It's not uncommon for employed adults to wonder if it's possible or even recommended to work while attending graduate school. Unfortunately, there is no one correct answer. Whether it's advisable to work and pursue a graduate program simultaneously depends upon a number of factors that are unique to each potential student. Factors to take into consideration include the standards of your intended program, how it is administered, as well as how many hours you intend to dedicate to work and school. Taking some time to weigh your options will help you decide the best approach for you.
When pursuing a full-time graduate program, it is almost always recommended that students not work, if possible. This is especially true for doctoral programs, which usually have very time-intensive requirements. A full-time graduate degree often requires as much time, effort and dedication as a full-time job itself and should be treated as such. In fact, some programs expressly forbid student employment while enrolled, while others may discourage it. If you absolutely must work in order to meet your financial needs, try to find a job that is flexible, interferes as little as possible with your school schedule and one that is not particularly psychologically demanding in order to avoid burnout.
It is more realistic that students will work while attending graduate school part-time. Doing so still may be difficult, especially if your grad school program is a rigorous one. However, a part-time program will definitely allow you more balance in your schedule to accommodate employment. A widely accepted rule of thumb is that you can expect to work two hours outside of class for each hour you spend in class on a weekly basis. So, six hours of outside studying and preparation should be set aside for every three-credit course. This formula should help you to strategically plan your work load. You will probably want to re-evaluate your situation every semester, as some courses may be more difficult than others.
Programs that hold classes exclusively in the evening may be a particularly good option for those who wish to continue working full-time. These kinds of programs are usually part-time and may be designed to accommodate those who are dedicated to their full-time careers. The expectations for workload are not any less than other programs, however, and the guidelines for regular part-time graduate programs apply.
Frequently, those who opt for online graduate programs underestimate the amount of work that must go into such study. While it's true that these programs are often more flexible in terms of when the work must be completed, it's important to know that online classes take a lot of self-direction on the part of students. You must be good at managing your time in order to keep up with course expectations. In addition, strong reading comprehension is a necessary skill since you are responsible for so much of your own learning through textbooks. There is also a lively online discussion component to most online programs, which can be quite time-consuming.
As you can see, there are so many factors that go into deciding how best to incorporate graduate school into your work-life. Weigh all of these considerations when determining whether to work while attending graduate school.