Time to answer another wonderful question. Yes, I have experienced working full time as well as going to grad school. It is tough, let me tell you. It is not impossible, though. Going to grad school while working full time is a great way to increase your chances at a promotion, get more money, gain more skills, and show off that you’re a smarty pants lol. There are many questions that you will have before starting a grad program and today I want to talk about a few very important ones, relating to classes and how many grad classes to take while working full time.
So, how many grad classes should you take while working full time? If you are an over achiever that wants to spend all of their life working, then 9 credits (3 classes) is a good start. If you are like me and don’t want to hit burnout, 2 classes or 6 credits is the max that you should take. 1 class is ideal for someone that wants a degree but doesn’t really care how log it takes.
During Your Master’s
Why choose 3 Classes
9 credits is a full time gig. 3 classes is usually the max amount of classes that full time students tend to take. I have never taken more than 3 classes at a time in grad school because there just really isn’t enough time in the day to complete classwork as well as research. Also, taking this amount of classes keeps you on schedule to graduate in 2 years without going insane. A typical course load for a master’s student is usually 3 classes your first and second semesters, 6 credits you last two semesters. For thesis driven individuals, the last 6 credits is usually your research.
When you are working full time, you probably won’t be doing research. Many full time workers are just trying to get their degrees to boost either their pay or their potential to grow in their company. If you want to move that along extremely quickly, you can do a full time course load and take 3 classes each semester. This is doable but not advised.
I would suggest staying away from this amount of work unless you are truly ready to be working every hour of the day. If you have a family or want free time, I would suggest taking fewer classes.
Why Choose 2 Classes
2 classes each semester (spring and fall) is a good way to finish your degree in about 2.5 years. This is assuming that you are taking master’s courses and not doing a PhD. Most master’s are 30 credits so 2 classes*3 credits = 6 credits a semester for 5 semesters or 2.5 years. This is what I did. The grad classes I took while working full time were engineering courses. So, taking more than 2 courses was going to be too much. There were many days where I would be working on course work during my lunch. Also, planning exams around your schedule is often quite difficult.
If you are working full time and in a hurry, I would suggest not taking more than 2 classes each semester. This is a good amount of course work to keep you busy, but not too much to make you slack on your duties at your job. Also, more than this amount of coursework may be detrimental to your GPA. Remember, you have to maintain a B in your course work.
Why Choose 1 Class
So there are plenty of reasons to only take one grad class while working full time. The main reason is because taking more than this may cause you to fall behind in your work at your job. You may also want to dive deeper into topics covered in your classes more and taking too many may have you stressing to pass instead of learning. Heck, you may only be able to afford 3 credits at a time. Grad school classes are pretty darn expensive and being able to afford only one class is something you have to consider.
Taking one course while working full time almost guarantees that you won’t stress yourself out and you can have a life outside of work and school. One class is also extremely manageable so you probably won’t fall behind. Unfortunately, it will take you much longer to finish your degree. So, I said it would take you about 5 semesters to finish a master’s with 6 credits. Well, double that time and that’s how long it will take you to finish with only one class each semester. 5 years! That’s how long it will take. This is one of the reasons why I would recommend taking 2 grad classes a semester while working full time than 1.
During your PhD
If you are crazy enough to work full time and pursue a PhD, then you are a more motivated person than me lol. I actually know people doing their PhDs while working full time. They usually have their master’s done already and only need to take a few classes before they get into their research. I would say that if you are only doing the coursework part of a PhD while working full time, 2 classes is the absolute most you should take. A PhD is a marathon and not a sprint. Plus, you’ll be in the program for a pretty long time so you don’t need to focus too much on the classes. The class work in a doctorate program is mainly there to help you with the research that you will be doing and less of being a requirement.
A master’s degree is mostly coursework while a PhD is learning to do research. This is why taking fewer classes and substituting the class time for research time is a must. Often, in PhD programs, research is pretty much it’s own 3 credit course. Treat it that way. So, take maybe 3 credits of a course and 3 credits of research each semester. You will likely only have to take a max of 15 course credits or 5 classes, so you can spread those out. The research credits will take up the majority of the total credits earned. Hopefully this makes sense.
So, if you want to do a doctorate while working full time, take a max of 6 credits, or 2 classes. You will be very busy for a very long time.
If you are thinking about doing grad school while you work full time, you have some hard work ahead of you. It is so rewarding though and 100% worth it. Honestly, doing grad school while working as an engineer was the best thing that happened to me. It introduced me to the wonderful world of research. Also, without going to grad school, there would be no love and bean :(.
If you have any questions taking grad classes while working full time, send me an email. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to tell you about my experience as well as help you with any questions that you may have.
As always, I hope you all have a wonderful day. If you haven’t checked out my blog about the hardest parts about going to grad school (link here), I suggest checking that out. Until next time, peace!