Part Time Going Full Time?
August 14, 2012 11:55 AM   Subscribe

How practical is a full time position while taking on a full time course load?

I got a job during my second year of university and have been working there for two years now. I have been working part-time although my hours varied based on how often I wanted to work. I could work 60+ hours/biweekly or I could end up working 30+ hours/biweekly. It's easier to give away shifts as a part-time employee and I have so much more downtime as a part-time employee.

But, I was offered a full time position with benefits, the only concern is that I would be receiving less money compared to my part time position. Instead of 15.25/hour I would be receiving 14.25 or 14.50 an hour. I would only have 8 days off/month. However, I would also have paid vacation time.

I've tried figuring out if this is practical while also taking on a full course load (5 courses/semester for the next year).

I definitely need the money since I live paycheck to paycheck. I also take care of all of my financial expenses. I will be getting financial assistance, but it would be great if I could minimize the amount of debt that I'd have to take on since I paid my way through school and only have about $5,000 in student loans.

I want a sense of security in terms of my finances and hours worked so that I know how much money I'll be getting biweekly. I'm also interested in working full time because I want to be living in a different city or possibly country from now. I know that people can move with very little money, but I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that because I need a sense of financial security (even if it's a small amount) before moving somewhere.

But, as someone with depression I fear that this might be way too much for me. I currently have a degree although my marks were subpar since I didn't put much of an effort. I ended up with high 60s and low 70s throughout my first degree. It was a general degree instead of an honours degree. I also don't feel like I learned anything from my first degree because I didn't focus enough on school.

I promised myself that I would do things differently and put forth a much better effort for my second degree. I want to make sure that I live up to that promise. I feel like I might be able to do this because I'd only have 1-2 classes on campus and the remaining 3-4 would be online.

In regards to the job, there tends to be down time so I could actually complete a lot of my readings, online lectures, etc.. during my shifts. My shifts would have a consistent start and end time rather than having a bunch of shifts that are all over the place. But, I am TERRIBLE at managing my time and I'm also pretty lazy. For instance, if I have a shift that is from 2PM-10PM then I won't do anything until I have to get ready to go to work.

Before finding out about this full time position, I was thinking about reducing my hours drastically so that I could focus more on myself and school assuming that I'd receive enough financial assistance through student loans. But, I don't know which option is better for me since I feel like I'd be sacrificing something either way. If I keep my current position as a part-time employee then I'd be sacrificing a sense of financial security, but if I get the full-time hours then I'd be sacrificing A LOT of my time. My bills and rent need to get paid regardless so with a part-time position I would just barely get by, but a full time position would allow me to save some more money.

I asked what the hours would be like, but my supervisor told me that the management team does not know what the hours will be like until later because it depends on what hours need additional coverage. My supervisor also responded by asking me if I'd prefer a morning, afternoon, or evening shift.

Also, I realize that taking on a part-time course load seems like an obvious answer, but it's not something that I want to do. I don't want to stay in school for such a long time or live in this city after August 2013...

So with all of that being said, how practical is a full time position while taking on a full time course load?
posted by livinglearning to Work & Money (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've done it for years. It is difficult to balance both the demands of a job and school in addition to "life shit". I am actually for the first time in years NOT taking a full load while working full time. I find my grades are better when I have less course work. Its doable again, but you will do better and feel more sane with a better balance.
posted by handbanana at 12:02 PM on August 14, 2012

I think you answered your own question. If you are terrible at managing your time, then you probably won't be managing your time. That's the most important skill you will need to pull this off. I wouldn't do it if I were you.
posted by greta simone at 12:03 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

when you're in school is not the time to save money. if you can at all afford it, don't work full time. you've just said you have suffered from not focusing enough on school. working full time doesn't make any sense given the facts you've laid out. not even a close call. do you want to do well in school?
posted by facetious at 12:03 PM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Can you get treated for the depression? That will make a huge difference in the amount of work you will be able to do. I did most of my undergrad and all of my grad work while working full time and going to school full time. It's definitely intense, but it's completely do-able. What kind of degree is it? A two-year degree is no problem. A four-year degree would definitely take more of a toll.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:05 PM on August 14, 2012

The main problem with this is going to be scheduling your classes around a full time position.

If you're working in eight hour blocks 4-5 days a week, it's going to be really difficult to force your class schedule to work around that and also sleep.

For example you give the 2pm-10pm shift example. Let's say you work 2-10 both weekend days and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

You will also need to sleep, so assume that after work you'll come home and go directly to bed (best case scenario, often difficult in practice), and that it's really true that you can somehow do all of your homework while at work.

So you'll show up for work at 2, get off at 10, sleep from say 11-9 AM. This is all best case scenario -- you have a short commute and you never have to do homework or study or write papers during your own time. You also have no hobbies, no social life, and no other obligations, and you are perfect at time management and are never late or sick or anything else.

You now have a class window of something like 10AM to 1PM, on days that you work, as well as your random two days off per week (Mondays and Fridays).

Can you take a full courseload of classes you actually need between 10-1, and/or exclusively on Mondays and Fridays?
posted by Sara C. at 12:06 PM on August 14, 2012

For me, it was totally practical. I'd go to school from 8:00 until Noon, then hop in the car and to my full time job from 12:30 PM until 9:30 PM. That was great! I worked full tilt boogie until about 5, then it died. There were three of us, so I could study, write papers, and whatever else I needed to do for school. (No internet back in the day).

It was all Monday through Friday, so I had weekends free.

I was driven and basically, I just wanted to get the eff out of school. (I accomplished this 7 years after I started.)

I don't think it's such a great idea for you.

Now, you could commit to doing better with your time, but you seem to think that time management and laziness are things that can't be cured. If you feel that way, then I'd say no, don't do this.

You are going to have to decide which is more important. Working full time and saving money, or going to school full time and getting out in a reasonable amount of time.

Unless you feel that you can change your attitude and your approach to how you're living your life. One of those is going to be a better choice for you.

You can try CBT to see if you can ratchet up to being able to do both.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:07 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did it as an undergrad with no problem, but I had a consistent schedule (4pm - midnight, M-F) and I was getting a liberal arts degree from a not-very-difficult state university. If you are worried about your time management skills or mental health before even getting into this situation, I would recommend against it.
posted by something something at 12:08 PM on August 14, 2012

I advise my students that they have to choose whether they will work full-time and go to school part-time or work part-time and go to school full-time. Students who try to do both generally find that they are doing a pretty bad job at both (with the possible exception mentioned above of a job where you're basically getting paid to do your homework). Especially since you already have one degree that you feel you didn't do your best on, I really think you should reconsider severely reducing your workload one way or another.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:11 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is this full time grad school, or full time undergrad? I'd say it depends on what you're studying. Why isn't part time school an option?

I did my undergrad (full time) while working part time, and my grad school while working part time. I was able to work during the weekend so that I was at school on my days off. But I only had two courses a semester, so it was easy to juggle, and I worked from home on the weekend. If you do this, you really need to work in some me time so you don't go crazy.
posted by loriginedumonde at 12:12 PM on August 14, 2012

IMO, taking a full time position and a full courseload simultaneously is not even remotely practical. Something is going to suffer, whether it be your grades, your job performance, your sleep, or your health (mental and physical alike). In college I once attempted to take 28 credit units while working 2 part-time jobs and while I technically survived, I know I didn't get nearly as much out of my classes as I should have, and moreover, I felt like crap and at one point my immune system got so fried that I contracted a simultaneous double ear infection/throat infection/pinkeye combo.
posted by aecorwin at 12:14 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also feel like this could work if you had huge motivating energy and wouldn't be doing it very long. Like, let's say the full time position is a big career advancement that would be important in the long term. And that you're a semester away from graduating, and that you'll be staying on in your full time job after graduation. In that case, sure, do it.

If this is just you taking more bar shifts for some undisclosed amount of time, and you have another two years toward your degree in an unrelated field? Or worse, after this you want to go to grad school? Avoid.
posted by Sara C. at 12:17 PM on August 14, 2012

I've held an office job for the past ten years (and have been freelancing on the side for seven years). I started going to school at night six years ago for my bachelor's degree (physics and math) at 23 years old. My last semester at school was full time while continuing to work full time. It was doable, but I was able to juggle work, school and freelancing. But it wasn't sustainable.

If it was more than one semester, I would have had to let one of the three fall apart.

The fact that I had a job with vacation days saved up where I could come in on Wednesday and say to my boss "hey, school's a bit much, mind if I take Thursday and Friday off?" helped immensely. Will you be able to do this?

It was also a lucky coincidence that the weeks I were working 70 hours a week for a large project started last June and finished up by early last September. If that crunch time at work happened during a school semester, I'd have problems and something would have had to fall apart. Can your employer promise you no crunch time until you're done with school?
posted by Brian Puccio at 12:23 PM on August 14, 2012

I don't see the upside, really, to full-time employment in your scenario.

To me, as a part-time employee, if you wanted to work more, you'd be working more now. You even say your hours are dependent on how much you want to work. So why not just ask for more hours at work if you want to earn more money?

The negative of a full-time position in your scenario is a loss of flexibility when papers are due, exams are coming, you're feeling overwhelmed/depressed, or you just want a break. If you're making more money per hour, at a certain point paid vacation is just something you could take if you saved the difference between your salary now and then. It's not an "added bonus" if you receive vacation pay either.

To me, there's no salary upside to this and a big risk that you get overwhelmed. Why take that risk? My advice would be to work as many hours as you can when you have free time, and to ease off when you need to focus on school.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 12:25 PM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm in school full time right now, juggling 1-4 part time jobs depending on the time of year (in the fall, I will be working an average of 35 hours a week between 3 jobs, with possible random shifts from the 4th). The reason I have all these jobs? They are extremely flexible. By not having demands on my time, I can prioritize school while still making money. Sometimes it's pretty chaotic, but they are the best combination of jobs I could have while going to school full time. I would never trade these in for 1 full-time job, because the nature of a full-time job is that it is your first priority. Factually, school is your first priority and a full time job does not fit into that.

The fact that you were already thinking of cutting your hours down shows that it will hurt you at school, not help. You probably would not be making much more anyhow with the hourly cut (those benefits you'd be getting? That's why your hourly is reduced.) and you'll be just as likely to get a full time job easily once you're out of school.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:32 PM on August 14, 2012

Taking out more loans is fine as long as you will make enough to pay them back when you are done. $5000 is nothing. The monthly payments will be low. You could up it to $10,000 and your college debt would still cost you less than a cheap car.

A full-time job in addition to a full-time courseload is too much work for most people. You may end up taking longer to graduate, which would undo the financial benefits of working more. Work part time, take out modest loans, and work full-time during your summer breaks.
posted by twblalock at 12:35 PM on August 14, 2012

Given your personal situation & issues, I recommend very very strongly against it. Among other considerations, your meds/therapy situation is still in flux, if I've kept up with everything well enough.

I've pulled off working 40 hours a week while taking 20 quarter credit hours - for three weeks. Then it all fell apart, and it was so much harder getting back on just the school train, let alone putting the pieces back together with regard to the rest of my life.

I'm also going to remind you that you have bigger issues with studying, and more complex issues than just not being that great with time management - the kinds of stuff that means it takes more work/patience/time off to get your studying done, than it might for someone without those issues.

Online classes also require a lot more dedication, self-discipline, and daily consistency than classroom-classes, BTW. While depressed, I suck at online classes.

(It's also really worth considering the cost of cutting ties with your current employer - having the years on your resume is more important than the weekly hours, and you're more likely to get a good recommendation from a job you've been at for a long time and done consistently good work for, than from one where you're a newbie.)

Oh. And you possibly have FMLA coverage right now at your current job - you can't meet the minimum requirements for FMLA until you've been employed for 12 months at the new job.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 12:36 PM on August 14, 2012

In your case, I would say hell no, absolutely not, you can't do this. Some people are not natural born jugglers and you do need to be good on time management in order to do so. You also need to kick your own ass, and it doesn't sound like you do it. I had a roommate who was trying to do a full time night job and full time school and dear lord, she had a hard time. I'm surprised she graduated because she was not meant to juggle. You sound kinda like her, minus the sleep disorder.

I think under your circumstances, I'd stick to the full time job (it sounds like money is your top priority) and NOT try to do a full time load. Heck, maybe you're just not ready to do school now (especially if you plan on moving in a year--were you going to transfer schools? That means even more classes to take if you switch), so I would say to wait until you've got money saved enough to go part time, or just wait until after you move.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:38 PM on August 14, 2012

Oh yeah, and as for online classes: they are ridiculously easy to FORGET ABOUT ENTIRELY. I love online shit and I am terrible at online classes and don't finish them--and that was free stuff. If you're not having to account for your time to go to class MWF 10-12 or whatever, you need to be highly motivated to keep up with whatever's going online, when you have no set time for it and can just find yourself blowing it off.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:40 PM on August 14, 2012

Thanks for the advice, everyone!

Your advice helped confirm something that I feel like I already knew. I'm not cut out to work full time and go to school full time, and the more that I think about it, I don't even have a desire to do something that intense even if it means financial security.

I had to take a semester off of school earlier this year for the sake of my mental health, so it's not worth it to attempt to juggle so many things at once...

I will be using student loans while also working full time, it's not a lot, but it's enough to help me get by while having more free time to focus on myself and my education.
posted by livinglearning at 1:00 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

But, I am TERRIBLE at managing my time and I'm also pretty lazy.
I think you should use this new gig as a chance to get better at managing your time. And, are you really lazy or is that depression? If you're really lazy, kick your own ass and stop that shit. But if you're operating in slo-mo due to depression, you might want to talk to your therapist/shrink about how to increase your productivity without burning yourself out.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:39 PM on August 14, 2012

Not very. Especially when you factor in the depression.
posted by strelitzia at 1:46 PM on August 14, 2012

I've worked quite a lot with people with poor organisation and time-management skills and I would advise you not to go full time. When things start getting tricky it's the things of least consequence that get dropped and that's always academic work since it's largely more flexible.

I also am completely amazed at how people at North American universities seem to be able to do this. In my first degree at an English Uni (admittedly one of the more prestigious) I had classes six days a week 9-12 then afternoon classes 1-5 or 2-4 5 days per week, then early evening tutorials. I also had written work due every week for every class. I was usually working every evening and most of my weekend day, though of course I occasionally saw friends. Where do you find time to have a job? In my more recent masters degree at a different university I had lectures or clinic 9-5 every weekday and clinical sessions to prepare for every week, plus written work to do. I didn't really have a social life during this degree and there is no way I could have had a job doing more than 4 hours per week.
posted by kadia_a at 1:54 PM on August 14, 2012

I tried to do this knowing I had pre-existing issues with depression and time management, hoping it would all work itself out, and it was a trainwreck. I failed out of school and didn't make anywhere near enough money to have made it worth it, or even break even. Only you know whether you have a chance of making this work (as many posters above demonstrate, some people do), but if it starts looking like a problem back out fast.

Firstly, in your position I would make sure that you have an exit strategy for if your school performance starts to suffer. Can you set up an agreement with your employer guaranteeing that you'll be able to transition back to part-time work quickly if you need to? Don't hesitate to pull the plug if you have concerns, otherwise you'll just pull down both your grades and your potential job references. Having an exit strategy might also make you feel relaxed enough to succeed!

Secondly, if you are aiming for a career after school that makes substantial use of your degree subject, be wary of full-time work. If you're working full-time plus your coursework, you'll only do the minimum on your coursework. Where will you find the time to go above and beyond on your research/practicals, network with peers/professors, etc.? If on the other hand you're getting a more generic degree, pulling off working full-time and your course load would make you look great to potential employers.
posted by pickingupsticks at 2:05 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pickingupsticks, I don't know a lot about British universities, but my understanding is that there are pretty significant differences in how the two systems work.

As an anthropology major at a non-prestigious state school, I'd typically take five courses per semester, which met for three hours a week over the course of an 18-week semester. This would result in two exams per course, one or two papers per course (more if it was a literature or writing course), and about half the courses would have some kind of big project or assignment that wasn't specifically a paper or an exam. So in any given semester, I'd have 10 exams, ~10 papers, and a couple or three projects, all spaced out through the semester in a predictable enough pattern. And being a decent student, at least half of that could be accomplished with minimal preparation.

All of that said, I never managed more than 20-30 hours a week of casual non-demanding work when I was a full time student. Even if you can break out most of the assignments to specific points in the semester and coast through half of it without studying, it's still hard work that requires focus.
posted by Sara C. at 2:22 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Consider also that your current wage might increase once you have finished your studies. So it makes more sense to do well in school, enjoy it, and then start to save money and pay off debt once you are earning a larger income.
posted by lulu68 at 5:40 PM on August 14, 2012

I've done this.... but based on your description, I don't know how good it would be for you. Some online courses are actually more demanding time-wise (to balance the "open-book"ness of them) and you might end up having a hard-ass (like me) for a supervisor - I hate when people use work-time for non-work stuff (no, your computer lab supervision time is not down time for you to study your physics homework - it's still work time and why haven't you balanced the budget yet?! ...ahem)

I was able to work full time and study full time at the same time probably in part because I had a very relaxed attitude towards most my classes. If I failed, who cares? Also those were for early classes - maybe one or two maor classes a semester as I got the prereqs down. Once I started concentrating more in my discipline, I did have to cut back the hours. If you're looking to finish by next August I should think you're into your main classes....

If you already had to take off a semester, why not ust try to get back in with one class? And def. take the ob with benefits - that could be used to help your depression.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 6:22 PM on August 14, 2012

I have always found that the busier people are the better they are at time management. When I was an undergrad I was super lazy and had terrible time management. Now I am working full time, in grad school full time and have a six month old baby at home. I am great at managing my time and have no problems.

When I see the other students in my grad program I notice the same thing. The busy students are the ones who are managing their time effectively and getting everything done, while the students that don't have jobs or other obligations are the ones who keep filing for extensions and seem to have serious trouble keeping up with the coursework.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:32 PM on August 14, 2012

I really appreciate everyone's answers.

Ideefixe, thanks for the suggestion. I'm definitely going to mention that to the psychologist that I work with. It's very difficult for me to do things because of my social anxiety, but also because of my depression which I've had for years now. I am getting help through meds and therapy, but I never thought about asking for ways to be productive. I'll bring that up in a week or two since that's when I'm seeing the psychologist.

My job is also not something that I enjoy enough to the point where I'd be okay with only having 8 days off a month and I would not be making a whole lot with this type of position.

I would still get dental benefits because I pay some student related fees in my full time tuition.

I can also pick up hours whenever I want to and have actually cut back drastically for this month alone just because I realized that it was all taking a mental toll on me. I can still work, but I'm realizing that working 65 hours/biweekly at this point in my life isn't what I need and that I need to take things slowly before juggling too many things.

Online courses are easier for me, personally. Sure, there is more work involved but I like online courses much better than on campus courses. I have taken quite a few online courses and have done relatively well while coasting by, so I know that I can do even better with more focus on my academic life rather than work life.
posted by livinglearning at 7:48 PM on August 14, 2012

I did it for the last 3 years of college. Full time 8 to 5 job during the day and then directly to full time night classes .IT sucked BUt got me through college .

I Was able to get away with 1 class a semester being online.
posted by majortom1981 at 6:15 AM on August 15, 2012

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