Top 10 Tips on How to Study While Working

See also: Study Skills

For many, the idea of going back to college or university (or considering a certification) while working a full time job can be daunting.

Handling a full time job and your studies at the same time requires a good level of planning and prioritisation. While some students would choose not to work while furthering their education, there is a massive group of students who are balancing a job while studying for a degree. There are various reasons for this but, generally speaking, money is key.

Studying while working gives you the confidence you need as you have financial control as a student. At the same time, the professional qualifications that you can acquire over time will give you a good head start in developing your career.

To help you juggle your two lives with a breeze, here are our top 10 tips on how to study while working.

1. Create a Plan

At the start of every semester, get all your syllabi and record all the examination schedules along with the deadlines for the papers required.

Use a different marker for each of your classes to see easily when these due dates are coming up for every course. Likewise, make sure to mark any company meetings or work deadlines you may know of in your planner.

See our page on Organising Skills for more information.

2. Update Your Employer

Assure your employers that you can manage your work schedules.

It is also a way to get their attention, and consider you to be really eager to work for them. If possible, sacrifice holidays and breaks to show that you are serious about your job.

If you prove your dedication, it will be easy to negotiate with them a more study-friendly schedule.

3. Use Your Free Time Productively

If you are studying and working at the same time, it may seem that you have no free time at all.

However, it’s important that you use the free time that you do have constructively as this will help you balance your day job and your course work more effectively.

For example, you can read a book on the way to work if you are a commuter. Also, use a few minutes of your lunch or break time to study.

4. Look After Yourself

Having a heavy work schedule and studying will inevitably cause you to stress out every now and then.

Therefore, you should be able to handle your stress in a positive way. Exercise at the gym or go for a walk a couple of times a week, because physical exercise is an effective stress reliever.

You can listen to music, write in a journal, have a massage, visit the salon, etc. Try to devote at least 30 minutes of your day to doing something you enjoy as a way to reduce stress.

See our pages: Top Tips for Managing Stress and Looking After Your Mind for more information.

5. Don’t Overdo It

Be realistic about the time you need to spend studying and work.

If you think you can only take one study course at a time together with your workload, then focus on that course. For example, if you are studying to become an accountant you may want to take the AAT course first before you look at other options.

If you work full-time, determine exactly how many classes you can take for every semester. When it comes to work or study, people tend to bite off more than they can chew. Having a full time job in any industry can have its challenges and expectations. If you add education to an already busy schedule, it will just increase the amount of pressure.

Keep in mind that you can only do what you are able to do.

6. Take Advantage of Technology

Class notes are essential. In spite of this, many students do not know how to take down notes properly.

Avoid jotting down every single word, as this will just get you far behind and miss out on important details. Find your own way of abbreviating words and phrases, so you can keep up with your teacher.

Take advantage of the technology today and use the necessary study apps. There are plenty of programs available that help students with every aspect of studying.

You may also find our page on Note Taking helpful.

7. Find Your Comfort Zone

With regards to the ideal place and time to study, everybody has their own idea.

Whether it is at the library after school, at a quiet coffee shop or your bedroom at night, find your study area and a suitable time for studying that will work for you.

Make sure you stick to it.

Where you opt to study is equally as important as the way you study. Remove any distractions such as turning off your phone. Have everything you need once you start, so you do not need to stop just to look for a pen.

See our page: Getting Organised for Study for more tips and advice about this.

8. Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep

Do not cut back on sleep.

You can wake up at 5 a.m. and study for about an hour, rather than burning the midnight oil, then go back to sleep until 7 a.m. You should wake up feeling reasonably rested. Doing this is much better than waking up and feeling tired from staying up half the night. In addition, you should take breaks when you are studying, especially if you are feeling worn out.

In any case, working or studying for too long can reduce your performance.

Learn more about sleep on our page: The Importance of Sleep.

9. Turn off the TV

Procrastination is definitely not one of our top tips.

At times, finishing your favorite TV series, taking a nap or chatting with friends will seem more interesting than starting or completing a course assignment. But bear in mind that the earlier you begin, the sooner you are done.

Check out your project and do the easy part first. As you begin to build momentum, the more difficult parts will just flow.

Get more tips on our page: Avoiding Procrastination.

10. Eat Properly

A hectic day at work requires endurance and focus. It means that you cannot let yourself go 8 to 10 hours without eating a healthy meal.

Take care of your body and it will also take care of you. Avoid eating foods that are high in saturated fats and calories, such as pastries, cakes, pies and meat products in order to address your hunger pains. This can contribute to the increase of your cholesterol levels, affect your metabolism and increase your weight.

See our page on Diet and Nutrition and also explore the relationship between Stress and Diet and Nutrition.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

Skills You Need

Develop the skills you need to make the most of your time as a student.

Our eBooks are ideal for students at all stages of education, school, college and university. They are full of easy-to-follow practical information that will help you to learn more effectively and get better grades.


Living both the student and professional life can be tough and put a lot of strain on your personal life. Then again, you can turn this strain into motivation and get great results.

Apply these top 10 tips and you will benefit in the long run.

About the Author

Matthew Marley is the content specialist at ICS Learn, one of the UK's leading distance learning providers.

ICS Learn are pioneers in teaching skills and qualifications at a distance for over 125 years, giving students the opportunity to learn while earning and to fulfil their ambitions