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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Graduate degrees have become a necessity in many careers and can increase opportunities in any field, including the opportunity for better pay. There are good reasons to put off getting a graduate degree, such as the need for more job experience, desire to pay off undergraduate loans first, and even saving up for graduate tuition to avoid the need for loans; however, having a child is not one of these reasons.

This isn’t to say that graduate studies will be less time-consuming than a full-time job or that it will be easy to juggle parenting with classes, homework, and research. With the right approach and skills, however, you can add the extra security a graduate degree brings to your household.

Curricular Planning

Traditional graduate programs typically allow students to take between six and twelve credit hours a semester. Campus-based schools will require commuting to classes or locating housing on campus. In either case, it will be helpful to cluster classes, so that time away from home can be minimized. This will make managing childcare a lot easier.

Another aspect of planning involves the actual classes. The general rule is to spend three hours working outside class for every credit hour in class. The reality is that some classes will be easier for you, and others will require more time. Planning requires assessing each class to ensure you’re not loading up any single semester with lots of difficult ones.

Another consideration is the increasing number of online degree programs and online classes offered in traditional programs. These allow you the benefit of attending class on your own time. Though not the best option for everyone, online classes become easier to manage with the following skills.

Space Organization

Any parent knows keeping an organized space becomes more than twice as difficult with a young child in the house. It can sometimes get even worse as they get older! However, this organized space will be essential to success in a graduate program.

Most people think first of physical space, and this is important. A desk with organized drawers, two-level filing cabinet, and a bag dedicated to school supplies will help you complete work in a timely manner. Cyber-space is also important. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to find a citation you know is in a research paper written last semester. Establish a filing system, and keep two backup copies on thumb drives.

Time Management

New parents may be surprised by this, but babies and children of any age value schedules for the security this brings. This is great news because a tight schedule is a strong predictor of success. At the start of each semester, plan how those nine hours for every three credits will be spent each week. You’ll surprisingly be more flexible during the inevitable emergencies.

Being a parent in graduate school is not easy. Let peers and professors know your situation, and work to befriend others in the same situation. Many parents have been in your shoes and succeeded, and other people may have solutions to problems you face or at least be willing to lend moral support.

Marie Ware is a mother of two and an online student. She recommends that other parents who are interested in pursuing graduate school check out the best mba programs to find one that fits with their busy schedule.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents considering graduate work.

Image courtesy of Jerry Bunkers on Flickr via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.