University of London

You are here:

  • London connection
  • Top tip

How to successfully combine work with postgraduate study

We look at ways to crack this tough nut with determination, planning and useful apps.

Written by Lucy Bodenham |

Postgraduate student in the office
Work out how many items you need to read per week to cover a module

Have you ever thought about where you are busiest? You might not be aware of how much time you spend researching on the web.

A known statistic is eight out of ten students work part-time while they study*. Some university’s recommend a maximum 12 hours work per week term time. If you study via distance you have the advantage of flexibility. Our Laws programme is one where you can take between one and five years to complete it, and the LLM has over 30 specialisations to choose from.

Aside preparing for long hours combining work and study, getting the balance right isn’t always an easy task. Planning ahead and time management are key here. Do this by pacing yourself with work and spotting busy periods ahead.

At the beginning of your academic year consult your study guides, related handbooks and even speak to your supervisor. This overview will give you a good kick-start plan.

Hiroshi Kawaguchi, from Japan, says his top recommendation starts with a study timetable and trying to stick to it.

....before commencing study, making a concrete plan and a detailed timetable is the key to success. By doing this, you can learn a subject deeper day by day, little by little, and at the end you will succeed.

Caowrites, a seasoned student, studies in the US and is currently enrolled on the Postgraduate Laws Programme. She mentions her own approach on our Student Blog: ‘For me, the time/option lock dilemma is also resolved by skipping ahead in my study materials – if you’re reading a high suspense book sometimes you just need to skip to the end. I like to read the last modules of a course before starting research on earlier ones. This helps me develop a good understanding of context and definitions and helps me work faster.’

For more in depth advice see Tips to create a study plan [LINK], in this article Toby Boyd's features in our related video.

Helpful apps and idea tips

Evernote – I’m highlighting this practical freemium app again. It’s still very much a dependable work horse and you can work anywhere on the go in sync with all your devices. Create a free account with Google or your email address. Accounts range from Basic/free to £10 per month Business account if you want to sync your notes across more than two devices.

RescueTime – touted to help you get the work-life balance right by using your time sensibly. It uses reports to highlight where you are busiest, like how much time you spend on website research. The app is available for all your associated devices. Ranging from the 14-day free trail of RescueTime Premium [thereafter $9 per month] to the basic free Lite package. With Lite you track time on applications / websites, set your goals, and receive a weekly report plus a 3 month history. The good thing is RescueTime states your data is private and belongs to you.

A study partner – An online friend can help you motivate and support one another. Use our LinkedIn channel to network other postgraduate students around the work. Find others studying the same degree. Alternatively use the various discussion forums on the Student Portal [VLE]. There are lots of ways to communicate, some are Skype, WhatsApp or Snapchat.

Be flexible – You can do an internship or volunteer to gain valuable experience in your field of studies. Take away transferable skills and work experience to list on your CV or Resume. Laura Macfarlane, a Veterinary Officer from Australia, was supported by her employer to volunteer in Bangladesh. Laura went on to complete her Masters. ‘What I enjoyed most about this course was how practical it was, both in applying it to my job in Australia, and my volunteering in Bangladesh.’ Consider asking your employer for study leave, they may support or sponsor you if you can demonstrate the specialist knowledge you can bring back to the company.

More information