Nine Tips for Professionals Going Back to School

If you’re considering going back to school, but are reluctant to commit the time and effort, consider the proven benefits of an education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) demonstrates that the more education you have, the less likely you are to be unemployed – an average of 2.5 percent of individuals with a bachelor’s degree are unemployed; 2.2 percent for masters and 1.5 percent for a doctoral degree.

An education is a traditional career development pathway that could lead to more responsibilities along with the corresponding benefits.

Although this information is motivating, you may be thinking that holding a full-time job while attending school requires time and tremendous effort. Yet, thousands of professionals return to school and graduate with an advanced degree each year. How do they do it? This article explores the answer.

Two Northcentral University professionals who’ve earned their master’s degrees while working full-time and raising families share their strategies that allowed them to complete their degree programs.

Related article: Returning to Graduate School After a Long Hiatus

Our Working Students

NCU alumna Becky Neal

Becky Neal is NCU’s Human Resource Liaison and has been with the University since 2013. She is the married mother of four children (aged 19, 18, 16 and 14) and recently graduated with a Master of Arts in Psychology with a specialization in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.

Ray Poserina began working with NCU in 2010 and is an Associate Director of Admissions. He is married and the father of two children. “I was last in college in 1986 when I earned my associate degree,” he said. “I sent for my transcripts in 2012, but they sat in my house for five months because fear set in. I didn’t think I could do it.”

He eventually started his education in 2013 and Ray walked for his bachelor’s degree in 2017, his Master of Business Administration in 2018 and is considering continuing his education to earn a Doctor of Business Administration. This leads us to our first strategy…

Tip 1 – Believe in yourself and work hard

Ray’s advice for students who are dealing with fear and questioning whether they can complete their education is, “Believe in yourself. Picture the end in your mind, work hard and it will happen.”

NCU alumn Ray Poserina

Tip 2 – Get your family on board

Talk to your spouse and children about your plans and enlist them to help with chores around the house. “Having my family’s buy-in and understanding is important– especially when I was cranky,” laughed Becky. “There were lots of crock pots and delegation.”

Ray had an ulterior motive when he involved his kids, “I wanted to demonstrate the importance of education to my daughters and led by example.”

Related article: Take Five. A Moment with Our Alumni – Dr. Douglas Brown

Tip 3 – Choose flexible start times

Online schools offer students the opportunity to study any time and from any place with an internet connection.

You can gain greater flexibility from Northcentral University’s one-on-one format. Classes start each Monday because there’s no waiting for other students to enroll in a class. You can delay a class if you know an important work project will take up too much time and you don’t have to worry about being wait-listed for popular courses.

Tip 4 – Take one class at a time

Both working students suggested a one-class-at-a-time approach to maintain the balance between work, family and school. “I knew that my programs included 25 total classes, but my kids were in high school and I wanted to make sure I was there for my family, too,” explained Ray.

Tip 5 – Plan ahead

“The syllabus for each program allowed me to plan out my class and study times for the entire course,” said Becky. “I literally put a reminder in my phone to do homework during lunch. That 45 minutes every day was important.”

Ray points out, “My life is not any different from anybody else’s. I knew what I was doing each week, planned for it and that’s how I earned my degrees.”

Related article: 5 Organizational Tips for Grad Students

Tip 6 – Carry study materials with you

“You never know when you’ll have a spare 10-minutes,” explains Becky. “I liked having my class materials with me, so I could pull them out if my doctor was running late.”

Tip 7 – Schedule family time

Ray explains that while he was in class, early Saturday mornings were times he spent with his wife. “We’d have coffee, a bagel, talk and at 8 a.m. Lori, my wife, would disappear so I could do my schoolwork.”

Tip 8 – Don’t try to do it all

“I’m a doer by nature and I like to take things on,” said Becky. “I had to stop and remind myself that I don’t need to take everything on; it’s my time to study, and the growth through other opportunities will come later.”

Tip 9 – Find faculty known for providing support

“During my entire student journey at NCU, I felt supported,” said Ray. “In my business finance class, I was losing my mind. My professor suggested additional resources and encouragement – it allowed me to be confident enough to put one foot in front of the other.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the flexible program features, supportive doctoral faculty and unique learning experience

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