Earning a Business Degree & Being a Full-Time Working Parent

Students who graduate with a degree in business tend to find jobs more quickly and in higher-paying areas than students who do not.

In fact, degrees related to business – accounting, finance, human resources – consistently rank among the highest-earning fields. Students who major in these areas tend to earn more upon graduation, as well as during mid-career, than those who either completed more general degrees in liberal arts or smaller niche areas such as women’s studies. Furthermore, the current top ten highest paying degree areas, half are business programs (actuarial math, public accounting, business analysis, economics, and operations research).

Currently, some business degrees can result in earning an entry-level salary that will pay off student loans in as little as three years. A business degree, then, is a wise investment.

But how do you accomplish this if you are already working full time, or you are a parent – or even both?

The Importance of Time Management

The answer is time management. That’s easy to suggest, but how is it best achieved?

Setting aside the energy and time to plan ahead actually saves said energy and time. Avoiding rushing around and frantically completing tasks is far more efficient than loading up a schedule and hoping it all gets done. As a matter of fact, managing your life is good practice for managing employees and your future career.

If you find that you’re frequently scrambling to meet deadlines, forgetting assignments, or struggling to find time to spend with the kids, consider carving out a half hour or so on the weekends to plan out the next seven days. If that means missing an episode of your favorite TV show, that means missing an episode of the show. You can binge-watch the whole season after you earn your degree.

Time management is a learned skill. It doesn’t come naturally, and high schools rarely teach it, instead expecting students to figure it out on their own. So many students these days are micro-managed by their parents, and the current academic curriculum provides few paths for students to gain these skills. Most high school graduates tend to take on the demands of a college education without even knowing how to plan.

When committing to college, some students take into account only the amount of time a course meets, which doesn’t seem like much. The class only meets three hours a week? That doesn’t sound like much. What students may not plan for, however, is homework time, transportation to and from classes, studying for exams, maintaining their tools for courses, and shifting with schedules for children’s activities.

Planning Ahead

Your best weapon is foreknowledge and realistic goal-setting. Are you going to write a dissertation thesis in a week? Probably not. Can you turn out 400 words in the next seven days? That’s doable.

It’s vital to gather information in advance about upcoming events from friends and family members, and to compare these potential plans to your course expectations.It is also important to communicate with your instructor. Stay in touch about upcoming assignments. Most are listed on the syllabus, but if you can receive information about how long a task might take, so much the better. The answer might be “it depends,” but looking ahead towards large projects will help you space out a timeline – so that you’re not trying to stay awake for 48 hours straight to meet a deadline.

Take Advantage of Group Projects

For better or for worse, collaborative learning, or group projects, are the staple of many business  classes. These are thought to mimic the task-oriented environment of the business world. Such projects may involve negotiation, preparing reports, setting up faux companies, or creating a stock market portfolio.

While some professors kindly designate some class time for group projects, most do not. That means hacking off more time away from your family and job to meet with classmates. This can, however, prove to work to your advantage. If possible, meet close to campus, even in the classroom building if you can. This will cut down on your commute time. Some students who are also parents can offer to host meetings in their homes, so that they can be available to their children while also getting work done with their group.

When it comes time to divide up your tasks in a group project, consider taking on individually-directed work so that it isn’t necessary to meet in small sub-groups. Sometimes this means taking on more tedious tasks, such as typing out the bibliography. Take it. You can bring your laptop to your kid’s soccer practice and knock it out there.

Keeping Bosses, Family & Colleagues Happy

While most bosses might encourage your aspirations, even assisting you with letters of recommendation or providing information about company scholarships, the same might not be said for co-workers.

Some might resent that you are attempting to better yourself into a promotion or higher salary. Others will see this as a threat. And, if you find yourself sneaking in course work on company time (or worse, calling your group to set up a proofreading session in the middle of a board meeting), nobody is going to be happy about that but you.

Before you begin your degree program, sit down with or email the people with whom you are in the most contact. Let them know what your new schedule is going to be and ask how you can best meet their expectations. Many will likely offer to help.

This is most important where your supervisor is concerned. Fill him or her in on your plans and note that this might cause some shifts in your life. Alternative arrangements might be available, especially if you stress that the situation is temporary. Make sure your superiors understand that you will emerge from your degree program a better, and more knowledgeable, employee.

Most importantly, check in with your spouse (if you have one) and your children, to ensure that they are adjusting with you. Support at home makes working and completing your degree much easier. Keep all lines of communication open.

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