The Working Woman’s Guide to Balancing a Career and a Degree

Posted by admin on December 15th, 2020

When you’re young, it makes sense to go to university or college in person and attend on-campus classes. These aren’t just opportunities to specialize and learn – they are a safe, enclosed environment to develop in and become fully independent adults. You learn and grow both personally and professionally when you are 17 or 18 years old going to university for the first time. Undergraduate degrees work as the bridge between high school and your professional career, but they only set the foundation. 

It is a Masters and other further certifications that allow you to really refine your skillset, but unlike with an undergraduate degree, post-graduate degrees are best for when you’ve completed a few years working your way up the career ladder. 

In some cases, this is because a Master’s might not be worth it. In marketing for example there are MBA degrees with marketing specializations, but you don’t need one to progress your career unless you feel like you have hit a wall. 

In careers like nursing, it is entirely different. Online nursing programs aren’t just nice to have to help you stand out in the job market. If you want to go from a registered nurse to an advanced practice registered nurse, then you must by law complete an accredited degree and then pass the state exam before you can earn your license. 

Online nursing programs are also often done alongside a very emotionally demanding career, which is why we will be using this example to help showcase all the top tips and tricks you can adopt to help you thrive in your career, and get the most out of your degree: 

How to Know if You Need a Master’s Degree for Your Career 

Online nursing programs are essential for nurses who want to advance their career. There is no other option, and because it is a requirement, career progression is actually very straight forward. In other industries this isn’t the case, which is why it is important to assess whether a degree is important for your career, of if you are better off sticking with other options to advance your skillset.

For nurses, online nursing programs are essential. For marketers, salespeople, and other jobs that rely on creative or soft skills, whether you need a degree or not depends on your goals and what you want to get out of it. If you are looking to shift your career in a new direction, a degree can really build on your skillset and help you break into that new industry. This concept even applies if you are looking to start your own business or go into upper management. You have your skillset, but managing a business is an entirely different ball game and a degree can help teach and build the necessary skills. 

If you are looking to go into a degree in an area that you already specialize in, then the chances are you will be learning a lot more of what you already know. 

So to recap, going back for a Master’s degree is important if: 

  1. It is a legal requirement for your career progression 
  2. It is in a hard skill (sciences, math, engineering, etc) 
  3. It is in a new area that will either allow you to advance your career into upper management or into a different industry 

What Your Master’s Degree Needs if You Continue Working 

If you are happy to take time off and attend university full-time, then this can be a great way to get a Master’s finished quickly, fully immerse yourself in study, and build a new network. Most people, however, won’t be in this position. 

It’s a big decision to take time out from your career for a degree. Even if it won’t look bad on your resume per se, it can still hamper your career progression in comparison to if you stayed working.

Thankfully, you don’t need to make that hard choice any more. With online degrees you can continue to work while learning. You can even put what you learn to use at work from day one, depending on the content. 

This is a particularly important feature of online nursing programs. Nurses, especially this year, cannot be spared. They are the front-line of defense and are working hard for the health of all their patients. 

They cannot take time off work to pursue a degree, but at the same time they should never feel like they have to put their dreams on hold. With online nursing programs it is entirely possible to “have it all”, but juggling a career, a degree, and your personal responsibilities is no easy matter. That is why every working woman, nurse or otherwise, will want to use these strategies to strike that perfect balance where success can flourish: 

Routines to Build 

Start routines first, because they are best created before your degree starts. Routines take time to properly adopt, and there are also other factors that can hold you back and actually make it harder to take on an extra workload. 

For example, if you want to build up strength so that you can better manage your energy levels through the day, then you must start early. If you start working out at the same time as studying for your degree, you will need to fight through the physical exhaustion. This exhaustion doesn’t last too long, especially if you are consistent, but when you first start out it can be a nightmare to deal with. 

Another example is food. There are many foods that are actually addictive. Foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fats are delicious and can be very hard to quit. Many experience withdrawal symptoms because of it. 

By addressing these routines at least a month before your degree begins you can work through the initial setbacks without overloading yourself. In one or two weeks you will be amazed at how energetic you are throughout the day when you eat healthy and exercise regularly. 

The routines you will want to build include: 

Your Sleeping Routine 

Healthy eating and diet can help you enjoy lasting energy, but nothing can beat a good night’s sleep. There are a few ways that you can get a better night’s rest: 

  • Black-out curtains 
  • Sound machine/sound therapy 
  • New sheets 
  • Consistent sleep and morning routines 
  • Improving your diet and exercise 

If you work shifts, then this can be more difficult. Rather than aiming to go to bed and waking up at the same time you will want to try to keep the same routines before bed and when you wake up, so your brain subconsciously winds down and wakes up when you need it to. 

Your Diet Routines 

Your diet plays a crucial role in your energy levels and in how well you handle stress. We all know what constitutes healthy eating. What stops many of us from following through is the time and energy it takes to make a healthy lunch every day, or to make dinner after work. By taking a day out of your week to prep meals in advance you can eat healthier, save massively by cutting out food waste, and free up more time in your mornings. 

Healthy snacks are another easy way to get more out of what you eat. Nuts and fruits, for example, can help you stay alert, energetic, and focussed throughout your day and later, when you are working on your degree. 

Your Exercise Routines 

In some careers, like nursing, you may be on your feet a lot. There is a difference between being on your feet and being fit. In either case, starting your day with a stretch, with yoga, or with a light workout can help improve blood and oxygen flow to the brain and limbs, and will work to make you feel more awake and alert throughout the day. 

For nurses in particular, being consistent with an exercise can help strengthen muscles. Stronger muscles mean that lifting items, patients, and more takes less energy, energy that you can save for when you finally get back to the books. 

Your Downtime Routines 

Breaks are important for mental health and for routines. The quality of your downtime also matters. If your downtime is mindlessly scrolling through a social media feed, you aren’t really helping yourself relax or even have fun. Try to do something that doesn’t involve a screen, or at least not a phone or computer screen. By taking breaks and having fun, spending time with loved ones, or at least just meditating, you can give your mind that mental reprieve from studying. Just a little breather before you get back into it. 

Your Personal Responsibilities 

Kids, food shopping, laundry – all of these and more don’t go away just because you take on a degree. It can be hard to juggle it all, but that is what your support network is for. Getting kids, especially, more involved with chores and other responsibilities is incredibly important for their development, and will help you juggle your career and your degree. 

You can ask friends over to help you prepare your meals for the week. You can invest in food subscription boxes to make it easier to get meals delivered right to your door. There are many ways to help support you when you are busy, stressed, and tired. Finding the right options means sticking to your budget and knowing what can help the most. 

Your Study Routines 

With online nursing programs and other degrees you need to be consistent. You need to remember, revise, and think critically about what you learn, and the best way to do that is to make it both into a routine and part of your existing routine. 

With online nursing programs you can take just one course at a time, which means an average of 15 to 20 hours of studying per week. 

Spread this out throughout the week and even your day to make it feel like it takes no effort at all. Spend time on your degree during your commute, and you can often shave at least an hour of your daily study time. You only need to study or go through the material for an extra hour or two later on in the day. 

By breaking up the time you study throughout the day you have time for your brain to process and understand what you are learning. You also reduce the amount of effort it takes by working with your mind’s own natural attention span. 

How to Learn and Revise More Efficiently 

The right routines are often the perfect way to start your degree, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t tips and tricks you can use to make study and revision easier for you. 

With studying, try to always make your own notes. Writing things out in your own words has multiple benefits. For one, it’s a great way to kickstart your revision. More importantly than that however is the fact that you can use your own explanations in your study notes, so you can explain concepts in ways that you understand best. 

Try to break up your studying so it’s easy. As stated, spending your commute either working on your degree or revising can really cut down the course hours into reasonable chunks. To facilitate this, however, be creative. If you bike or drive, you won’t be able to read, but many PDFs and word documents can be set to play audio with a simple text-to-speak tool. 

Building Your Own Strategy 

We all learn differently, live differently, and think differently. The most important thing you can do for your nursing career isn’t completing online nursing programs, it is listening to your health and mental wellbeing. You don’t need to try to rush through your education. Balance is the key, because only when you can also keep your mental and physical health in good order can you continue to make real, meaningful progress whether you are focussing on online nursing programs, an art program, or anything in-between. 

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