Ahh, the MBA: the gold-standard credential of business expertise, offering the promise of better jobs, higher salaries and enviable careers. It holds such appeal that, according to Poets&Quants, an increasing number of graduate students are choosing to pursue the degree online “because they don’t have to give up their jobs and lose their income”1 while adding this feather to their caps.
You read that right. Despite the many challenges of holding down a full-time job and pursuing a competitive degree—not to mention maintaining a fulfilling personal life—simultaneously, throughout the United States and “at many business schools, online MBA students now outnumber full-time MBAs.”1 So it’s possible to earn an MBA while working full-time, and there are many compelling reasons to do it.
Read on to explore powerful benefits that come with working during MBA courses, as well as tips to help you succeed—and maintain your sanity—while you do it.
Advantages of Earning an MBA While Working Full-Time
Of course, there are advantages to earning an MBA while working full-time, or no one would pursue that goal. Consider these short- and long-term reasons to break out the laptop and start your application now:
Pursuing an MBA while working full-time means that the direct deposits will continue as you earn your degree. Whether you use those funds for tuition or other life expenses, it’s always beneficial to have a steady income.
You’re working during MBA courses? Great. When you learn something in class today, you can apply it to your professional life today. The distance between what you learn and when you use it is wonderfully short: new skills, no waiting. Your boss will be delighted—and impressed.
Part-time MBA programs often have the same robust curricula and value as their full-time counterparts. The Online MBA program in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, for example, is led by the business experts who teach in the on-ground MBA program. When you choose the best program, you add the benefits of online education to the strengths of residential options.
Flexibility and work-life balance
Reputable Online MBA programs offer courses when you’re available to take them, multiple start dates in each year and the chance to progress at your own pace. They also empower you to earn your degree from anywhere in the world, so you can become an MBA without having to move, leave your job or otherwise disrupt your life.
Funding from employers
What if your boss paid for your degree? Many companies invest in their employees’ professional development by helping cover MBA tuition. This financial support is indicative of another valuable kind of support, as well: your employer’s confidence in your potential as a successful leader in business.
Tips for Success: Earning Your MBA While Working Full-Time
It’s possible to earn your MBA while working full-time, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Fortunately, you have William & Mary in your corner, with guidance for ways to conquer this marvelous challenge.
Plan your calendar ahead of time
To balance academics with your professional and personal commitments, you’re going to need excellent time-management skills. It’ll help to sit down with the syllabus for each course you’re taking and compare your class deadlines with work deadlines. Is there a paper due when you’ll be attending a conference? A big meeting scheduled in the middle of exams? The further in advance you know about this sort of overlap, the better equipped you’ll be to navigate it successfully. It’s also essential to block out time for schoolwork, because studying on company time could make things difficult for you at work.
Plan ahead with your boss
Your supervisor’s support will be invaluable when you’re working during MBA courses, and clear, generous communication will help get your boss on your side.
By the time you’ve been accepted into a graduate program, you’ve likely already discussed this new undertaking with your manager, and you may have secured employer-funded tuition reimbursement. If that’s the case, then it’s clear that your boss is in favor of your MBA ambitions, which will only work in your favor.
Before classes begin, meet with your supervisor again. Share the time-management planning you’ve done and the forethought you’ve put into meeting your professional objectives while completing your coursework. The more confident your boss is that you’ll cover all of these bases, the more amenable that person is likely to be to making accommodations if you need them.
“Employers understand the commitment of time, energy, and attention that’s required of MBA students,” says Julie Cohen, leadership coach and CEO of Work Life Leader. In other words, if you’re good at what you do, your boss will help you create an arrangement that works for you both.2
Once classes are in session, keep the communication coming. Set up quarterly meetings with your manager, so that you can share what you’ve learned and discuss how you’re growing as a professional.
Get your colleagues on board
Speaking of communication: Bring your coworkers into the loop. You’re going to need their support and good will throughout graduate school, especially if (when) they’re called on to cover some of your work. Coffee and bagels for the team are often welcome, but respectful, open communication is more important and more effective than bribery.
“Coworkers are usually very accommodating if they know your circumstances in advance,” says Pittsburgh-based career coach Chris Posti.2 Let your peers know in advance when you expect crunch time to hit.
Build a support network outside of work
Make sure that everyone you’re close to knows you’re pursuing your MBA while working full-time. They care about you and they’ll want to support you, and that support can come in varied ways. You’ll need encouragement, advice and someone willing to answer the phone late at night. You’ll need people to listen when you have to let off steam. Perhaps more than that, though, you’ll need flexibility and relaxed expectations from people to whom you won’t be able to devote much time or energy for a while. Before you begin working during MBA courses, let the ones you love know that you’ll be facing important challenges for a finite period of time. By including them in your plans, you help ensure that they’ll be there for you throughout the process and long afterward.
Set aside time for yourself
Once classes start, your schedule will be very full, and that’s all the more reason to give yourself time away from it all. Commit to maintaining some physical, emotional and mental distance from work and school, and then stick to it. That breathing space can help you stay balanced, focused and refreshed—and it can help restore and buoy your sense of humor, which you’ll need when things get hectic. Whatever lights up your eyes and brings joy to your heart—music, sports, woodworking, cooking, travel, theatre, fly-fishing, anything—find time or make time, consistently and frequently, to relax and enjoy it.
Earn a cutting-edge MBA designed for working professionals.
Gain the skills you need to tackle today’s business challenges and the innovative perspective to design tomorrow’s solutions. Complete your degree in as little as two years in the Online MBA program from the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. It blends the best of William & Mary—a "Public Ivy" education, world-class faculty, small classes and a close-knit, global community—with the convenience of an online program.
For more information, schedule an appointment with one of our Admissions Advisors today.
1. Retrieved on September 14, 2022, from poetsandquants.com/2022/04/29/how-many-students-are-studying-for-an-mba/
2. Retrieved on September 14, 2022, from monster.com/career-advice/article/balance-full-time-job-getting-mba-0517