4 Ways to Prepare to Get Your Master’s Degree While Working Full Time

Kelly Ashton Bradley Marketing Director and Brand Manager gives expert tips for tackling working full time while you study for a Master’s Degree in a more organized, productive way.

If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, the prospect of getting a Master’s Degree or postgraduate degree while working full time can be daunting and stressful. However, as a marketing director who develops brands, I see our world evolving faster than ever before.  It’s critical to educate yourself on a regular basis to address this reality. Whether it’s interest in a subject, advancing your career, sharpening your skills, preparing to earn more, or changing career paths, utilizing an informed approach to preparing for your studies, you can work full time and make the most of your learning experience. After you’ve answered the biggest question, “Why do I want/need a Master’s Degree?” and decided to go for it, here are four expert tips for tackling your time management and approaching your studies from a more enlightened perspective.

1. Manage Your Time

When it comes to personal development, many people devote a lot more time and care to planning holidays and vacations. They look online to find incredible journeys, all in anticipation of a few weeks of fun and discovery.

Our human instincts drive us to value short-term gratification over long-term gain. Sometimes the future seems uncertain, and people all over the world ask themselves, “How do I take care of my family and the people I love?” “How can I make my life better?” “How can I get ahead in my career?” “How can I keep up with all the change happening around me?”

We know we should increase our skills and knowledge to keep up with the world. Often we trust that our employer’s training will do that for us. For some, it’s fear of change that keeps us stuck in the same career, even though we dream of doing something bigger. And for others, the realities of everyday life get in the way. It’s easy to see why we don’t always have the courage and enthusiasm to personally devote time and commitment to elevating and developing ourselves.

But if you want to build a future around what you value most, or better yet–rewrite your future, then you must continually upgrade your knowledge.

As a marketing director and brand manger for a wealth management company, it’s up to me to develop strategies for growth. Research is key to help you determine what you need to learn. I felt that I needed a more global viewpoint and diversity of thinking in order to move the company forward. Hence the Master’s level studies. It’s not easy! You can change your future and make time for your studies by having more productive conversations and eliminating non-productive activities. This will elevate your performance in a short amount of time.

2. Gather Your Information

This is a crucial step for getting your Master’s Degree. Talk to an educational adviser from the institutions you are considering. They will answer every question you have. Set educational goals that match with your work and your life. Unless you assimilate all of the documents that pertain to your education and training, your student adviser will not be equipped to provide informed advice based on your actual educational standing and goals. This especially applies to alternate types of degrees and diplomas, and those seeking credit for career work.

Here are some of the most important records you should organize for your admissions meeting.

  • A list of questions you have pertaining to your research on the institution: It takes a significant amount of research and time to find the right school.
  • Diplomas and Degrees
  • Written statement of purpose
  • Professional certifications
  • Official transcripts with GPA
  • Test scores
  • Complete list of work experience: Your professional resume, a letter from your employer verifying your career experience.
  • Financial Information: Information that applies to costs, as well as financial aid, bursaries, work-exchange, scholarships offered by the university that you may qualify for, and employer sponsored tuition assistance.

Without proper documentation that provides detailed insight into your complete picture, your course adviser will only be able to speak generally about how the programs and opportunities pertain to your situation. Your information gives them the most accurate picture in order to help you to meet your unique goals and needs.

In addition to the list above, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences answers some frequently asked questions for Master’s degree candidates.

3. Consider Your Life Goals

It’s important to come to your educational adviser meeting with some basic goals in mind. Of course, your admissions adviser will help you dig deeper into these objectives, explore options, iron out the details and costs. But to get you thinking honestly and strategically about your future, take time to:

  • Identify life goals based on what is a priority for you now and in the future.
  • Develop your ideal timeline around priorities and obligations: this will help you decide whether the rigors of full time studies are for you, or if part-time may work best.
  • Evaluate the types of programs that might work best for you: online, in-person, or blended options exist. I personally chose the blended option for my MSc in Marketing from University of Salford because of the school’s longstanding heritage, global viewpoint, quality of program, online learning, and requirement to prepare for dissertation in either Zurich, Switzerland or Salford, England. Also, because I previously studied at Canadian schools, I feel very comfortable with the British education standard. The admissions adviser patiently walked me through the entire process, thoroughly answered my questions, followed up with me and made sure I was fully prepared. The online portal is easy to use, library is superior, and professors are very responsive.

    I had previously studied at Cornell University, eCornell for an online certification in Marketing Strategy. This proved to be extremely useful in my role as marketing director in developing brand strategy for the wealth management firm I currently work for as they grow through acquisitions.

You can even start organizing a list of educational and development priorities by asking yourself these questions:

  • When do I want to complete my courses?
  • What type of education fits best with my lifestyle?
  • Does the tuition payment schedule match what I am prepared to pay? Does my employer provide any tuition assistance?
  • Do I need to hone my study skills?
  • How will this help me in my career, life, or future?

As you think critically about your goals, it’s essential to remember that while the financial aspect is important, it’s only one element of getting your postgraduate degree. Beyond money, there are more personal concerns at play, such as interest in the subject, career advancement, and personal satisfaction. To discover what getting a Master’s Degree means to you, you must first determine why it’s important to you, and once again that involves a exploring your plans and aspirations for the future.

When your educational decisions align with your values and who you want to become, you’re more likely to experience an authentic sense of satisfaction and contentment even when the going gets tough and the pressure is on to keep up with your life and your studies. Conversely, if you are insecure about your future and don’t know what you want to do, a postgraduate degree may not be the answer to your struggles. Your career path may not require an advanced degree. So no matter what educational decision you’re facing, discovering the real reasons you are considering a postgraduate degree can steer your approach and blaze a trail for long-lasting fulfillment.

4. Prepare for Change!

For most people, education is a very personal subject, and you may already have some predetermined assumptions that could interfere with your educational adviser’s ability to effectively guide you. Approach the time spent talking with prospective schools with an open mind as well as the belief that you have room to grow and capacity to do what is required to graduate in a timely fashion.

As a marketing director and entrepreneur, I’ve learned that making intentional, informed choices and confidently taking action in support of what’s truly important to me drives optimism, excitement and success around my life and career. Preparing properly for a postgraduate degree can be a critical step in the process of self-development. In the frenzied pace of life it can seem almost impossible to embrace the incredible opportunities that unfold before you and approach your studies with the energy and attention they deserve, so consider it thoughtfully.

Ongoing education positions everyone to win in our ever-evolving world. It creates a mindset and awareness that will prepare you to create conditions that will yield the future you want to see. It will push you to operate in arenas where you don’t know the answers. For me, getting comfortable not knowing, questioning old assumptions in order to reveal the limits of my thinking, and connecting with others for their insights is right where I need to be in order to grow.

As a marketing director and brand manager looking to increase my skills and expand my thinking, here’s what I used to help me get started on researching information for considering a Master of Science or other advanced degree. Request a Detailed Course Catalogue.


Kelly Ashton Bradley is studying for her Master of Science Degree in Marketing at University of Salford, and loves the global diversity and future-focused thinking. In her career, she is a marketing director and brand manager for an east coast wealth management firm headquartered in Connecticut, USA.. If you want to talk, contact Kelly at www.kellyashtonbradley.com.