This article is by freelance journalist Lucy Skoulding
Part-time study allows people to fit other life commitments around their learning, whether this be a family, job, or something else. It brings incredible opportunities to people that may not otherwise be able to gain the qualification they want and it has been made even easier with the development of digital learning.
There are many reasons you might want to study part-time. For me, doing the NCTJ journalism qualification was my route into the industry, but I couldn’t afford to stop working full time to do it. And it seems I’m not alone…
In higher education, 519,825 uk students enrolled in part-time undergraduate degrees in the year 2016-2017, according to the HESA. This is compared with 1,798,050 student who opt to study full-time indicating that part-time study is more of a viable option for many people these days.
When it comes to a Masters, part-time education is even more popular than regular study; in 2016-2017, full-time students numbered 236,590 while part-time students totalled 202,485.
Why study part time?
You may not have a full-time job but still want to study part-time alongside some form of work so you can dedicate plenty of time to learning.
Part-time study is also fantastic for those who want a career change. Some of my classmates were older and had worked in other jobs. They were doing the part-time course because they wanted to become a journalist but had too many financial commitments to quit their nine to five.
What are the benefits?
From my experience, studying while working has a lot of benefits, even disregarding the chance to earn while you learn.
People were very impressed by me being able to gain my qualification while still being successful in my job. I even received an award at work for doing it.
You can often use the fact you have studied alongside a job to prove you can balance commitments and you are dedicated to your career (employers might be super impressed!).
Another benefit is applying what you learn in the classroom to your job. Or, if you start your course while in an irrelevant job, your course may give you the chance to apply for jobs you want to pursue. I managed to do the latter, gaining my first journalism job a few months after starting my qualification.
What you should know before applying
It’s important to check whether the work and study part-time life is for you, before embarking on it.
Ensure you know exactly what is involved in your course. That includes finding out how much of your week you will need to dedicate to it, when and where lessons are (if there are any), and when you would have deadlines for exams or other work. Make sure you know what will be expected of you and work out if you can fit it in to your life.
Consider whether you will need to give anything up to fit the course in and ask yourself if you are ok with that. Speaking as someone who tried it, you probably won’t be able to carry on everything you are currently doing. It won’t necessarily mean a huge change, but you might need to cut down on something.
How to choose a part-time course
One of the biggest decisions you need to make is do you want face-to-face tuition, an online course, or distance learning involving teaching yourself? Most qualifications will have all options, you need to decide which is right for you.
Personally, I chose face-to-face lessons in a class because I felt I needed structure to stay focused. However, this was easy for me because I live half an hour away from where my classes took place. Not everyone is in this position, so online courses or distance learning might be a better option.
You then need to carefully research all the courses that fall under what you have decided. Think about what is important to you and go with that one.
Do you want a more practical course? Are you happy to do lots of exams? Do the lesson times work for you if you’re having lessons? How much does the course cost, and does the training centre or educational establishment have a good reputation?
My tips for juggling study and work
- Plan all your time, even relaxation
I had to become Miss Organised when I decided to balance study with a full-time job which, I won’t lie, did not come naturally to me but it was worth it. At the start of each week I planned what studying I needed to do and blocked out time so I made sure I got it done. If time is tight, you might even need to plan when you will relax and have fun, which is equally important to avoid burning out.
- Tell your workplace about studying
This is really important in my opinion. I know it depends on whether the studying is relevant to your current job, but if you can possibly tell your workplace, even if it’s just your boss, it will be a weight off your shoulders. My workplace were really supportive of me studying and my boss always asked if I was managing ok in our one-to-ones, which was really encouraging.
- Get inventive with fitting in your study
During your commute is a great time – even if you have to stand up on a train, you could listen to relevant podcasts or have revision documents saved on your phone. What about during your lunch break, even if it’s just for half an hour? Or you could aim to get in to work early and study at your desk before work begins.
- Keep an eye on your health
This involves not only making time to eat well, exercise, and sleep but also being aware of your mental health and stress levels. If you want to work and study part-time, you’ll need to look after your wellbeing. Seek help, even if that’s just talking to your course tutor for tips on studying efficiently if you’re struggling.
- Strive for efficiency
My best tip for making the most out of study time is the Pomodoro technique. It requires 25 minutes of solid work followed by a five-minute break where you can go on your phone, have a chat, or make tea, before returning to work again. During that 25 minutes you can’t even answer the phone!
To work and study part-time is to be super-focused and efficient with your time. It’s a struggle sometimes, but I promise it will be worth it in the end…
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