No More Teachers? How to Go Back to School While Maintaining a Career—and Your Sanity

Alice Cooper said it best: “school’s out forever!” Wait a second; not so fast there. If you’re in a career that you love—or want to try a different field—heading back to school might be a great option in order to advance further. But how can you juggle taking a class while maintaining your fulltime job (and life)? ChooseWhat’s very own Project Management Associate has some tips to help you out.

With only a couple of weeks left on his project management class, Middleton is brimming with new ideas from the course. “I didn’t think it would actually help that much, but the class has definitely helped develop structure, process, and foundation for everything I do.”

Research and Define Goals

There are many great reasons for taking additional courses and continuing your education. If you are earning a certificate at the end of your class, you may be more marketable to future employers or become eligible for a promotion at your current company. Plus, you will most likely look at an increase in salary down the road. In addition to the benefits of career advancement and higher salary, continuing your education also gives you more tools in order to perform your job more effectively.

Middleton suggests defining your goals before deciding on what course you want to take. Is it to enter a different field? Learn more about the field you’re already in? Improve your skill set? Learn a new tool or technology? Gain a certificate? Sit down and think about what you want to get out of your class.

Once you’ve set out your goals, go forth and research! Do you want to take a course online? Do you want to take a night class at a nearby school? You also want to research the teachers in charge of classes you’re interested in. Make sure you’re finding a class that will fit with your needs.

Ask Your Employer

Once you’ve decided which course to take, talk to your employer. If your company already has a continuing education policy in place—a lot of larger corporations do—this will be pretty easy. If they don’t, you should approach your supervisor or the human resources department.

“It’s less expensive for companies to promote from within than to recruit a new employee with the right education, so it’s in your company’s best interest for you to take the initiative to improve your skill set,” Middleton says.

Plus, a lot of companies will most likely cover some (if not all) of the cost of your class.

Recognize Time Constraints

Before you sign up for your class make sure you really recognize the time constraints you’re going to be putting on yourself.

“Realize that most one semester night classes will require at least eight hours of week of your time,” Middleton says. “This is equivalent to adding on an additional work day to your schedule every week. Do you really have that available?”

Maintain a Balance

Middleton suggests that, after you sign up for your course, you should take a step back and analyze your priorities. You will want to make sure to maintain these priorities throughout the duration of your class. “No matter the additional requirements, it is vital to your overall success that you keep your priorities in line. Make time to spend on your hobbies, interests, and friends,” Middleton says.

For instance, in addition to his work here at ChooseWhat and his project management course, Middleton is currently playing on a rugby team in Austin. He also maintains his relationships with friends and family, as well as his fitness regime.

“It’s also important to maintain a good diet and exercise routine to keep your energy levels up,” he adds.

Check out Middleton’s previous tips on healthy snacking.

Enjoy Yourself!

Middleton’s best tip for those wanting to further their education while maintaining their fulltime jobs is to simply enjoy yourself.  “Make sure that when you do go back to school that it is in an area where you have a lot of interest,” he says. “The last thing you want to do is work all day and then go to a class you don’t care about or are bored with.”

At the end of the day, going back to school is about you and your own personal development, so “don’t spend all that time without anything changing in your career.”

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