Master’s: Balancing work and studies

My name is Natasha and I am currently undertaking MA History – Medieval and Renaissance pathway at QMUL; I also took my BA in Medieval History at QMUL. Additionally, I work part-time for Careers & Enterprise as an Employer Engagement Assistant. Below are my thoughts on working and studying part-time.

Balancing work & studies

After some deliberating, I decided to study for my Master’s degree part-time. I knew that I had to find a way to support myself financially, particularly if I wanted to stay living in London; but I knew that studying full-time and working part-time wasn’t the best idea. I did not see any point in rushing through my studies and not giving it my all as working would inevitably be an obstacle – and even now, balancing work and studies is difficult. It is very important to plan your time wisely: make sure that on the days that you aren’t working, you have a study plan for what you want – and need – to achieve on those days when you are focusing solely on your Master’s. Sometimes this isn’t easy, particularly if you cannot find the motivation, or you have a day where you turn up no results – but persevere and take the time to re-charge your batteries, it is certainly easy to over-do things.

Challenges

Which leads me nicely to the challenges. Trust me when I tell you that your work/life balance will take a real dip. When I am not working, I use my ‘free’ time to study, and this means that I find it hard to stay in contact and socialise with friends and family. This really is something to be aware of as you, as well as them, will feel isolated. But, by planning your time effectively, it is entirely possible to give yourself a few hours off to let your hair down – and this is essential, particularly for your own well-being.

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Full time study and part time work – is it really possible?

As university fees keep rising and the opportunities for fully-funded scholarships fall, it becomes important for some that they are able to work. However, university can be quite demanding and the idea of working could seem like an extra burden. So here’s my list of 5 top things to consider when balancing study with part-time work.

Flexible work patterns

  • When looking for appropriate part-time work it’s important you find an employer that can accommodate flexible work patterns. This may include shift work, or a set amount of hours you have to complete during the whole week, without set days. Many students of all levels take on waitressing or jobs as shop assistants, as these types of roles often rely on as-and-when workers who sign on to shift-work.
  • Flexible work is also a great way to work around university timetables or work during long holidays or a couple of days during reading weeks (if you have them).
  • However, flexible work doesn’t always pay the best and normally entails long shifts working which means long hours on your feet!

Know your timetable early on

  • It’s always good to know what days you will be at university. This is important not just for you to do your work and study, but it will also help you to visualise when you could realistically work.
  • Some departments are able to send finalised second term timetables before you officially commence or have apps that will allow you to see what days your modules may be on. Although, these timetables may be subject to some changes, it gives you a good indication of what days you will be in.

Be open with your employer

  • Make it explicit what days you can and cannot do. This is really important when balancing part-time work and study. It sets the parameters around your availability and would avoid any back and forth with your employer.
  • However, as we know, university timetables can be quite unpredictable, with tutors going away on leave or sudden lecture changes. Still, endeavour to inform your employer of any upcoming changes so they can work out whether they can accommodate this or not.

Be strict with time

  • Being strict with your time is very important if you are going to successfully balance work and university. Both can be quite overwhelming, and can easily affect one another if not planned out well.
  • A good way of doing this would be making use of a diary to record plans for the week which will help you follow a structure. For the more tech savvy of us, there are also great online diary apps such as Penzu or Diaro which allow you to sync your online diary to any web browser and tag entries so you can easily refer to them.
  • Utilise mobile calendars that will alert you when any appointments are coming up or reminders to complete a task.

Be conscious with your holiday

  • If you’re working part-time it’s good to be aware that you won’t receive much holiday and it is worth checking before you sign any contracts. Many part-time jobs work on a pro–rata basis which means your pay and holiday will be proportional depending on how many hours you work. E.g. for a full time job working 35 hours a week with 30 days of holiday, a part-time job which is half the number of hours would only get half the holiday allowance.
  • It’s also wise to only book off holiday when you really need it so you’re not missing too many days off work. No one wants to come back to an inbox brimming with emails!

Also don’t forget to check out QMUL’s QTemps, for part time and temporary work for students and graduates http://tempjobs.london.ac.uk/QueenMary/index.asp

Aseosa Uwagboe