Balancing Studying With A Full Time Job

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Between rising educational costs and high costs of living, it’s almost impossible to go to school without working at the same time. Whether you’re working as an RN while you get your Master’s degree, or you’re an undergrad student getting your bachelor’s while working a fast food or retail job, it can be challenging to balance a full-time or even part-time work schedule with the need to study for your classes. These 5 tips can help you study on the job, retaining information effectively without compromising the quality of your work.

Plan Your Time in Advance

This can be difficult if your work schedule is uncertain and inconsistent. If you’re paying your rent with retail or food service while getting your bachelor’s, what can you do when you get called in at the last minute to cover a shift? Not much. But overall, if you can plan and schedule your available time in advance, it’s much easier to balance your schoolwork with your job.

To do this, you can divide your days into “blocks.” They don’t have to be in the same sizes, but each “block” can be used for a different purpose. For example, if you know for a fact that you’re working your part time job from 8 to 6 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, you may still have a 6 AM to 8 AM block available, or a 6 PM to 9 PM block, depending on your circadian rhythms and personal preferences. This can create a two- or three-hour block you can use to study.

When you’re working and going to school at the same time, you don’t have a lot of true free time. But ideally, this is a temporary sacrifice you’re making for a couple of years, so that in the future, you can enjoy higher earnings with a more stable, consistent, and forgiving schedule.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

When I was in high school, my Algebra II teacher had a mantra: “Work smarter, not harder.” What he meant by this was that finding faster, more effective ways to get things done was more important than simply “working harder,” or putting more raw effort into it.

Here’s an example. Carefully planning your time over a month-long period to make sure you’ve studied effectively for a midterm exam is “working smarter.” Cramming at t
he last minute is “working harder.” One of these things is more effective than the other, and I’m sure you know which one we’re talking about here.

Consider Creating a Study Group

While being in a group can sometimes get distracting, many students benefit from studying together with other students from their class. Setting up a study group is a great way to make sure that certain blocks of time are scheduled for studying, and working together can help you and the other members of your study group collaborate to master difficult course material. If you’re having trouble understanding a particular concept, someone else in your group may be able to explain it to you better than the lectures or textbook.

Make Sure You Complete Assignments On Time

Missing homework assignments is a great way to damage your grade accidentally, even if you understand the material well and you do well in exams and long-term assignments. Consult your professor’s rubric ahead of time, and make sure homework is completed in a timely manner. In many cases, it may simply be a completion grade, but it needs to get done.

Set Realistic Goals For Yourself

You’re only human, and you can’t always be a superhero. Sometimes you have to make choices about what you want to prioritize. There’s no shame in dropping a class because you just can’t balance it with your other courses and your job. However, these are decisions that need to be made sooner rather than later. At most universities, you can drop a course within a certain time frame without being penalized for it, but you need to make your final decision in time.

Working and Studying is Hard, But Possible

Setting realistic goals is one of the most important parts of successfully balancing university coursework with a full-time or part-time job. By scheduling your time effectively, collaborating with other students, and knowing your own limits, you can slog through a few years of this before earning your degree and enjoying the rewards that it brings.

What do you think? Share your tips in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. Do not turn on the TV! It can suck you in and use up time you can’t spare to lose. I completed my RN and BSN while working full time. Now working on the MSN and still working full time.


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