How to Balance School and Work: Tips for Teaching While Getting a Master’s Degree

A teacher works on their laptop.

The prospect of teaching full time while working on a master’s can sound overwhelming. Learning how to balance school and work, however, can make achieving this daunting goal possible. In addition to offering the benefits of an advanced education, such as a deepened and enriched ability to address the needs of diverse student communities, master’s degrees open up many leadership opportunities for educators and allow them to hone their skills in implementing innovative practices that promote social justice and equity.

Some useful tips for working teachers pursuing a degree include:

  • Staying motivated by keeping focused on their larger purpose
  • Networking and taking advantage of available resources
  • Applying scheduling skills learned as teachers to their own school/work/life schedules
  • Applying what they’re learning
  • Keeping up with self-care

The Benefits of Online Programs

With improved online teaching methods and innovative educational technology, online programs offer considerable advantages. Remote learners can experience meaningful interactive curricula that help them grow as educators while managing a healthy work-school-life balance. Consider the following benefits of online programs:

Vital Flexibility

Online programs give working teachers unmatched flexibility. Any educator considering a master’s degree already has significant obligations to their students, administrators, and school communities. Remote learning allows teachers to tailor their study schedules in ways in-person learning does not. This flexibility makes taking on additional responsibilities and time commitments more viable for working teachers.

Online Programs With Scheduled and Self-Paced Elements

Online programs that feature both scheduled and self-paced classes and coursework offer a balance between flexibility and a sense of personal connection with peers and professors. Such programs make it easier for working teachers to coordinate how they manage their time without denying them the benefits of real-time interactions so valuable in the teaching and learning process, such as:

  • Immediate feedback
  • Live discussions
  • Instantaneous answers to questions
  • The ability to form more personal relationships with peers and instructors

Online master’s students can enjoy these advantages by attending certain online classes live at specific times. However, most of their weekly graduate study time depends on how they choose to adapt it to their existing schedules. Rather than having to rush to class at the end of a hectic school day, teachers can select time frames most convenient for them to listen to lectures, write papers, and engage with online learning content.

Greater Accessibility

Online programs allow teachers to learn from any location, which can save time and hassle. Without having to drive to a university campus, they can spend more time remotely accessing an online library and conducting research or collaborating remotely with peers on a group assignment. Online programs also don’t require teachers to relocate to a different city, interrupting established careers and uprooting families.

Diverse Cohorts

Online programs often give teachers the chance to study in cohorts with teachers from all over the country. This can offer insight into the diverse experiences, challenges, and solutions of educators in different regions. It can also provide teachers with the opportunity to network across the U.S., making important connections.

Tips for Balancing School and Work

Maintaining a teaching schedule while pursuing professional development can pose challenges. Balancing school and work demands that teachers juggle their professional duties and online study. This involves staying on top of competing deadlines, keeping track of both the assignments they’re giving and the ones they’re getting, and adjusting to intensified constraints on their time.

Additionally, going back to school while teaching full time can require personal sacrifice. Teachers often must give up some of their free time and reorganize how they attend to familial obligations.

Consider these suggestions for balancing a complex schedule:

Remember Your Goals

Sometimes the stress of teaching and studying simultaneously can cloud over a teacher’s motivation. However, motivation is key to finding the energy to endure. For this reason, teachers should clearly identify the benefits of an advanced degree and regularly review them in their minds, especially on their toughest days.

They can do this by developing a practice of visualizing the new opportunities they expect to open up—reminding themselves that an advanced degree can help them improve as educators, advance professionally, and increase their earning potential.


Networking can help relieve some of the burden working teachers experience in graduate school. By talking with people in their programs—including instructors, active students, and graduates—they can gain useful insights. For example, fellow students may share study strategies, graduates can explain requirements and what to expect from the program, and professors may have time-saving tips about conducting research or locating sources.

Additionally, some programs offer specialized support for online programs that students should take advantage of. For example, Mills College provides a virtual student union where students can find study groups and engage in discussions with peers and faculty members. Mills also has student success coaches, who regularly check in with students, supporting them with strategies to ensure their success.

Apply What You’re Learning

Master’s degree programs equip teachers with new tools and methods that make them more effective educators. While working toward their degrees, teachers should look for opportunities to apply the skills acquired in their own schoolwork to the lessons they teach in the classroom. This can improve their efficiency and save time. It also reinforces their learning, helping them perform better in their coursework, and keeps them mindful of the benefits and relevance of their development.

Self-Care Tips for Managing Stress

Self-care is essential to getting through the challenges of teaching and pursuing a master’s degree at the same time. Teachers must recognize and attend to their own needs, or they risk burning out before reaching their goals. Consider the following self-care tips.

Practice Gratitude to Disrupt Anxiety

When anxiety about workload or an upcoming deadline takes over, teachers can interrupt it by focusing on what they feel grateful for. This can serve as a reminder of one’s purpose and offer the boost needed to charge ahead and solve problems. Practicing gratitude can also offer clarity about deeper motivations.

Be Forgiving With Yourself

The demands on teachers in graduate programs are intense. This means teachers may make mistakes or worry that they aren’t delivering their best work. It’s important teachers give themselves leeway and not expect perfection. When tempted to give themselves a hard time, teachers can remind themselves of the immensity of what they’re accomplishing and focus on what they’re getting right.

Fulfill Your Basic Needs

Feeling the pressure of holding it all together, teachers sometimes neglect their basic needs. This can result in illness and burnout. To avoid this, teachers must set time aside for maintaining their physical and emotional health. By eating nutritious food, exercising regularly, and opening up about their emotions, teachers can keep stress in check. Additionally, breathing exercises and meditation, which can require minimal time commitment, provide meaningful benefits.

Explore Ways to Further Your Teaching Career Through Online Programs

Cultivating the knowledge and expertise to make the biggest impact in education takes time and commitment. However, once teachers have learned how to balance school and work, they can pursue advanced degrees that empower them as educators. Learn how Mills College’s online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership supports teachers through the process.

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Education Support, “How to Handle Stress: Teachers & Education Staff”

eLearning Industry, “7 Benefits of Choosing Online Degree Programs”

LearnUpon, “Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning: Which Is Right for Your Learners?”

Mental Health America, “Balancing Work and School”

Mills College, Student Support

Resilient Educator, “5 Time Management Tips for Teachers”

Rethink Together, “Ten Tips for Teacher Self-Care”

Scholastic, “Balancing Work, Life, and Grad School”

ThoughtCo, “Grad School Online Education Advantages and Disadvantages”