How to Attend College Part Time While Working Full Time

Family with ADP graduate

Going to college while working full time is a big commitment – but often a necessary one. College is an investment, and maintaining an income as a student is a wise choice.

If you’re wondering if you’ll be able to manage working full time while going to college, you’ll want to carefully consider the time commitment and how to maximize your schedule. With planning and perseverance, a college degree is still within your reach.

Attending College and Working Full Time Is Possible

Managing a full-time work schedule and college courses requires dedication, but it is possible! The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that 40% of part-time undergraduate students also held full-time jobs in 2020 . And nearly one-third of students over the age of 25 both worked full time and attended college full time. If you choose to enroll in college while working, you are not alone – in fact, it’s pretty normal to take on both at once!


of U.S. part-time undergraduate students held full-time employment in 2020.

Understanding the Time Commitment

In order to fully commit, it’s helpful to know what you’re getting into. Understanding the time commitment required for college learning can help you visualize your schedule and determine if it’s feasible for you.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time College

Your weekly time commitment will depend on the type of program you choose. If you enroll in college full time, you can expect more time in class and more homework, because you’ll be taking more courses simultaneously. If you choose a part-time program, you can expect a lighter workload. Part-time programs tend to be better suited for working adults, but you will probably not complete your degree as quickly as you would in a full-time program.

The Best of Both Worlds: Accelerated Programs

Some degree programs feature an accelerated model, allowing you to focus on one class at a time while enrolled as a full-time student – which can help when you’re balancing a job and family commitments too. Accelerated programs are ideal for working adults.

Weekly Time Commitment

Perhaps the most important thing to understand is how many hours per week you’ll spend on school, between attending classes and completing assignments. Most three-credit college courses require 10-15 hours of time each week, but it’s good to check with the specific programs you’re interested in for the most accurate estimate.

Photo of Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith

Management and Organizational Leadership '20

You can do it! Stay organized. Ask questions. Keep a routine so you don't fall behind on reading and other assignments.

Online vs. In-Person Classes

Another factor to consider is format. If you select an online degree program , you’ll likely have more flexibility to fit in your course work when it works for your schedule. If you select an in-person program , you’ll likely have set class times that you must attend. Both formats have benefits and drawbacks; it’s up to you to decide which is a better fit for your work schedule and learning style.

How long will it take to finish my degree?

While the average student takes just over four years to complete a bachelor’s degree, there are programs designed to accelerate your time in school, allowing you to graduate in as little as 16 months.

How to Be Successful While Working Full Time and Going to College

We asked college graduates who worked full time while earning their degrees how they were successful, and they shared this valuable advice. 

Decide on Your Non-Negotiables

You can’t do it all. To hold a full-time job and go to college, there will be things that you have to say “no” to. Take inventory of how you spend your time and decide what you can give up for a season. Make a list of your non-negotiables – maybe it’s exercise so you can stay physically healthy, or dropping your kids off at school so you have a few moments with them each day. After you’ve outlined your non-negotiables, make a plan to step back from the rest until you finish school.

Talk with Your Family

What our students say..

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, trust your instinct, and take it one day at a time.

Nearly half of students who work full time and go to college part time have children under the age of 18 living at home , according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. If this is you, you’ll need to have a conversation with your family.

Explain your goals and why you’re pursuing a college degree. Talk with your partner about the list of things you usually handle that you’ll need help with. This could include prepping meals, doing laundry, helping kids with homework, caring for an aging parent, or keeping the house clean.

Share with your kids the ways that they can help, why you will be less available at times and that doing well in school is important. Involving your spouse and/or children can help them feel like they’re a part of your goals, even as you have to dedicate more time to school.

Schedule Your Study Time

Don’t just count on your study time happening – build it into your schedule. Block a couple hours each evening or a whole weekend day to work on assignments, and stick to it. Mapping out your week on an app like Google Calendar can help you visualize your week and mentally prepare for the days ahead. Scheduling your study time will help ensure that you have adequate time to finish assignments before they’re due.

Pro Tip: Stick to Your Schedule! It’s easy to skip a study session or add an extra fun activity to the week, but the further you drift from your schedule, the more difficult it will be to get back on track.

Know How You Work Best

Only you know how you work best. Spend some time reflecting on where and when you do your best work, and plan your time around that. Maybe you’re a morning person and getting in an hour of schoolwork before heading into work is best. Or maybe you need a place dedicated to studying and creating a study space in your home will help you maximize your time. However it looks for you, invest some time in setting up your schedule and environment to suit your work style.

Limit Distractions

Setting yourself up for successful studying includes avoiding distraction. Whatever it is for you – TV shows, household chores or scrolling on your phone – make a plan to limit your access to distractions during your designated study times. Maybe you need to keep your phone in another room or escape to a coffee shop or local library. Your study time is precious, so make sure you have a strategy to avoid getting distracted.

Give Yourself Space for Breaks

When you’re working and going to school, downtime can be scarce. No longer can you come home and relax after work or spend a whole weekend unwinding. Small breaks in your schedule will become crucial. If you’re having trouble focusing, try stepping away from your studying for 15 minutes to reset. Or if you’ve had a crazy workweek, adjust your schedule to take an evening off from studying. While you may not have an abundance of time to rest, you can be strategic about your breaks to stay productive (and sane!). 

Pro Tip: Use Your PTO! When your courses pick up pace, don’t be afraid to take an afternoon or full day off to finish big assignments. 

Prioritize Sleep

What our students say..

Be ready to focus and work hard, but give yourself grace as you balance work, life and school! The more you can apply learning to your day-to-day, the more you will get out of each class and the better you will retain.

You have to make it through the week, and staying up late night after night can take its toll on both your work and school performance. Prioritize getting to bed on time and waking up on time as much as you can.

Communicate with Your Colleagues

Share your educational goals with your team and your boss. Oftentimes students find their workplaces are incredibly supportive of their academic endeavors. Make sure to communicate your limited capacity to take on extra projects or additional shifts to protect your study time outside of work. And don’t be shy about sharing what you’re learning, especially if it could be valuable to your workplace.

Pro Tip: Some employers offer financial support toward your degree! Ask your human resources or benefits department about any employee-sponsored programs.

Take Advantage of College Resources

Most colleges and universities have resources in place to assist you in your journey. Struggling with a paper? Find out if your college has a writing center . Need tutoring? Ask about an academic resource or learning support center . Need special accommodations? Check with your university for disability or accessibility support . Don’t be afraid to ask for help and take advantage of the resources available to you. You’re probably paying for them anyway!

Lean on Your Support System Family with ADP graduate

Find the people in your life who will cheer you on and keep them in the loop. Accept help when it’s offered, and remember it’s healthy to reach out when you’re overwhelmed. Having a strong support system can make all the difference as you work toward your degree.

At George Fox University, our Adult Degree Program graduates have the opportunity to thank their friends and family at a banquet before commencement. They express deep appreciation for spouses and kids who took care of chores and allowed them to have more quiet time to study, best friends who were a listening ear, and professors who offered support and understanding. The tear-filled tradition highlights the impact supportive family, friends, faculty and co-workers can have on your ability to successfully complete a degree.

Photo of Kandie Comfort

Kandie Comfort

Management and Business Information Systems '07

The graduation experience was so impactful for me. I was not prepared for how affirming it would be to actually walk across the stage to receive my degree.

Keep the End in Sight

What our students say...

Make school a priority. The rewards of finally getting your degree will be something no one can ever take away.

Whether it takes you 16 months or five years to finish your degree, don’t lose sight of the end goal. College graduates statistically see a huge impact on their lifetime earnings and are more protected in volatile job markets . Not only is college an investment that can pay off financially, it’s an incredible personal achievement, especially for those who worked full time throughout their college journey.


Leah Gomes

Leah Gomes

Admissions Counselor, Adult Degree Program