Once I sat in a doctor’s waiting room and overheard a mother and son discussing college. The son was adamant that he wanted to work and study part time and his mother was trying to persuade him otherwise. I decided not to interject as unsolicited advice is worth what you pay for it, however I’d like to give you my perspective on the pros and cons of full time and part time / correspondence studies.
A brief stint with studying full time
I enrolled in University once out of school for a degree in computer science which would take three years to complete when studying full time. Once in University, I found the environment to be very different from school, you have the responsibility to ensure that you attend lectures and manage yourself as no one is going to police you. This dose of “freedom” was clearly too much for me at the time and I proceeded, with the accompaniment of poorly chosen friends, to not take my studies seriously. (We are responsible for your own actions) This was a gradual decline, you miss one lecture then dodge another and so the downward spiral begins. Needless to say, my end of year results were horrible and led to me leaving.
Balancing work and studying part time
I then enrolled into Unisa for the same degree and so began my journey into part time study. The idea of earning while you learning can seem appealing but is very demanding as I was soon going to learn. I got a job in the customs clearing and forwarding (import / export) industry as a runner to customs and delivery guy (ie. The bottom rung of the organization). I worked my way up quickly but found that working and studying is not child’s play. I was working in the international logistics sector but studying software development. This meant that leave had to be reserved for examinations as my studies didn’t “benefit” the company so I wasn’t granted exam leave. Needless to say, having an IT savvy person on the payroll does have it’s benefits. Seven years later, I graduated with my BSc in Computer Science and Information Technology.
Pros & Cons
So let’s put everything into perspective. I could have completed my degree four years sooner and got a job as a programmer with a salary obviously higher than that of a delivery guy. Starting your working career from a higher earning bracket meant that every promotion would mean an even higher income. In this respect, if you have the opportunity to study full time then do so and put in a good effort.
Let’s suppose that full time study is not an option for you due to financial constraints. Part time study can work to your advantage, when planned correctly. If your dream is to be an architect then try to get a job in the same field. This will ensure that you gain relevant work experience that will enhance your CV when you do graduate. Having a degree is awesome but theory and experience are two facets that go hand in hand. Theory on it’s own is not enough and I’ve heard endless stories of companies that hired graduates only to find that they can pass a test but are totally incapable of applying any of the knowledge. The bottom line is, if you want to be an architect then don’t study and work in a doctor’s office! Even if it means “biting the bullet” and starting off with no pay, do it!
If you’re studying something like IT or accounting that is required universally in most organizations then look at what industries interest you and get a job in it. Your studies coupled with the indept industry knowledge gained from your experience will make you invaluable to employers.
One final note, life is a journey and you’re bound to take a wrong turn or make mistakes. It’s OKAY. Everyone makes mistakes, everything will work out. I hope that my experience helps you and I look forward to your feedback.