Are Part-Time Graduate Programs Right for You?

If you need to work while in grad school, start by finding out how much flexibility the program affords. Carrying two classes per semester instead of four can make balancing work and study possible. However, part-time programs can take quite a long time to complete.

How to Evaluate Part-Time Graduate Programs

Find out how your target graduate program accommodates part-timers. Appropriate questions include:

  • Are there night/weekend classes?
  • Is the library open at night and on weekends?
  • What about the campus computer center? The lab?
  • What sort of financial aid, if any, is available for part-timers?
  • Are the course offerings the same as in the full-time program?
  • Do the same faculty members teach as in the full-time program?
  • Do part-time students get the same priority as those in the full-time program when registering for courses? Often full-timers have an earlier registration, meaning some courses could be filled before you get a chance.
  • Are career placement services as strong for part-time students as they are for full-time?

Most important, question part-time students who are currently in the program. Also approach professors. Some can be intolerant of working students' limited study time and work obligations — especially when that means missing class.

Evaluate Your Own Needs and Goals

Does the prestige of a program matter to you? Are you hoping to use your grad degree as a steppingstone for career advancement?

If you are unwilling or unable to finance a full-time degree with savings and loans, the decision to go part-time is easy. However, if you're looking at a graduate program to enhance your career, weigh the financial considerations of waiting twice as long or more to achieve that degree against those of going full-time and finishing earlier. You may find the tradeoffs of studying full-time worth it.