How to Decide whether to go Back to School Full Time or Part Time

It is becoming more and more common for adults to decide to go back to school after a period of working, often for the purpose of promotion or a career change. However, it is not always easy to go back to school when you have family responsibilities and don’t have the time or money to take a year or two out of work. Sometimes, it may make more financial sense to study full time and get back into the working environment as soon as possible. For others, going back to school part time may be a far more sensible option. When deciding whether to go to school part time or full time, the following factors need to be considered.


Although going back to school can result in a higher wage in time, which is usually precisely the reason that most people do go back to studying, it can be hard to cope with a combination of no wage and study costs for the duration of the course. Studying part-time enables students to spread the cost over a longer period of time, and to work while studying. It may even be possible to continue in a full-time job for the duration of their studies. However, others may prefer to get the financial burden out of the way in as short a time as possible. It really does depend on the individual and how much money they have saved.

Family needs 

Many adults have their families to consider as well as themselves. Going back to school can be stressful for the whole family if the breadwinner has to work and study at the same time and therefore has no time to spend with their children and partner. However, if they are studying without bringing in any money, this can be stressful for the family too. Working out a way to balance studying with financial responsibilities and family life is important. It may be more advantageous to study full-time without working, but this really depends on savings and whether there is another breadwinner in the family.

Choice of course

For some courses, work experience may be a necessary part of the studying. Those studying a trade, for example, may want to ensure that they use their knowledge as they learn it; taking a year or two off to study exclusively may mean that skills learned while studying are forgotten before they are put into practice. In this case, part-time study may be much more practical. Students can use the opportunity to follow up on things that confuse them in their working lives in class and then can add to the job from what they have learned. Then again, those studying a less practical subject may find that it makes more sense to concentrate on their studies full time and then find a job in the area of their choice.  

Career change or progression

Those planning a complete change in career may well prefer to take on a full time course, so that they can concentrate fully on their studies before looking for a new job – it may well be that finding a job without the qualification is not viable anyway. However, for those who are going back to school in the hope of progressing their career, it may make more sense to study part-time while continuing with their job. Giving up a job for a year or two, only to then have to return to the field and look for another job may simply not make sense.

Distance to educational establishment

For those studying online, this may not be an issue, but for those who choose a course at an establishment some distance from their home, it may be more sensible to choose a part time option. If it takes over an hour to travel to classes on a daily basis, this can eat away at time that could be spent with the family, as well as being very expensive. On the other hand, three or four hours travelling a week shouldn’t be too much of a strain, and it opens up a wider range of educational establishments to choose from.

Age and health

Age really shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to studying, but it can have some practical implications. For example, for younger people without family responsibilities and without a set career path, it may be easier to go back to studying full time. For older people, who have been out of education for a long time and may be unfamiliar with the necessary computing skills, a part time course may ease them back into studying more effectively. Then again, retirees may have more time on their hands to concentrate on their studies. Of course, health is also a consideration. Those with issues that may affect their ability to study will need to take things more slowly than those with good health.

Ultimately, whether a full time or part time course is most suitable is down to the individual, who must weigh up the pros and cons of both options. With all the flexible options available to students of any age these days, it should be possible to work out a schedule that is suitable and practical.