that period, and my first child was born 60 days after I got my MBA. It was a lot of work 8-5 - go to school for 2 classes 2X a week, get home around 10 on the nights we didn't meet up after class to work on a group project until 1 AM. I still managed to have a social life too.

It really wasn't that hard as a young single person. I certainly would never attempt it after I was married with kids. My last quarter ended up being particularly hellish as I doubled up and took two classes that part timers generally didn't take at the same time. However, I was concerned that if I didn't finish before my son was born I would forever be 1 class short of an MBA.
posted by COD at 8:16 AM on January 17, 2012


I'm doing this now. It's not fun, but it's better than either not getting my master's or not working while I get one full time. I have classes two evenings a week, and about 8 hours of work outside of class (or will, once the semester gets rolling.)

I'm a good student, but I haven't had a problem with maintaining a social life, getting enough sleep, exercising most days, etc. My finances have taken a hit because I'm paying for things I would have done without before (like a parking pass, grocery delivery, and a cleaning service.) Take a look at your life and decide which areas you'd be okay with dropping the ball on. I chose family and finances.

A lot of people do this. Something that has helped me when I get a little whiny about the program is remembering that a lot of people do this and have way more demands on their lives than I do - spouses, children, houses, mortgages, long commutes, etc. There's a lot to be said for getting your master's while your life is relatively uncomplicated.
posted by punchtothehead at 8:17 AM on January 17, 2012


Both the MSSE and the Masters are course-work only, which definitely helps.

Thanks for the replies, I'm definitely going to apply to either or both and hope to get in (it's pretty selective so there's no guarantee I'm even accepted haha)
posted by Cloud King at 8:19 AM on January 17, 2012


I'm immlass's husband, and the program you describe sounds a lot like the program I'm in at UTexas (if it's that very program memail me and I'll give you lots of boring details).

My program is actually Computer Engineering from the school of Engineering, so it's slightly different from a MSCS track. It's a 30 hour program with an expected 2 year completion time. Some of the Option 3 programs have no choices, the Software Engineering track has a few class choices.

Work has been (at all levels) very good about accommodating my schedule, even when things need to be done. If the culture of the company is that this is how you advance, I'd say take the opportunity. If that's what is expected, you might be hurting your career at the company if you don't take the opportunity.

What you'll find is that you will be forced to be organized about the entire semester. People who graduate tend to report that they don't know what do with all the free time they have. During the semester, I try to do about 2 hours/night of studing/writing/work. Sometimes (crunch times) it has to be more.
posted by Mad_Carew at 8:40 AM on January 17, 2012


I did all-day Saturday grad school while working. I think the one-day, all-day thing makes it easier -- you schlep back and forth less, you focus on the class(es) for one day. You can still hang out with people after class. Then there are five weeknights and all day Sunday for schoolwork, gym time, chores, dinner or drinks, or just collapsing.

As I've posted in the past, before you start a program, get your non-work life as organized as you can. Declutter (school brings more stuff in), set up some routines to keep chores, groceries, and errands rolling, get your car serviced (hard to do in Saturday grad school), and basically just get ready.
posted by jgirl at 8:43 AM on January 17, 2012


I worked 40 hours a week while going to Grad School full time, and I did a 10-hour-a-week Graduate Assistantship for much of that time. Although it really was the only way to keep myself afloat while getting my degree - and I'm still glad that I did it - I still have some regrets.

Basically, I had zero social life between the ages of 24 and 27. While all of my friends were going out, having fun, meeting guys - I was either working or studying. I barely had enough energy to keep up with Tuesday Night Knitting Group (my one social outlet during those years). I took a lot of weekend classes because of my work schedule.

I lived like a poor grad student and it was socially acceptable to do so as a single person in my mid-twenties. I can't imagine working full-time and school full-time if I had a family or was the age I am now. Where the hell did I get all of my energy in my mid-twenties? And why did I spend 99% of that glorious, youthful energy on work and school? I took summer courses, too. How many summer weekends did I spend in classrooms instead of camping or going to the beach? Bah.

This sounds like my decision to work full-time and go to school full-time was a bad thing. It really wasn't. I'm glad that I did it. But looking back, I pretty much sacrificed my mid-twenties to do it.
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:49 AM on January 17, 2012


I work full time while going to grad school full time so perhaps I can give you some insight.
For one, life is extremely busy. You should be passionate about your program, grading is tough, can't get less than a B in your classes.
One must figure on spending time reading anywhere from 100 to 400 pages a week per class on average.
In terms of social life, don't expect to have a vibrant one. Fortunately most of my friends are night owls so I see some of them late @ night.
Relationships can be tough, it is a balancing act.

One thing I find extremely important and practice daily is to always set aside some time for yourself everyday. It can be an hour or less, but make sure you always find time to do something you enjoy daily. It helps maintain a balance and keeps one sane.

Best of luck, feel free to email me about any other organizational tips, lifehacks and the such.
posted by handbanana at 8:53 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to graduate school while working full time. It can be a tricky balance, but I've so far managed to make it work without sacrificing too much in my personal life. I don't see my friends as often, but I still seem them a fair amount. I don't tend to go out during the week, though; weekends are my only free time and even then I'm often reading or working on papers.

However, I am doing my degree through an online program that allows me some freedom to work at my own pace (I still have deadlines for assignments and such, but I can make it fit my schedule instead of the other way around). I suspect that it would be quite different to try and work full time while attending a more tradition graduate program, but YMMV.
posted by asnider at 9:32 AM on January 17, 2012


My friend did this in the same field--her company paid for her CS master's from a prestigious school and even gave her a day off to study (so she never had to work on Fridays). She worked hard, but she (a person who is prone to anxiety) didn't really stress over it at all. Her company was very accommodating and she had a really flexible schedule.
posted by anniecat at 9:53 AM on January 17, 2012


You should talk to people who are in your specific situation or have been. Grad school means differing amounts of work for different people based on the type of program. Someone who did an MFA in creative writing may have a harder/easier time depending on curriculum requirements. People who attend specific programs that have a lot of students who are working full-time concurrently tend to have a different experience than someone who is getting a non-CS/ non-engineering masters degree in a program that is meant to be for students who enroll in programs designed for students to do nothing but the program for two years.
posted by anniecat at 9:57 AM on January 17, 2012


I worked six days a week while going to grad school about half time. The program that I was in was not that hard and one of my jobs had a lot of down time where I was able to get some of my schoolwork done (and my employers were largely supportive of this). It still just took a lot of time. It was hard to make time for social and family stuff, and I wish I had taken better care of my relationships.
posted by mskyle at 10:44 AM on January 17, 2012


I'm just finishing up my two years Master's course that I took full time. My husband lost his job and became severely ill/hospitised right when I started. I work full time, plus an additional part-time job (that has huge responsibities and ranges from 20-30 hours a week) and I have three young children.

My stress level has been through the roof, however that entirely relates to my husband's health and interference from my inlaws; in a way school was actually a relief for me and a way to escape that never-ending pressure. My parents has been wonderfully suportive, as have many of my friends.

I have loved school, have reorganised my priorities and make time for fun/going away with my children/firends for the weekend somewhere fun. I am so glad that I did spend the last two years in school, otherwise I would be exactly where I am now - severely ill husband, three children, no money but without the piece of paper and a feeling of accomplishment.
posted by saucysault at 2:27 PM on January 17, 2012


I'm just finishing up my two years Master's course that I took full time. My husband lost his job and became severely ill/hospitised right when I started. I work full time, plus an additional part-time job (that has huge responsibities and ranges from 20-30 hours a week) and I have three young children.

My stress level has been through the roof, however that entirely relates to my husband's health and interference from my inlaws; in a way school was actually a relief for me and a way to escape that never-ending pressure. My parents has been wonderfully suportive, as have many of my friends.

I have loved school, have reorganised my priorities and make time for fun/going away with my children/friends for weekends somewhere fun. I am so glad that I did spend the last two years in school, otherwise I would be exactly where I am now - severely ill husband, three children, no money but without the piece of paper and a feeling of accomplishment.
posted by saucysault at 2:28 PM on January 17, 2012


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