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Thinking about working while doing a master’s degree?

December 14, 2023
UBC MEL MHLP - Work while studying considerations

You may be considering the possibility of working while pursuing a Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) or Master of Health Leadership and Policy (MHLP) degree.

If you’re thinking about this option, finding a healthy balance between work and study is critical to ensure you are making the most of your investment in your professional development.

To that end, our 24-month part-time options – currently offered in the MEL for Urban Systems and in the MHLP for Clinical Education are a great choice if you want to work part-time while going to school.

Chelsea Ousey, a Student Recruitment Specialist for the MEL and MHLP degrees, spoke to us about some of the things to consider if you’re planning to work while pursuing your graduate degree.

What’s your advice about continuing to work while doing a MEL or MHLP master’s degree?

My advice depends on numerous factors – whether you’re a MEL or MHLP student, doing the 12-month full-time or 24-month part-time option, the type of learner you are, and the other responsibilities in your life, such as family obligations or other commitments.

Doing a graduate degree like the MEL and MHLP is a major investment and you’ll want to make the most of this opportunity.

Learning takes time – not just the time for your classes, coursework and collaborative projects with your fellow students, but time to reflect on what you are learning, to engage in self-reflection about communication and leadership, to build your network and to identify new opportunities you might not have considered.

I think it’s important to carve out ample space for all of this. You don’t want to feel rushed.

Also keep in mind that much of the value of the MEL and MHLP comes from the professional development and networking opportunities that happen outside of class. It’s important to make the time to attend and fully participate in career catalysts such as workshops, conferences, speaker events and more.

Our graduates say these enhanced their educational experience and professional development, empowering them to achieve the next step in their careers.

Let’s talk about the MHLP. Is it possible to work while doing the full-time MHLP time option?

The courses are offered in a stacked schedule, which means in our current schedule you’ll be in classes all day Mondays and Wednesdays. This creates the opportunity for MHLP students to work part-time while studying full-time.

Students who choose this option tell us it’s important to have strong time management skills and to try and keep their work to two days a week or less, or casual work.

What about part-time? How much work could I take on as a part-time MHLP student?

Many students choose the Clinical Education 24-month part-time options because it gives them more flexibility and breathing room when it comes to continuing to work while going to school.

Regardless if you study full- or part-time, I recommend starting your work schedule conservatively and then adjusting accordingly as the school year progresses once you have a better sense of the time required for the MHLP.

How about doing the MEL full-time? Could I work part-time while doing the 12-month program?

For our full-time students, we generally do not recommend working while you study. This is based on feedback from students who have chosen this route, it is very challenging to work part-time while doing a full-time MEL degree.

The MEL is a comprehensive and demanding program, with a considerable amount of reading, course assignments and group projects.

Also keep in mind that it would be almost impossible to pursue additional opportunities such as Creative Destruction Lab,  which allows you to build your entrepreneurial skills, or take on a paid intern position through the Sustainability Scholars Program if you were working while doing the full-time MEL.

How much work could I take on as a part-time MEL student?

Currently, the MEL programs offer part-time options in Urban Systems.

If you’re pursuing these programs part-time so that you can continue working but at reduced hours, we recommend you start conservatively, with a greater focus on school than work. You can then adjust as needed to find a balance that works for you.

Before you make work commitments with your employer and agree to specific projects or work schedules, check in with the MEL team about your upcoming courses to ensure you find a healthy balance of work and studies. They will be able to tell you which courses are particularly demanding, and you may want to scale back your work obligations during certain semesters.

Is there anything else prospective students should know?

All MEL and MHLP students are required to take APPP 504: Business Acumen for Technical Leaders. This is an intensive three-week course offered on campus in August. It’s a demanding experience, with full days of classes, group work and presentations. If you’re planning to work while going to school, you must block off this three-week period to focus entirely on this course.

Our part-time options are designed for people who want to continue working while going to school. They not only give you flexibility, they enable you to immediately apply the knowledge you’re learning in the program to your job.

Even so, you’ll need strong time management skills to make it work and ensure you are getting the most out of both your education and the other areas of your life.

Next steps

Interested in learning more about your options for part-time or full-time study? Complete our eligibility form to find out if you are eligible for the degree based on your academic and professional background.

The UBC MEL and MHLP are 12-month full-time professional master degrees, with 24-month part-time options available in Clinical Education, and Urban Systems. Read more about pursuing the part-time MHLP.