Your kids come first. Their education comes; first, their needs come first, what’s best for them comes first. After a certain point, however, there will be time for you again, which means if you feel like you are stuck in a rut professionally, there is no better time or way to help you refresh your career and make progress than with an online higher education degree.
Not every degree is necessary. If you work in a creative role, then making that next step for your career can be as simple as putting yourself out there. You don’t need to earn a master’s in marketing to become a marketing executive, especially if you have put in the hours and have the professional experience to back you up.
However, when you need a degree, it can feel like the biggest barrier to your path to fulfillment. Lawyers, psychologists, healthcare workers – they all require you to have the necessary degree and pass a licensing exam. If you are a nurse, for example, you can take your career right to the top. Family Nurse Practitioners can even operate their own practice in many states, but RNs and even APRNs cannot become that FNP nurse without first completing a post-master’s certificate and passing the exam.
This can make it very hard for working parents to find the time to complete the degree and dedicate enough time to be able to pass the exam. This is especially true for working nurses, particularly in the past two years.
It is difficult, but it is also possible to pursue a career-changing degree while working and being a parent, and these tips will help you achieve it all.
The Right Time to Invest in Your Degree
You need a little leniency in your daily life, which means that you will likely need to either wait until your children are old enough to manage on their own or have moved away for university or college. Though this is certainly an easier time, it is not always the best time.
The good news is that online education has meant that you have more flexibility than ever before. Our nursing example is also one of the best ways to continue to help others, train further, and open up your career to new, highly paid positions.
At the end of the day, the flexibility and opportunities you have as a more highly qualified nurse will actually help you be a better parent in the long run. Investing in further education and working towards becoming an APRN, or even recertifying, means that you can transition your career into an option that gives you a much better work/life balance, a higher wage, and new opportunities that can help you find greater fulfillment later in life.
At the end of the day, it all depends on what is right for you. If you have a lot of support from friends, family, and your partner, then you can work towards that next degree and that next job level early on in your children’s lives. However, for most, waiting until they are just a bit older and gaining independence can be the best way forward.
One thing you can always rely on is that you earning another degree or a post-master’s certificate while working means you will be an excellent role model for your kids. You can even study and do your homework together, allowing you to bond with your kids and set a great example about hard work while also making a comfortable setting at home where further education can happen.
Understanding the Juggle
You’ll hear a lot about juggling your responsibilities when you try to tackle a busy career like nursing alongside parenting. That juggle analogy will then continue and become even more pervasive when you try to add on a degree to the mix.
What is important to remember about juggling your responsibilities is that sometimes you simply need to drop a ball or two.
A good way to look at it is that some responsibilities are made of glass. These are the ones you absolutely need to keep up in the air; otherwise, they will be broken and cannot be picked back up. Other responsibilities are rubber balls, and they’ll be okay if you drop them and can be picked up back later or even forgotten about.
In some cases, still, you can pass off some of those responsibilities.
Essentially, understanding your priorities and forging yourself for not being able to do it all is one of the most important skills you can do for yourself. Before you have to drop the ball, ask for help. If no one is around to help you, then you will simply need to let it go.
This includes responsibilities involving your children. Don’t make it a habit, but also don’t try to extend yourself too far, either. Simply put, make promises and keep them, but don’t make promises when you are overextended.
Setting that great example and being honest with your kids, especially if you make time for them irregularly, can help them adapt to your work/study routine without feeling like they are being pushed aside.
Choosing the Right Online Degree
Managing your time and responsibilities is a key skill you will need to advance your career with a degree, particularly if the career in question is as demanding as a nursing career can be. It isn’t, however, just you that needs to prepare themselves. The degree you choose should also offer many features designed to make it possible to continue to work while studying, with the acknowledgment that you also have personal responsibilities and your own health to take care of.
Every degree you look at should offer:
· Student Success Coaches
Every online degree should offer a student success coach that is available to you from the moment you register to the moment you graduate. These coaches are there to help you personally and academically, especially as your learning environment is online rather than on-campus.
· Flexible Learning for Working Students
Online degrees are often designed for working students, but it is important to note that isn’t always the case. Always check and contact the admissions team to learn more about the degree and how it supports its professional working students. Flexible log-in times, the ability to take on as little as one or two courses at a time, and a variety of online tools are all standard and should be taken advantage of.
Remember, it’s not a race. It’s okay to find it easy to tackle one or two courses at a time because that simply means you are healthier, less stressed, and that you are performing better at your career, your degree, and your personal responsibilities.
· Career Support
Every degree, in-person and online, needs to offer career support. Investigate the career services department and learn more about the services that they offer, including the opportunities. While careers like nursing are relatively straightforward and simple when it comes to job hunting, due in part to the nursing and physician shortage, other career options aren’t so direct. Career services are there to help you take that first step post-degree in a career path that you want. Not only that, but many unique roles come through the careers service department first, before they show up online to the general population.
For degrees like nursing, where you also have to have clinical placement and will need to take a state exam, you will need your degree to also offer:
One of the most important things to check for when looking at pursuing further education in a career like nursing is that it is accredited. Of course, accreditation is the standard, so you will be hard-pressed to find a degree that isn’t appropriately accredited by a recognized nursing body, but they do still exist.
To ensure that the accreditation is what you need, always check with the state exam to note the accreditations that they recognize. This is an essential step that should be done every degree you invest in for your career, even if you have been around the block. New accrediting bodies may be recognized, some may have been disqualified, and so on.
· Clinical Placements
The top universities, like Carson-Newman University, always offer stress-free clinical placements near you. You need both in order to comfortably pursue your BSN, MSN, or post-master’s certification. The last thing you need is to rent an apartment in another city to earn your clinical hours, especially when your kids are younger, or your partner isn’t prepared to take care of them entirely on their own.
Clinical placements are critical for your career, so they should be an integral part of your degree.
· Exam Prep
That student success coach, as well as the faculty, should help you prepare for the exam. You can tell how prepared graduates are by the pass rate from students, especially the second-try pass rate.
Learning and Study Tips
Prioritizing properly, tackling your degree at the right time, and choosing a degree that will support you in your endeavors is a great place to start, but it isn’t the only way that you can make it easier on yourself to tackle on parenting, a career, and a degree.
1. Study During “Dead” Periods
There are many dead periods during the day. This could be while commuting to work, waiting for the washing machine to finish, or even waiting for your dentist appointment. The great news about online degrees is that they are available everywhere, meaning you can often study and learn wherever you are, and often with just a mobile connection.
These dead periods of the day are full of waiting when they could actually be used towards your learning. This frees up time where you are genuinely free, allowing you to relax and spend more time with your family.
2. Break Up Study Requirements with Others
Textbooks, medical journals, and the like are dense when they don’t need to be, but extracting that information takes time, especially when you take the time to create informative notes. So don’t handle it all on your own and get in touch with your peers online. Instead, you can split up chapters, journals, and so on and each create detailed notes that are faster and easier to understand than the full text. Splitting up study tasks is a tried and true method for medical professionals, lawyers, and so on, so don’t feel like you are cheating by creating an online study group yourself.
3. Combine Study Time with Bonding Time
Your kids will have homework themselves and getting them to sit and do it can be a challenge. The good news is that you can set the right example by setting aside the same time you work on your degree as when they should be working on their homework. Also, going to the library and studying with friends is a great way to spend time together and actually get more into the mood of studying on campus, and you can do it right at home.
You will simultaneously be supporting your kids while also working on your degree. This is, of course, best done when your children are older and their curriculum has already exceeded what you can help them with. If they still need help at this age, then getting a tutor is going to be essential, but for the most part, simply setting a good example and creating a conductive study period after school can help them and you.
4. Make Your Own Revision Notes
We all learn differently, and how you explain a concept to yourself is bound to be different to the way you are taught. Don’t shy away from these personal explanations; in fact, you should embrace them. Write up notes and study guides that help you understand what you need to know best because this is hands down the best way to learn and memorize what key information you’ll need to graduate and pass the licensing exam.