Folks have asked me “How were you able to complete your seminary degree while working full-time?” After all, I was pursuing my seminary education and working about 55-plus hours a week in my vocation as a manager in a large IT department in a Fortune 50 company, while also having other responsibilities, such as mentoring others and being a leader in my church and in a professional IT organization. Add to that, since it took me 20 calendar years to complete my degree (that’s a story for another time), I was into my mid-50’s as I was coming down the home stretch. Sometimes as I think back on it, I’m not even sure myself how I made it through. I always found the courses very challenging, and I was constantly tired.
So, here are three thoughts I have for you if you are considering pursuing a degree or professional education while working full-time:
- Feel a true calling to pursue the education. What is your “Why” for pursuing the additional education? Some people just like to learn, and I get that. But there is a cost – and not just financially – to constantly pursuing formal learning. I know people who have multiple Master Degrees, professional designations such as CPA, or IT designations, and they are constantly looking for more. Consider the cost on your family for doing so. Do you have a plan, or feel a calling, to pursue the education?
- Be on the same page with your spouse. You will need their support. It will be hard. Tammy was my biggest supporter during the time I was attending seminary. Most of my seminary education was distance learning, with just seven one-week periods of classes on campus in St. Louis. She volunteered, more than once, to let me leave my vocation, sell the home and move to St. Louis and her to get a job for me to go full-time. I never felt that calling, but it was great to have that support. She would often help me to study, driving the car and listening to the class lectures with me as we traveled, so that I could take notes. Do you have the support of your spouse to pursue the education you are considering?
- The sacrifice of your spouse will be at least as much, and probably more than yours. They will be lonely. Tammy spent hundreds of lonely nights and weekends so that I could read, write papers and study for exams. There were many times in which even though I was physically present, I wasn’t really Instead, I was preoccupied thinking about what I had to do, what assignments were due, how many pages I needed to read, etc. And you will miss family events. This is especially important if you have children. You may have to miss their school or sport events to study. And when I was able to attend family events I was very tired.
Pursuing education is a noble calling. For me, getting my seminary education was to become equipped to be ready for whatever the Lord calls me to. For you, it may be required for your job, or it may help you to be competitive for future career opportunities. Give some thought to not only the benefits, but also the costs – time, effort, relationships – of pursuing additional education while working full-time.
For those of you who have pursued degrees while working full-time, what would you add to this?