For many students, the ability/possibility to work while in grad school is a big determinant. Institutional aid only covers so much, so the feasibility of attending one school over another often comes down to this factor. However, while many students would like to work while they are in school, many programs prohibit it, or, at least, discourage it. What’s the deal with working while in grad school? Will you be able to do it?
Can Full-Time Grad Students Work?
For the most part, whether or not you can work while attending a graduate program depends on the graduate program itself. Some graduate programs, particularly full-time doctoral programs, expressly prohibit working. These programs require students to consider their Ph.D. studies their full-time occupation. Other programs, while they don’t forbid it, strongly discourage or frown upon it. In that case, keeping a low profile about your employment is a good idea and, certainly, never use it as an excuse for why your work is not on time.
What About Part-Time Grad Students?
Most part-time graduate programs not only expect, but encourage students to work. Know going into it that you are going to devote a lot of time to your studies. So, be prepared! Part-time grad school is still grad school and, if you work as well as go to school, you will likely find that those are the only two things you have time for in the day. You may find that, as time goes on and your work load gets heavier and more complex, you may not have time to work at all.
Do Evening Program Grad Students Get to Work?
Many of the same stipulations apply to evening programs as they do to part-time programs. This is particularly because evening programs are, at their core, akin to part-time programs. Again, though, prepare yourself. Many students go into these programs expecting to have a more spread out workload, and are surprised when the hours of homework, reading, and research start piling up. Students in evening programs may have a slightly more flexible schedule and more time between classes than students in part-time programs, but be ready for a heavy flow of coursework.
What If You Have Scholarships/Grants/Assistantships?
Be sure to read the terms of your financial aid carefully. Many students who receive institutional aid in the form of scholarships and grants may also have restrictions from working. Another type of aid is an assistantship, where you work for a professor or professors as a teaching assistant (T.A.). For those that receive this type of aid, you are a part of a form of graduate work-study. Typically students in these assistantships get a stipend or a reduction in tuition. Although this kind of graduate students are, in effect, working during grad school, they also need to read the fine print carefully. Some assistantships specifically state that students cannot hold any other employment outside of their T.A. work.
So, Can You Work?
It depends. Some programs will let you, others won’t, and others will look the other way. Yet others will expect you to (such as part-time or evening programs), although you’re not required to. Start by figuring out if working during grad school is something that is important to you. If it is, include that as part of what you require in a graduate program. Be sure to ask those questions when you contact the school and while doing your school-selection research.