When people talk about going to graduate school, it can be easy to automatically think this requires quitting their jobs and going to grad school full-time. Today however, many graduate programs are offering more part-time options. Deciding what kind of program and time commitment is right for you is a very individual decision but we’re here to help with a review of some of the benefits and potential downsides to going to graduate school full-time.
In order to be considered to be a full-time, graduate students typically have to enroll in a minimum of 9 credits but it’s important to check the specific requirements at your school of choice. There are sometimes different requirements for students working as graduate assistants, financial aid stipulations, and international students in some circumstances.
What are the benefits of going to school full-time?
- The ability to more completely immerse yourself in your studies and the graduate school environment.
- Not getting distracted by a job and its professional demands while studying.
- Potentially finishing your degree sooner than if you pursued it part-time, which may help you reach your professional goals more quickly. A full-time graduate degree can be completed in 18 to 24 months, whereas a part-time degree can take 36 months or more.
- The opportunity to take on research and teaching assistantships in your department (which may also help cover tuition costs). These opportunities may also be available to part-time students but are often more limited due to scheduling conflicts.
- Greater amount of time spent with professors can facilitate closer relationships with them as well as your classmates. This may also help with future networking opportunities.
What are downsides of going to school full-time (compared with going part-time)?
- Reduced Income. Unless you opt to pursue grad school full-time and work full-time, you will likely not earning a salary while in graduate school. Depending on your financial situation, this may result in taking out additional loans while you are a student.
- While attending full-time can allow you to focus, there’s a risk of graduate school becoming all-encompassing. This is a risk with graduate school regardless, it can be difficult to balance your studies with other areas of your life.
- Graduate studies can feel removed from direct service work, which troubles some students. Courses can feel too theoretical and writing papers can feel like a tough transition from work in your community.
- It may feel hard to take time away from your professional career. While graduate studies may still be furthering your larger trajectory in the field, it may feel harder to network or immediately apply your new knowledge from classes.
There’s a lot to consider as you determine whether attending grad school full or part-time will be right for you. As always, there are likely additional considerations specific to your school so be sure to keep in close contact with your graduate school office to assess the options that may be available to you. Be sure to also read our articles Going to Grad School Part-Time and Are you Financially Ready for Grad School to further inform your decision.