What it's like to study for a degree part-time, while working to support yourself
My master’s degree was part-time and self-funded, it was a busy two years but ultimately very doable.
So how do you get yourself employed? Many universities offer jobs to their students on a shift based pattern. You should definitely look out for these, but I did find that they were in high demand and often, alone, did not provide enough working hours to support life in London without the cushioning of a loan.
Many students also go for bar or restaurant work. This wasn’t the route I took either, not being willing to give up my evenings and also being extremely clumsy. A short stint in a restaurant near university during my final year of undergrad proved that I would not be a great loss to the hospitality industry.
I worked in a ticketing office approximately a 20-minute walk from my main campus. This was flexible, low maintenance shift-work. You may be tempted to apply for a job with more responsibility; to begin to grow your career while studying. This is probably not a great plan. I found my degree to be very high maintenance: my time outside of work was dedicated to class work and dissertation. Having a low maintenance job allowed me to keep my degree my priority. I walked in, I did my shift, I left.
In terms of time management, this will depend very much on your degree structure. Before applying for jobs, I would recommend confirming your lesson timetables as best you can. Some degree programmes are offered as part-time programmes organised around evening classes where as others simply allow you take your course credits over two years, selecting different modules each year. This obviously affects the sort of work you would be after. Evening classes would lend themselves well to part-time 9-5 office work or similar. This would allow a 3 or 4 day working week depending on course load and time for class.
I studied a history course at UCL. There was no specific part-time structure, I merely selected my modules and worked around them. As this was a history degree, I also had to factor in all the independent work. In this type of situation, shift work is king. I worked short 3.5 hour shifts either in the early morning (starting at 8am) or mid-afternoon (starting at 16:30) several times a week and longer weekend shifts on a rota system.
I found that between 20-30 hours a week (depending on workload, reading weeks or holidays) at the London Living Wage was enough to comfortably survive and build up a small rainy day fund. I also found that working part-time helped me to work more efficiently on my degree. Being limited in time meant I couldn’t allow myself to procrastinate, as a result of this I got more done before my shifts and was able to properly enjoy my free time without the procrastination induced guilt that was all too familiar during undergrad. Working part-time also helped to build transferrable skills. I developed my phone manner, learnt some valuable office admin and discovered how to hold myself in a working office environment. These are all skills that, in addition to my degrees, have helped me find post-university employment.