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Working during a Masters degree is a great way to boost your finances, but you need to be careful to strike the right balance between employment and your studies.
You might be studying a full-time Masters programme while working on a part-time basis. Or you may carry on with a full-time job while studying a distance learning Masters.
This page will explain the different options available to you and suggest some tips for managing your work-life balance.
If you’re studying a full-time Masters, part-time work can sometimes be tricky to fit around your academic commitments. However, if you can find a suitably flexible job that allows you to work evenings or weekends, it can be well worth the effort.
Another factor to consider is the number of contact hours your Masters has. It’s true that the independent nature of a Masters programme means that you’ll usually have fewer dedicated contact hours than at undergraduate level (especially in Arts and Humanities subjects), but you’re expected to engage in a much higher level of research, reading and self-guided study.
In many cases this means that even though you might only have two or three hours of lectures and seminars a week, you’ll still need to spend lots of time studying / reading at home or in the library. Essentially, don’t expect to be able to work lots of hours each week, even if your Masters is comparatively low on contact time.
In STEM subjects, you’re more likely to have something along the lines of a 9-5 schedule, spending most days in the lab or lectures. If this is you, you’ll need to find a job that fits your circumstances – and make sure you don’t exhaust yourself!
There are several different kinds of part-time job and employment contract that are suitable for Masters students.
Perhaps the most common is a zero hours contract, where the employer isn’t required to offer you a set amount of hours each week and you’re not obliged to accept any work they do offer you. Although they aren’t without controversy, zero hours can be a good option for busy postgraduates who don’t want to be forced to work at a particularly hectic study period.
Another option is finding work on a casual hours basis. These kinds of job won’t provide you with a regular income stream but can give you a boost when the work is available. Universities often recruit students for casual work on open days and events, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for potentially lucrative opportunities in your email inbox.
You may also be able to find employment with a fixed-term contract, offering a guaranteed number of hours each week that you’ll need to fulfil. Some companies only require staff in certain roles for one or two days a week, so this can be ideal if your Masters schedule is comparatively relaxed and you think you can manage the balance between your studies and work.
It’s also possible to study a Masters while working full-time. Bear in mind that you’ll need to be studying the right kind of Masters, however – don’t expect to be able to successfully juggle a standard Masters programme with full-time employment commitments!
There are plenty of Masters types that are designed with the needs of the working professional in mind.
Part-time Masters have a less intense study schedule than their full-time equivalents, usually taking twice as long to complete. Emphasising flexibility, part-time Masters may involve online lectures, evening / weekend lectures or semi-regular teaching sessions.
Online Masters take place entirely online, with no requirement to attend physical lectures or seminars. Many (but not all) online Masters are also part-time.
Distance learning Masters are often largely online but may include opportunities to attend occasional residential study schools.
Whichever kind of Masters you choose to study alongside full-time work, make sure that you have the understanding and support of your employer. For example, during a particular busy exam or assessment period you may need to adjust your working hours or take time off at relatively short notice.
If your Masters is related to the industry you’re working in, it’s worth asking your employer if they would be willing to sponsor your postgraduate qualification.
Whether you’re working full-time or part-time during your Masters, you’ll need to develop excellent time management skills to keep on top of your academic and professional commitments. For more information and advice, check out Chantelle’s blog on how she balanced her work with postgraduate study.
Last updated 03/07/2020