Certified professionals have a different career path to most. Unlike other careers where hard work, networking, and simply learning on the job can build up your credentials and help you progress through your goals, certified professionals need to be able to legally prove their credentials.
Not only do they need to hold a degree from an accredited institution, but they will also need to pass a state exam before they can get started. The good news is that working in a certified profession often means far better job prospects, as there are fewer who can do your job, and you have a license that proves you can do it well.
Certified professionals can include a wide range of professionals, from those who work in the trades to those who work in healthcare. While it is an easy matter to take a little bit of time off to complete a course that takes a week or less, working while studying a full degree is far more difficult, and yet, healthcare professionals do it every day.
Nurses, in particular, are the standout example. Unlike physicians, who commit to their education primarily before they start their residency, nurses can work and then are encouraged to study and further their training without taking time off. With a shortage of nurses and greater demand on the healthcare system thanks to the pandemic, the reasoning makes sense, but that doesn’t make it easier to juggle as demanding a career as nursing is with a degree.
Balancing your work and studies can feel like an impossible task, particularly if you have additional stressors involved that complicate the issue, like the fact that you are a frontline worker. With cases once again rising and pressure back on healthcare and other frontline services, it can be tempting to put a pause on your studies or delay them even further if you haven’t yet started, but with this guide, you’ll be able to master the balance and come out on top:
The Secret to Success is in the Degree
One of the biggest secrets to successfully managing your career and your degree is to choose the right degree option. In some cases taking on a degree full-time in order to graduate faster can be the right move. In others, having a course that has been specifically designed for working professionals can be just the ticket.
1. Where You Can, Fast-Track
Fast-tracking helps you cut off the extra fat and get straight to the heart of your credential goals. In nursing you there are many ways that you can and should fast-track through your education, as it helps you get better value for your education and can also help you reach that next stage in your carer sooner.
You can fast-track the BSN if you have an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a bachelor’s degree in any other subject. You can also opt for an integrated approach. In nursing, for example, you can work towards your DNP, the highest level of nursing education, from a BSN. You won’t be skipping your MSN but rather integrating MSN programs into your DNP program. It may seem a bit odd that you can jump from a BSN to earn your DNP, so click here to learn more. Many with aspirations to earn a DNP may find the integrated option suits them best, as it means they can earn their qualification in around 3.33 years.
2. Know The Resources Available to You
Every university is more than the program. It is also the support and tools that they offer to help you on your path to success. The degree that you choose should come with a student success advisor who is there to help advise you on the various degree paths, the tuition and if you can apply for any financial aid, and who also checks in regularly to ensure that your needs are met and that you are making good progress on your course. They are there to offer one-on-one support and will help you stay on track for graduation.
Having someone like that on your side makes it easier to navigate and manage your degree because they are there to help you and ensure that the university is offering you what you need to learn as effectively as you can. You’ll find courses that include a student success advisor have very high pass rates for the certification exam. After all, if you are a nurse who is working and studying, then having someone to turn to when you need help or advice can make a huge difference and can also help you pass both the ANCC and AANP exams.
3. Is Accredited
Accreditation is only particularly important when you are in a career that requires certification and a license to practice. After all, without that accreditation, the exam board will not be able to determine what your education included, whether you have the necessary clinical hours, and so on. The accrediting body also matters. In nursing, the accreditation you need to look for is from the CCNE, though other careers and industries will have their own.
Always check that your state exam recognizes the accreditation and that investing your time and energy into the degree in question will make you eligible to take the state exam.
Professional Tips to Balance Work and Study
When it comes to balancing a career with a degree, you need to consider the three important pillars: your health, your career, and your degree. Each of these pillars needs to stay strong in order to grow steadily and help you achieve your goals. If one starts to crumble, then your efforts at success falter. You can always build yourself back up, of course, but with these tips, you will be able to improve that balance and better your career all at once.
To start, we will look at the professional tips and tricks that will help you support your career.
· Inform Your Employer of Your Efforts
You are doing yourself a disservice if you hide the fact that you are juggling both your career and your degree, especially if you continue to work at your current workplace. By informing your supervisor that you are completing your degree and earning your next qualification, you can even get better support from your workplace. From being placed in a different department that you aim to specialize in to simply making your supervisor and even HR aware of the times of the year where you will likely take off to cram for the exam or so on.
The fact is, if your employer reacts poorly to the fact that you are furthering your qualifications so that you can provide more advanced services for them, then chances are they are not a good fit for you. Certified professionals are much rarer, and more than that, you cannot bring in someone from a different background to learn the ropes on the job. It is for this reason that nurses and physicians alike are experiencing shortages, and why you as a nurse or other similar professional have a lot of negotiation power.
· Try to Get on a Consistent Rota
One of the key ways you can adjust your career to better fit alongside a degree is to work consistent hours. Shift work is fine, so long as those shifts are consistent. You could work at different hours of the day for the days that you work, but only if that schedule remains the same, allowing you to mentally and physically prepare for them.
You don’t need to work in a stable 9-to-5 in order to be consistent. If you work long shifts and only three days a week because of it, then you can use those days off to commit fully to your degree. The only thing that matters is your energy and motivation management.
· Find Others in Your Field Also Studying
If you work in a large company or organization like a hospital, then chances are there are others who are similarly going to be studying while they work. Find them, and help each other out. You don’t even need to be working on the same credential. Studying together can improve your focus and your mood. You aren’t alone, and that can do wonders to help you study more productively on a regular schedule.
Study Tips to Balance Work and Study
Relying on your institution to provide support services is a great way to start, but you will also need to prop up your study efforts with a few at-home tips and tricks.
1. Set Up a Study Space at Home
You always need a dedicated study space. This could be a whole room, a desk, or even a part of your dinner table. You can be creative or repurpose your living space, but regardless of where you set up, you need enough space to spread out your study materials, a place where you can charge your laptop (or space for your personal computer), and also a comfortable chair.
2. Get as Close to Nature as You Can
Being amongst nature provides a wealth of great benefits. You feel better, you can often think better, and your memory improves. During the summer and warm days, you will even want to study outside if you can, but if that is not an option for any reason choosing a spot near a window or surrounding your study space with plant life can be a decent substitute.
3. Use Natural Light
The natural blue-white light of day helps us feel more awake and alert, and if you find you have to study at night, there are blue-white therapy lights that can mimic the benefits of that daylight. Do be wary, however, as this light is also how we cycle our internal clocks, so trying to go to bed immediately after being in a bright room can actually prove more difficult. Always schedule your studying with a few hours to spare so that you can wind down and get a better night’s rest.
4. Understand How You Learn
Everyone learns differently. Understanding how you learn, however, can be as simple as rewriting the course content in a way that helps you understand best. The good news is that with the wealth of tools available both online (and in some degrees, your placements), you should learn through all the different senses.
5. Form a Study Group
Just as finding others near you who are also working and studying can help you stay motivated, so too can you benefit from connecting with your course peers. Break up study efforts, share notes, ask questions, and more. Even just having others going through the same struggles you are can help immensely.
Personal Tips to Balance Work and Study
Your health will also make a huge difference when it comes to your degree success. Eating well, sleeping better, and managing your stress will all play crucial roles in your career and in your degree.
Diet-wise a great place to get started is to clear out your home of unhealthy snacks and foods. These are items that provide a short-term benefit (tastes good, sugar-rush) with long-term negatives. You don’t need to diet during this period, but you do want to focus on eating healthier foods, particularly ones that help your brain function better.
When it comes to getting a good night’s rest, there are two key tips to take home with you. The first is to use your routine to your advantage. Going to bed at the same time every day can do wonders towards helping you adjust your internal clock. Improving your bedroom conditions will also make a big difference. From getting a new mattress to updating your sheets, to even ensuring your bedroom is the right sleeping temperature, there are many ways that you can improve your sleep with relatively minimal effort.
Stress will require a unique approach, but the key to success will always be your support network. From professional help to friends and family, rely on those around you to help you vent your frustrations and shake off that stress.
With a combined approach towards your degree, you can successfully manage the juggle. It will take trial and error, however, so get started with these tips today.