If you're looking to self-fund your Masters and avoid postgraduate debt, full-time work and part-time study is a viable option - but you'll need to be well disciplined and have a good support network

Working while studying can be financially and professionally beneficial, but balancing earning and learning is difficult. Getting the best from postgraduate study requires resilience, good time management, genuine enthusiasm for your course and dedication to see it through to its conclusion. To succeed, you must implement routines and plan each day in advance.

Most importantly, you must have open and honest conversations with your employer and potential course leader before applying for a Masters degree, as this will make the arrangement run more smoothly. Discuss study timetables and working hours, and be clear that you'll need to amend each accordingly.

Why choose part-time postgraduate study?

The option to study part time is invaluable to postgraduates who need to balance their studies with work or family commitments.

Others choose to study for a part-time Masters to lessen the financial burden somewhat. Part-time courses are usually cheaper year-on-year than full-time programmes and part-time study makes self-funding more realistic, as you have the option to continue working, either on a full or part-time basis.

For those already in employment, one of the main attractions of a part-time course is that you get to keep your salary while studying. If your aim is to self-fund, your wages could help to pay your fees upfront (avoiding the need to take out a loan) or contribute to living costs.

Working while studying also opens up the possibility of employer sponsorship, whereby your employer pays your tuition fees and course expenses so long as the qualification is relevant to your job and benefits the company in some way.

What are the advantages?

There are many benefits to part-time study - the first has to be its flexibility. Lectures and seminars in many part-time courses are hosted at weekends, or even recorded for students to access online in their own time. This makes it an attractive proposition for many - though prior research into your chosen programme is paramount, as some universities have strict regulations regarding part-time study. To see what's available, search part-time postgraduate courses.

Part-time postgraduate courses are also popular as they can improve your career prospects, without you having to take a break from work. Additionally, you'll meet and make connections with other working professionals studying the same course.

Working while studying and deciding to self-fund also has its advantages. For example, working enables further development of essential employability skills that'll look great on your CV - especially if your job is related to your study area. It develops skills such as organisation and time management, since you'll be prioritising multiple workloads. You'll also have a greater number of opportunities to network within your chosen field, and recruiters will admire your commitment to progression and lack of employment gaps.

What are the disadvantages?

Self-funding in this manner doesn't suit everyone. Part-time study is intense, stressful and requires great discipline. With few lectures to attend, you're prone to concentrating on work and leaving your assignments until the last minute. Distracting work commitments may even result in occasional deadline extensions or module deferrals. Ultimately, your job could take precedence in terms of quality and time - which is not ideal as you should typically dedicate at least 20 hours a week to part-time study.

Balancing work, study and family life without it having a negative impact on your academic output is extremely difficult. Both employers and academics may not appreciate the conflicting demands on your time. Employers in particular may need careful handling to ensure that your academic work isn't neglected.

While annual part-time tuition fees are lower, course lengths may actually mean that you pay more. Programmes can also provide less value. You might not have time to access resources that could enhance the university experience and, more importantly, your future career. These include societies, academic staff, guest lectures, networking events, the library, and the careers service. Getting to know course mates in the same way as you would if studying full time may also be a challenge.

What's more, time pressures can leave you feeling isolated during tough times. Close support from friends, family, peers, tutors, colleagues and employers is therefore vital.

Part-time work while you study

Even if you choose to study full time, you can still help to fund your studies by taking on a part-time job. Many students opt for this method, fitting work around their studies and working longer hours during the holiday periods.

Off campus you could take on bar, restaurant, retail or promotions work. Within your university you could work in an administration or customer service role in the campus library, shop, bar, careers service or students' union. Some university positions even come with free accommodation.

Wages from part-time work can contribute to study or living costs, but alone probably won't be enough to cover your expenses, so research alternative sources of postgraduate funding.

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