Is going to graduate school part-time feasable?

I had a long chat with my mom today about my future plans. I should be done with my undergraduate work this semester. I’m still nervous about grades, of course, because I still have some finals in the next couple of days, and one class is kind of iffy. But anyway, I’ve always been kind of on the fence about graduate school.

On one hand, I might be better at school than I realize, and find that the nature of graduate school meshes well with the way I think/learn. On the other hand, I might not have a snowball’s chance in hell in getting through graduate school, and the classes might be 100x harder than what I’m dealing with now. So I’m really torn. There is also the cost issue. Right now I don’t have the time and money to both work full-time and go to school full-time while living on my own. This means I need to either give up my thoughts of graduate school and immediately look for a full time job/apartment/hole in the ground, or continue to live with my mom for og knows how long, barely scraping by while working on an MFA in poetry.

The other thought would be to go to night school- take only a few classes per semester while working full-time. This would kind of be the best of both worlds- I’d be able to work a full-time job and afford to live on my own, and the tuition would be less. I’m also going to look at any possible financial aid options once I turn 25 and declare myself Independent.

I really would like to go to graduate school if it were feasable, but I don’t even know if I qualify grade-wise at this point. I’m going to talk with someone in the MFA program about it. In the meantime, I’m curious- is it possible to take additional undergraduate courses to ‘pad’ my GPA to get it high enough to qualify? Or is it an all-or-nothing type of “You’ll never get a Master’s Degree as long as you live” situation?

I worked with a couple of people who got Master’s degrees while working a substantial amount of time. However, both were working jobs that were related to their field of study, so they were able to use the experience to provide data for their theses.

I got my masters degree while working full-time (37.5 hours/week). It took me about 6 years taking one or 2 classes a semester. 2 classes/ semester is the max I would recommend while working full-time. When it was only one class, that really wasn’t bad.

If your work improved substantially in later years of undergrad, you could probably explain bad grades as a freshman/sophomore by talking about how you were learning college-level study skills.

If you are just planning to “roll the dice” and hope grades come out better on additional undergrad classes, I don’t think that will work. OTOH, maybe you would enjoy the add’l undergrad classes for their own sake. You could just focus on taking what interested you, maybe even auditing the class so grades weren’t an isssue.

It’s definitely doable, and by the way depending on your employer, they may pay for it. For part of the time I worked at a university, and could take 1 free class/ semester.

Keep in mind that “a few classes” may be full time according to your university’s definition. At my uni, full time is 9 credits or more, which translates into three courses.

Find out if your uni has assistantships available. You might teach undergraduates or work in an office, but they usually cover tuition and provide a stipend.


Incubus, I’m finishing graduate school with a Ph.D. in literature in a few months and have some advice for you.

While it’s very feasible to work an outside job and attend grad school part-time, my best advice is for you to find a graduate program where you can work as a teaching assistant or in some job related to the department. If you’re planning on becoming a professor (which is what most people do with an MFA) you need to “practice” becoming part of the academy and networking with your peers and professors – something that is very difficult to do if your life is divided by trying to do grad school part-time.

Upon re-reading your original post, Incubus, I also want to offer that it’s very, very, very important to talk to your favorite professor(s) about your plans. Grad school admission, while partly based in grades, is also highly dependent in excellent recommendations from professors and instructors. Many humanities depatments are also requiring that students perform well on the GRE (Graduate Record of Exam)

I did an assistantship for the first 20 hours or so of my graduate degree and then worked full-time for the rest. My experience with working full-time while attending grad school was…draining, very draining. I generally only took 1 class per semester while doing a 40 hour a week and it still would generally kick my ass. I’m not sure if I’d do it again. In total, it took me about 6 years to graduate, which is not, in my opinion, an optimal amount of time. Grad school is something best done as quickly as humanly possible, in my opinion.

If I were you, I’d look seriously into finding a place willing to offer you an assistantship of some sort. Failing that, maybe get a part-time job and support the rest with loans, if possible.

I’m working full-time and going to graduate school part-time. I usually average 6 credits per semester but this past semester I took 8. I’m still alive and my GPA is pretty decent. The good part of working full-time and doing school part-time is that some companies reimburse for tuition. So, I’d suggest trying to get a job that reimburses for school.

I’ve been asking myself this question too. Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different. My wife took three years to complete her Masters degree in education, taking one or two classes a semester. During this time, she substitute taught, then taught full-time. Once she began working full-time, taking two evening classes during the school year AND preparing lesson plans at night took a toll.

Now that she’s done, it’s my turn, or at least, that’s how I envisioned it. But the museum studies programs I am looking at offer more challenges logistically speaking. One is about an hour away in another state (thus higher tuition). The other is an hour-and-a-half away in Philadelphia. I’d prefer that program, but going part-time would be more difficult as their curriculum is structured around working closely with others.

On top of all this, I’m going to be a father in two months, making it more likely that I will need to work full-time. Fortunately, my current job is pretty flexible as far as hours and location are concerned. Even so, I am wondering if I have enough time to work, commute, take class, do homework, be a good dad, be a good husband and still sleep. And, will we have enough money to pay for school, pay for the kid, pay the mortgage, pay for gas and still eat.

Some days I feel like:

Something’s gotta give, and while I’m willing to sacrifice, I need to wonder if it will all be worth it. I know I can’t stay where I am and need to move on, but at what price? It’s not like I’m going to medical or law school, with it’s virtual guarantee of a good job and good compensation. I’d be entering an uncertain field with uncertain prospects, taking loans out the wazoo and giving up time with my wife and child.

Other days I feel like:

It’s not like this hasn’t been done before. It won’t be easy, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. The chance to spend your life doing something you love is worht a shot.

It’s a tough decision for me, but one I can’t keep putting off. My recommendation to you, Incubus, is that you don’t either. It only gets more complicated.

I’m an engineer working in the DC area. When I first got my commission as a lieutenant in the Air Force, I said “wow, I’m busy as hell - these people who think I should be getting a degree part-time are insane!” I passed up a chance to get an advanced degree on the Air Force’s dime because I was too busy. Now I’m going to start a master’s program at Johns Hopkins in Systems Engineering. Thankfully, my current office has a program that will pay for my degree there while I work full-time. Instead of taking 1.5 years and getting paid to study, it’s going to be the next two and a half years, and I’ve got to add it on to my 40+ work week and travel schedule, and it’s going to be the first two years of my marriage.

Do it now!

Well, at this point if I can get a potential employer to help pay for it, then I would definitely do it.

Unfortunately right now I feel like I’m getting pulled in every direction, both time-wise and money-wise. When I get motivated to succeed (doesn’t happen enough, but I’m working on that! :stuck_out_tongue: ) I can really surprise myself. However, I also have to be aware of commitments I’ve already made. If it is feasable in the slightest, I’ll do it, though, because so much of what I’m doing right now (going to college, rehearsing for a play, working various part-time jobs) were a product of transcending the fear of “I don’t have the time/money/skill to see this through”. So if I got THIS far, it shouldn’t be that much harder to just reach a little bit higher, right? RIGHT?!