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How to study and work at the same time: five top tips

Balancing an online degree with the demands of a full-time job can be tough, but there are things you can do to keep both education and work running smoothly alongside each other:

1. Keep your employer in the loop

Start by talking to your employer about the online programme you’re signing up to, and then keep them informed with any important information as you get it. 

The beauty of studying online is that you learn in your own time, but a little employer flexibility can still be useful for busy periods. The sooner your boss is on board and up to speed, the more likely they are to be able to help when you need it.

2. Master the art of planning

If you take each week as it comes, you’ll inevitably start hitting obstacles and falling behind. Instead, use the information given to you by your programme leader – module dates and major deadlines, for example – to plan and prepare for the months ahead.

With your work and study schedules in the same calendar, you’ll always know what’s expected of you and you can allocate your time accordingly. A digital calendar will also give you the freedom to move things around, attach important documents and set reminders.

3. Use your free time wisely

In an ideal world you’d be able to do everything sitting comfortably at a desk in your own home, but it can pay to think about the other opportunities you might have to work or study throughout your day.

Recommended read: Campus vs. online: which mode of study is right for you?

If you commute on the train, get your laptop out and complete some of the weekly tasks assigned to you. If that’s too much, you may still be able to read or listen to a relevant audiobook or podcast. Lunch breaks and waiting rooms can also provide useful pockets of productivity during your day.

4. Get family and friends on board

If you live with other people - whether it’s a partner, children or housemates – consider explaining your schedule so that you’re left to work in peace when you have deadlines to meet. 

Your share of childcare responsibilities could be taken on by a partner during busy periods, for example, or housemates might need to keep your preferred working space free at certain times. Regardless of your circumstances, being open with those around you about your schedule is the best way to get the additional support you need during your busiest periods.

5. Don’t overdo it

You’ll inevitably be busy for the duration of your online programme but work too much or too hard and you could jeopardise your progress in the long term. Be sure to take regular breaks while studying so you don’t burn out.

Regularly staying up late into the night to squeeze in more study could also affect your performance at work, so keep a regular routine and set some time aside to relax. If you plan properly and use your time efficiently, you’ll be able to find opportunities to unwind. 

The University of Birmingham has a dedicated Student Services Team on hand to offer support to our online students throughout the course of their programme. If you ever find yourself struggling to keep up, talk to your Student Services Coordinator and your employer about what’s going on – bottling it up will only cause the problem to grow. 

Working and studying at the same time is a challenge, but one that can take your career to the next level. To find out more about our 100% online programmes, please download a brochure.

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