Working and Going to School

Young professional working and studying for her degree

Have you ever thought about going back to school, but wondered if it is possible to do while working full time? And can you do so successfully? The answer is yes, and, not only is it possible, many people are finding success by doing so. Of course, there are some things to consider when deciding to go back to school while working. Doing your due diligence and selecting the right school and program for you will be instrumental in determining just how successful you’ll be. 

So where should you start? 

The first consideration is to determine what type of school or program is going to be the best fit for you, your lifestyle, and your learning style. There are several things you should consider as you start your search: Modality, Program Structure, Cost, and Competency-Based programs. 


Should you choose an in-class, online, or hybrid program?

The traditional in-class format is great for those who prefer face-to-face interaction with their instructor and peers. Many people who are used to this format like it based on prior experience in a classroom. The downside, however, can be trying to find the time to be in the classroom one or more times a week consistently through the duration of your program. For those who have fluctuating schedules, who travel frequently, or who have a busy home life, this can be difficult to commit to long-term. 

Another option is a fully online program. This is often chosen for the flexibility it offers; by attending virtually the need to be at a certain location, at a certain time, every week is eliminated. Additionally, when looking at online options, you can take advantage of schools all over and therefore have a larger selection of schools and programs from which to choose. This allows you to shop around and truly find the best fit for you. While in-class programs allow for face-to-face interaction, online programs enable you to interact with people from various industries and backgrounds, providing an opportunity for robust conversations with your peers. Having said that, you will find the interaction is more limited, as it is done virtually. Those who are visual learners often do well with this format, while those who are not may find it more challenging. 

The final option is a hybrid program. This type of program allows for a mix of in-class and online experiences which for some is the best of both worlds. It does, however, require time in a classroom so being able to commit to that is crucial for success.

Program Structure

You will find that depending on the school the structure of the program can vary in semester or term length. Some schools may offer a traditional 16 week semester (more common with in-class programs), while others may offer shorter 6 or 8 week terms. This determines the overall pace of the class and is a factor in determining how many classes you can/want to complete in a year.


For most, cost is a driving factor in selecting a school. It is important to choose a program that works with your financial situation, as selecting a school that is too expensive may mean not finishing if financial constraints arise. Many people have employer-provided tuition assistance benefits. If you are utilizing this type of benefit to help pay for your education, be sure to read through your educational assistance policy thoroughly so you know what is required of you and your school/program.  

Competency-Based Programs

While most people are aware of what a traditionally structured program looks like, competency-based programs are less well known. These are programs where you can go at your own pace and leverage prior experience and knowledge to move more quickly through the program. They are based on mastery of course competencies and are a great option for someone with many years of experience in the area in which they are seeking a degree. Such a program can also be cost-effective as you pay per term, rather than per credit; the more classes you take in each term the less you pay per course. 


As you embark on this journey you want to be sure you are effectively managing your time and making the most of the tools available to you. Check out our time management blog for tips. Be sure to make use of the school’s tutoring center and your academic advisor. You’ll also want to develop a support system (this can be family, friends, coworkers, or even a mentor) to encourage you. 

So what is the bottom line? Others are successfully earning college degrees while working full time, and you can too! Doing your research before getting started, considering the dynamics of the program and financial aspects of the commitment, and being proactive with managing your time are all things that will lead you to success! So, what are you waiting for? As the saying goes there is no time like the present!

On-Demand Webinar: Time Management Strategies for Adult Learners

For adult learners, juggling academics and other responsibilities can be overwhelming. But time management is key, and SMART goals — those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound — can help. Watch our webinar to learn how to set SMART goals for 2021, develop habits that stick, make the most of your time, and stay on track with academics.

Watch Now!

[Note: If you aren't sure if you have the Bright Horizons EdAssist Solutions benefit, check with your organization's HR department.]

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Young professional working and studying for her degree

Subscribe to the On the Horizon Newsletter