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Thread: Working while in school - possible?

  1. #1
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    Working while in school - possible?

    One of the main concerns that people have when deciding on a school is the issue of how to pay for it. I'm wondering what peoples' experiences have been with working at an outside job while attending school. Is it doable, or just a surefire path to a nervous breakdown? I've gotten wildly different answers to this question and am just looking for some more insight.

    In my case - I've gotten in to Buffalo, Rutgers and Cornell. Going to either of the latter two would require me getting a job working about 15 hours a week (on top of a 6 hour/week assistantship). I'm just trying to figure out if this would even possible, or if it's something I would really regret later on...

  2. #2
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    I've worked my whole college career having been a non-traditional student with a family. Mostly I've worked 30-40 hours a week. Having a job that offers flexible hours and making a reasonable routine helps get everything done. Generally I have taken 3 classes a semester and it's worked out well.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  3. #3
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well.....

    Yes it can be done....I did it. At the time, I was doing 6+ credit hours a semester while working full time as a planner and starting a family. I doubt Cornell has a night program Buffalo and Rutgers should

    Also: It was great to discuss work related experiences during graduate school classes
    Skilled Adoxographer

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    Yes it can be done....I did it. At the time, I was doing 6+ credit hours a semester while working full time as a planner and starting a family. I doubt Cornell has a night program Buffalo and Rutgers should

    Also: It was great to discuss work related experiences during graduate school classes
    Rutgers has a fair number of courses that are offered at night, but you will have to take some day classes to get all your requirements completed.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    It's possible, but know your limits. I juggled the military for most of college. This was really a 40-60 hour a week "job" on top of school and my GPA suffered. I was an architecture student for the first 2 years of school and switched to planning for my last 2.5 years. My GPA improved significantly aftert I got out of the service and I focused entirely on my major.

    Over 3 years, starting when I was still in the army and continuing after graduation, I worked in 6 internships (5 were during college and 1 was after graduation). Many of my classmates in architecture knew what they wanted to do for a career, whereas most of my classmates in planning didn't have a clue. Instead of taking >15 hours of classes each week with "cool" electives or graduate courses, I knew I wanted to start working as soon as possible. I took the bare bones minimum courese required for graduation and devoted more time to building up my portfolio through planning internships.

    I don't think there is a magic number for number of hours. For me, I couldn't take more than 15 hours a week although I had friends who took in excess of 20 and they burned out. I also didn't work at internships more than 20 hours a week during the school. However, I would bump that up to 40 during the summer. I also probably spent about 25-30 hours on homework/project work.

    Bottom line, don't rack up a ton of work when you first start school. If you can afford it, I would hold off on doing ANY sort of extra job, including assistantships, for at least the first semester. Coursework might be super hard, depending on your school and you don't want to burn out before you're finish (otherwise what's the point?).

    Hope this helps-
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  6. #6
    I didn't work for the first 3 years of undergrad, and worked for the rest of the time through my masters. I probably could have worked more those first 3 years (other than summer side jobs), but I chose to focus on my studies and take out some loans. I don't regret it... sometimes school was all I could handle and I ended up maintaining a very high GPA.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    I echo the statements above that it's possible if you know your limits. My coworker, bobcatplanner, just finished his MAG-Urban Planning degree at Texas State University-San Marcos, and he started and completed his degree all while working 40+ hours a week as an entry-level municipal planner. He was in Texas State's evening program, attended school 1-2 nights per week, and finished his coursework and thesis in three years. He'll get his actual diploma in May.

    Also, the Community Development Director of a neighboring city (johnelsden's boss, actually) has told me on numerous occasions that he completed his graduate planning degree at UT-Arlington while working for the City of Irving part time. He even was able to incorporate his thesis/project into his job at Irving and use the experience in his paper.

    I have two friends from undergraduate who stayed at the University of Oklahoma straight from undergrad geography to grad planning who worked 20-25 hours per week at a land management company (working with GIS). One has already graduated with his MRCP (but unfortunately can't find planning work) and the other is finishing up this semester and already has a job with the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (the OKC-area COG) as a transportation planner.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus Salmissra's avatar
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    I worked while going to grad school. It can be very tough, but it's doable.

    I took 2 classes (6 hours) for all three semesters (summer being only 11 weeks, so longer in-class times), and 3 classes one semester. My first year I worked a 20-hour a week internship, plus working weekends (all day both days, plus either Friday night or Monday night) in a bookstore. The next year I obtained full-time employment in the planning field, and dropped the bookstore job. I took mostly night or weekend classes, so I just had to make sure I didn't have class the same night as P&Z or whatever board I was supporting. One semester I did have an afternoon class. My boss allowed some flex time to accommodate me, and I finished in 3 years. Make sure your boss is OK with this, and explain the requirement for graduation, before registering!

    If you are working a full-time job, I do not recommend taking 3 classes/9 credit hours in one semester. You will be exhausted, and have zero free time. However, I do recommend taking summer classes. That's how I was able to finish in 3 years. I was always busy, but had some time that wasn't work or school related.
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

  9. #9
    Yeah, as TexanOkie mentioned, I was able to do it in 3 years by taking 1-2 courses a semester. I didn't find it particularly difficult, but it definitely takes some time management. Fortunately, this is usually a strength for me. But it can certainly be challenging balancing work, school, and a relationship! The main thing is to make sure your supervisor is OK with it, especially if there is a scheduling conflict with Commission or Council meetings.

    But once you're finally done with it, you won't regret it!

  10. #10
    I guess most people are talking about working through a masters, which is definitely doable. Working through an undergrad degree, on the other hand, might be a little sketchy.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    I guess most people are talking about working through a masters, which is definitely doable. Working through an undergrad degree, on the other hand, might be a little sketchy.
    True, but there are several city staffers in other departments where TexanOkie and I work that are getting their undergrad degrees while working full-time. I believe they take some classes at night and some during the day, subject to their supervisors' approval. They're not planners, but I would still think it's doable. It would just take longer to finish. I guess it's a matter of how much patience you have.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by bobcatplanner View post
    True, but there are several city staffers in other departments where TexanOkie and I work that are getting their undergrad degrees while working full-time. I believe they take some classes at night and some during the day, subject to their supervisors' approval. They're not planners, but I would still think it's doable. It would just take longer to finish. I guess it's a matter of how much patience you have.
    Of course. There are plenty of people who work through their undergrad degrees. I knew many. However, none of them maintained a good GPA and they were unable to really dedicate themselves to their studies. None of them went on to graduate school.

  13. #13
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Of course. There are plenty of people who work through their undergrad degrees. I knew many. However, none of them maintained a good GPA and they were unable to really dedicate themselves to their studies. None of them went on to graduate school.
    Depends on the individual. I worked 40 hours a week for all but one semester of my undergraduate degree (it took six years of part time-year round effort) and I finished with a 3.69 overall GPA and a 3.85 in my major and I am finishing grad school now with a dual masters degree. Anything is possible if you are willing to make it happen .
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Of course. There are plenty of people who work through their undergrad degrees. I knew many. However, none of them maintained a good GPA and they were unable to really dedicate themselves to their studies. None of them went on to graduate school.
    Hey, bud, I earned my BUP from a big ten school with a 2.67 GPA (it had alot to do with the military). I worked my tail off in internships, full time planning jobs, and AICP to my mid-level job today. I think the current graduating class of slackers will have it harder than me, though
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  15. #15
    Did either of you two read what I said? I was speaking of those I knew of personally. If you made it through undergrad while working full time, congrats, but I would certainly not have envied you. BTW, "bud," a 2.67 GPA is nothing to brag about, if that's what you intended.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Did either of you two read what I said? I was speaking of those I knew of personally. If you made it through undergrad while working full time, congrats, but I would certainly not have envied you. BTW, "bud," a 2.67 GPA is nothing to brag about, if that's what you intended.
    I'm not proud of it, and apart from the military, I did not work full time on internships during the school year. The military took up most of my time. I did drill once a month in an engineering unit in the guard the next state over and I didn't have a car. I enlisted in the national guard in the Fall of 1999 and after boot camp, also enrolled in a highly-regarded ROTC battalion in 2000, which I stayed through the spring of 2003. My military/ROTC obligations totaled about 60-70 hours a week and I loved it!! This did NOT include additional time for either architectural studio time or planning projects.

    I am not making any excuses for a poor GPA. That was my own fault and I take full responsibility for it. As I said earlier on this thread, it's possible to work during school , but know your limits. I took on more than I could handle and I suffered the consequences. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have just gone to college, graduated, and THEN earned a commission through a different route called Officer Candidate School (OCS). Moving forward, I plan on taking my studies much more seriously the next time I am a student (which isn't anytime soon ).
    Last edited by nrschmid; 25 Mar 2010 at 1:00 PM.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

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  17. #17
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    I worked 30+ hours all through undergrad while commuting more than an hour to school each day that I had class and maintained a very respectable GPA and graduated in 4 years.

    I did a year of law school while working about 20+ hours a week but never returned for L2 after deciding that my dream of wanting to be an administrative law judge was probably the most boring dream that could ever be dreamt.

    I then decided to go to planning school for my MUP instead. I worked about 24 - 30 hours the first semester and 40 hours the next few semesters and finished up in a total of 5 semesters.

    One of the reasons I picked the school I did for graduate school is that all of the classes in the planning program are offered in the evenings which was perfect for me to allow me to also hold down a full-time job. To the OP, if you really want to go to Cornell or Rutgers but it will require you to work 15 hours a week or so, I suggest looking over the schedules of the times that the classes you will need are offered to see if it's something that's even feasible at those schools in those programs. If you are dead-set on working in an office setting during normal banker's hours, but all of the classes you need the first year or so are only offered in the morning or early afternoon, you may have some difficulty. However, retail or somewhere with more flexible scheduling may be more doable. IMO, 15 hours doesn't seem like that big of a chunk out of your week.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    My military/ROTC obligations totaled about 60-70 hours a week and I loved it!! This did NOT include additional time for either architectural studio time or planning projects.
    That is insane. 60-70 hrs a week plus undergrad studies, classes, etc.? I would have burned out, I'm afraid.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Nah, I loved it!! The military was my life, but I moved years ago. Yes, my GPA suffered but I still don't have many regrets. I probably would have structured my day a little differently to keep a higher GPA. In the end it all worked out.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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