Getting a degree while working is the ultimate test in multi-tasking. But for those fields with a return on investment for a graduate degree, it is a good idea to find a way to take the plunge. While a lot of thought needs to go into the program and university selection, more thought needs to go into how to actually keep your career afloat while meeting your education goals.

Combining education and work isn’t impossible, but it doesn’t happen on its own. Here are five ways to balance work and education to achieve your master’s degree goal.

1. Make Time.

My Dad passed on a lot of wisdom to me over the years. For some reason, the following statements stuck with me:

  • Whenever I left my eye glasses, he would say, “On your face or in your case.” Thanks, Dad. That doesn’t help me find them right now…since they are neither on my face or in my case.
  • When I was working full time and going to school full time during my undergrad years and complaining that I couldn’t find the time to document notes after a car accident, he responded with, “Jill, you don’t find time. You make time.” In my youth, I simply rolled my eyes in response. Now, I see the wisdom in that statement. If you wait to find time for a graduate degree, it will not happen. You have to make the time for it.

2. Schedule Your Studying Based on Your Personality.

Some people are great multi-taskers, so you could use your commute (especially if you have public transportation) to catch up on your reading – some textbooks can be found on apps like Audible. Others find they need to schedule study time hours and not bend on them with friends, family, or co-workers. Getting a graduate degree is not a lifelong pursuit, so you will not have a terrible schedule forever. Either find areas to increase productivity or ways to focus more through strict time management, but figure out what works best with your workload and personality.

3. Create Habits.

Habits help make the workload manageable. The more habits you put in place, the less stressful the balancing act will be. Whether it is getting up early to study and write or it is scheduling study time immediately after class each week, specific school habits will help ensure success and reduced stress in the process.

4. Track Your Progress.

Sometimes, it feels like you will never reach your goal, so dial back how you’re tracking your progress. Set mini goals along the way with each course you take and track how you are meeting those goals. It all builds into your overall goal, but if you focus on the whole mountain in front of you, you may never start the climb.

5. Get Support.

If it wasn’t for my husband, I would really have struggled with my master’s degree. For some classes, I underestimated the time required. He gave up many weeknights or weekends to help make sure I didn’t miss deadlines. We are human, and we need a friend or significant other to help us meet our goals. Do not be afraid to ask for help from those around you.

Going for your master’s degree is an investment in your career. Great opportunities usually do not come at the perfect time, but it does not mean it is impossible to be successful. It just takes some creativity, flexibility, and hard work.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.