I got my master’s degree online while working full-time. Here’s how I did it.

  • When I got my master’s degree online, I was working full-time at a television station. Managing everything wasn’t easy, but I had a few strategies for getting through it all.
  • As I was getting my degree, I cut back on how often I saw my friends and family, but still said “yes” to plans as long as I got my coursework done.
  • I had to plan out everything in advance, get my coursework done ahead of time, and learn how to multi-task.
  • By swapping shifts with coworkers and making changes to my academic plan, I was able to take my final exams and manage my coursework.

While working full-time as a news producer, I decided I wanted to have a back-up plan in case my station was faced with layoffs or a shutdown. So I decided to get my master’s degree in sports management while still working full-time – and it was much harder than I thought.

Ultimately, I achieved my goal and got my degree online in just two years while still working my full-time job. Here’s how I did it.

I set a schedule for studying, reading and writing papers

First things first, I had to make a schedule and figure out what would be on it.

As a news producer at a 24-hour cable station, I worked 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday through Wednesday. I also knew I’d be taking six hours of courses per semester if I wanted to get my degree in two years.

In addition to my job and coursework, I also wanted to maintain my social life, continue to keep the momentum of my newly launched blog, and work on my first writing column with a local publication.

So, I used my dinner break at work to do assigned readings and class-related research. I also made the most of my day off – Thursdays became my library days and I would go sit in the public library for hours and write, study, and even take tests if I needed to.

And although my master’s program was completely online, there were still group projects in several of my courses. And so, I used Friday mornings to do video chats with my group members so we could get our projects done on time.

Since my job in news meant my schedule could change at any moment, I also decided to get a lot of my coursework done at least a week ahead of time.

I realized when I needed a bit of extra academic help and I made sure I got it – even if it meant sacrificing some sleep

While getting my degree, there were some classes I struggled with, including sports finance. To keep myself on track, I made the choice to give up a few hours of sleep in order to get extra academic help.

I scheduled video-chat sessions with my professor during their morning office hours and, fortunately, I squeaked past that class with a C-.

Even though I made efforts to stay in touch with family and friends, I set limits and prioritized my work

My family was already used to my busy television-news schedule, so even though I didn’t get to see them as much, I still made sure to call them often so they knew I was still alive and well.

When it came to friends, things were a little more challenging. I still said “yes” to fun plans, but would only do so if my work was finished first.

And, when I did attend the occasional wine night with friends, I would only allow myself to stay for about two hours before I had to get home and finish my assignments.

My sleep schedule was completely messed up, but I made myself become a master of multi-tasking and prioritized self-care

My sleep schedule wasn’t great because I oftentimes stayed up until 2 a.m. writing my blog and weekly column and then woke up at 10 a.m. to complete coursework and get ready for my job.

And so, I had to get creative with multi-tasking – for example, I paired self-care with staying in touch with my family by taking long, relaxing walks around my neighborhood while speaking to my grandparents on the phone.

Some of my degree requirements weren’t possible because I worked full-time, so I coordinated with my program to adapt

Since I was working full-time, I wasn’t able to do the full-time internship that my master’s program required of me. Fortunately, I was able to work with my graduate-programs coordinator to find an alternative.

In the end, my only option was to take the additional class so I could graduate on time. This meant even more work, but I was grateful that I chose a program that was willing to work with me to find a solution.

Scheduling exams and making time to study was difficult, so I relied on my coworkers and swapped shifts

My exams were typically scheduled for 5 p.m., which is exactly when my newscast started. Since my schedule was so tight, I had to get creative and I was lucky to have coworkers who were willing to help me out.

On some days, I had an executive producer cover for me for a few hours while I went home, took my exam, and headed back into the office.

I had also planned to use my vacation days to prepare for and take my written comprehensive exam, but my time-off requests were denied by my manager. Once again, I had to get creative.

I ended up swapping a ton of shifts with other producers and by the time I finished, I was able to work a 10-day stretch with no days off while still giving myself plenty of time to study and pass my written comprehensive exam.

All in all, getting a degree while working full-time took a lot of creativity and self-control. It wasn’t easy, but I’m proud of myself for getting my master’s, even though I haven’t really used it.

By Shameika Rhymes| INSIDER