Nursing School and Working Full-Time: How to Conquer

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you considering going to nursing school but worried about balancing school and work? If so, you are not alone. Perhaps you have asked if there is a way to know how to conquer nursing school while working full-time? Nursing school is a big responsibility, but it doesn’t pay the bills. If you are serious about earning a nursing degree but need to continue working, you will find the information in this article helpful. As you continue reading, you will find 20 tips to help you successfully conquer nursing school while working full-time and learn the benefits and drawbacks of working while in nursing school.

Can You Work Full-Time While in Nursing School?

Nursing school requires dedication and hard work, but it is possible to earn a nursing degree while working full-time if you are willing to put in the work. There are several ways to succeed while working a full-time job and going to nursing school. For example, proper planning and implementing time management skills can help make your dream of becoming a nurse while maintaining a full-time job possible.

How Hard is Juggling Nursing School and Working Full-Time?

Each person handles responsibilities differently. Some people do well when they have deadlines and several things to accomplish. Others feel overwhelmed and perform poorly. Nursing school is demanding. You must be dedicated to your study plan. Clinical rotations are mentally and physically challenging. However, it is possible to be successful going to nursing school and working full-time.

5 Benefits of Working Full-Time While in Nursing School

Although it may not always be easy, it is possible to make the most of working full-time while in nursing school. Here are a couple of things to consider about the benefits of working full-time and going to nursing school.

1. You can take advantage of networking opportunities.

Many nursing students choose to work in healthcare facilities while going to nursing school. Although you will not practice in the capacity of a nurse, you can get to know employees and supervisors. Make it known to employees and managers that you are going to nursing school. Hiring supervisors will probably watch how you relate with others and perform your job, which could be a plus when you graduate and start applying for jobs. Even if you choose to work in a non-healthcare job while in nursing school, you can still establish good work habits, which will come in handy when you graduate and need references on job applications.

2. Less worry about bills piling up.

Unfortunately, being in nursing school does not mean the bills stop coming. Unless you have money in savings set aside for living expenses or someone else paying your bills, chances are you will need your income to maintain bills while in school. Working full-time and going to nursing school can relieve some of the stress about bills.

3. More experience to add to your professional resume:

You should include all previous work experience on your resume. When prospective employers look at your resume or job application and see that you worked while going to school, it shows them you are dedicated and a hard worker, characteristics all employers want from employees.

4. You may be able to pay off student loans sooner.

Many students use student loans to pay for tuition, fees, books, or other supplies while in nursing school. While loans can be helpful, they must be paid back. If you choose to work while in nursing school, you may be able to make payments toward your student loan and reduce the amount you owe. Many student loans do not charge interest if you are enrolled in school full-time. Therefore, making payments while you are in school means you can lower the principal balance while attending school. This is an excellent option for students who wish to pay their student loans off sooner.

5. If you have a steady income while in nursing school, you may not need student loans.

Most colleges require applicants to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). When you submit the application, you will be considered for federal grants and student loans. If approved, you must acknowledge and accept the type of aid offered to you while grants do not have to be paid back, student loans do. If you choose to work while in nursing school, you may find that accepting a loan is not necessary, therefore reducing the amount of debt you have associated with your education.

5 Drawbacks of Working Full-Time While in Nursing School

If you are considering going to nursing school and working full-time, there are several things to consider. While it is possible to succeed in nursing school while working, you must be dedicated. Here are a few drawbacks of juggling nursing school and a full-time job.

1. How many hours are there in a day???

As a rule, you should be prepared to spend three to five clock hours for every credit hour a course is worth. For example, if you take a three-credit-hour Introduction to Psychology, you should block nine to fifteen hours to study for that class each week. A full-time course load is typically twelve hours. If you follow the three-to-five-hour rule of study time, you could spend up to sixty hours studying each week. Working a forty-hour per week full-time job means you will spend one hundred hours each week between school and work. Don't forget about family time, commute time, or other responsibilities you may have. You could quickly feel overwhelmed, as if there are not enough hours in the day to get things done.

2. Your work and school schedules may not align well.

Your employer may be willing to change your work schedule to accommodate nursing school. However, if you work a job with a set schedule, you may find it challenging to make your schedules work all the time. Nursing school schedules change from one semester to the next. When you begin clinicals, your schedule may vary from week to week. It is essential to discuss your school schedule with your employer and determine how flexible your schedule can be as your school schedule changes.

3. You may become distracted from school by work responsibilities.

While it is admirable that you are considering working full-time while in nursing school, it is crucial to understand the importance of staying focused. If you work a demanding job, it can be easy to get distracted by the responsibilities associated with work. Losing focus on school can hurt your grades and delay progression in the nursing program.

4. Some relationships may become strained.

In an ideal world, you could go to school full-time and work full-time and still have time left for family and friends. The truth is if you choose to work while in nursing school, you may have time for little else. Even the strongest relationships can become strained when you don't have time to cultivate and nurture them.

5. Your health can be compromised.

If you choose to work full-time while in nursing school, you should understand the importance of taking care of yourself. The physical and mental demands of a full-time job and full-time school schedule can cause you to experience changes in your physical and psychological health. Learn to recognize when you need a break and implement changes necessary to promote your well-being.

How to Conquer Nursing School While Working Full-Time?

If you feel working full-time while in nursing school is the best choice for you, there are some ways to help make things a little easier. By implementing these 20 tips, you can optimize your time for work and study and improve your chances of success in school while maintaining a steady job.

1. Have a reliable support system.

If anyone needs a support system, it is a nursing student who plans to work while in school. Talk with your family and close friends about your plans to work while studying to become a nurse. Friends may have children the same age as yours and offer to schedule play dates to give you time to study. Family members can share household responsibilities, freeing some of your time for work and school.

2. Create a designated study space.

Success in nursing school requires focus and determination. It can become easy to get distracted if you do not have a quiet place dedicated to schoolwork. You may have an office space or guest room that you can use for study. If you don't have an office or extra room, you can devote entirely to school, you can still make space for getting work done. Make sure you have ready access to your books, notebooks, pens, highlighters, and your computer or other devices you use. Be sure to establish this area as your study space by making sure others know the things in that space are for you to do schoolwork.

3. Be aware of your natural skills and tendencies and use them to your advantage.

One of the best things you can do for yourself as a working student is to know your habits and abilities as a learner and use them to your advantage as you earn your nursing degree. For example, if you are used to staying up late or working the night shift, you may find you are most alert at night. If this sounds like you, you may be more successful if you plan your study time in the late evening or night hours. Perhaps you are a stickler for planning things in advance, which is a good trait if you plan on working while in nursing school. If this sounds like you, take the time to allocate periods dedicated to completing your assignments and studying.

4. Learn to prioritize organization.

It can be easy to lose track of time or overlook important things if you are working full-time while in nursing school. This is when prioritizing organization is crucial. Putting forth the effort to do small things every day can make life much easier. For example, charge your laptop and cellphone every day. Keep a ready supply of necessary items and store them where you have easy access.

5. Get rid of life’s clutter.

Many people do not make the connection between their environment and productivity. However, the more cluttered your environment, the more difficult it becomes to focus. A clean, well-organized home is conducive to effective studying. If you can, take a few days to get your home organized. Get rid of unwanted clutter. Whether you have a rummage sale, put your things in storage, or donate them to a thrift store or charity, you will find having a clean home and study environment will pay off.

6. Set goals.

If you have never set goals, now is the time to start. Setting short-term and long-term goals gives you something to work toward and helps you stay on track with work and school. You don't have to make things complicated. You may set short-term goals, such as finishing your first semester of school with a 3.0-grade point average or paying off a small loan with your extra income. Long-term goals may be to complete all prerequisite courses and be accepted into the nursing component of your nursing program or get a promotion at work because you have maintained good work ethic while going to school. Never underestimate the value of setting goals and holding yourself accountable to achieve them.

7. Celebrate every accomplishment.

Setting goals is not enough. Every time you accomplish a goal or milestone in school or work, celebrate it. If you set a goal to pass pharmacology, treat yourself to a spa day or a steak dinner. Whatever makes you happy and gives you a sense of fulfillment can be used to celebrate your accomplishments. Working full-time while in nursing school is hard. Give yourself some credit and a pat on the back when you earn it!

8. Meal prep.

One habit lots of working students seem to develop is eating out. While an occasional trip to your favorite burger place or dinner with friends or family is okay, the cost of eating out can quickly add up. You can save time and money by devoting a little time each week or month to meal prep.

9. Create a budget and stick with it.

Chances are, if you are working while going to nursing school, it is because you have financial obligations that would suffer if you were unemployed. Reduce stress by creating a budget that includes monthly bills and necessities. Make a schedule for paying bills and buying groceries or personal items. Set aside money for unexpected expenses like replacing a tire or doctor visits.

10. Rest!

Working full-time while in nursing school may leave you feeling like there is no time for sleep. However, lack of rest and sleep can negatively impact your health and wellness and lead to difficulty concentrating on school and work. It is best to establish a routine for work and school and integrate a designated amount of "downtime" to allow your body and mind to recuperate.

11. Exercise.

I can imagine you may be rolling your eyes at the thought of implementing an exercise regimen on top of your already busy schedule. Before you brush the idea aside wholly, you may be interested to know that studies indicate increased productivity is noticeable in as few as two weeks of beginning an exercise plan. Exercise combats stress, raises energy levels, battles fatigue, and improves overall well-being. When you feel energized and less stressed, you can be more effective and efficient in all aspects of your life.

12. Eat a healthy diet.

Scientific studies show people who consume more portions of vegetables and fruits each day are happier, more creative, and more engaged. Conversely, eating foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats can leave you feeling sluggish, hinder concentration, and lead to long-term health problems. Implementing healthy eating habits now can have long-lasting positive effects on your health and wellness.

13. Find ways to merge nursing school and work interests and responsibilities.

Studying and working simultaneously is an excellent way to make the most of your time. If you choose a job that relates to healthcare, you may be able to use your time spent at work to double as a research project or to gather information for a writing assignment. Some employers will allow you to listen to recorded lectures while at work if it does not interfere with your work.

14. Do NOT procrastinate.

One of the easiest ways to fall behind in nursing school and work is to procrastinate. There is a difference between taking a much-needed break and simply putting work or assignments off until the last minute. If you feel like you need a break, set the timer on your watch or computer to keep track of time. Then, get back to work as soon as possible. The danger of procrastination is that it can lead to poor job and school performance because you will feel rushed to get things done. It is always better to complete necessary tasks early than to put them off and risk poor grades or job evaluations.

15. Plan your downtime.

Downtime? What’s that, right? The fact that you can be doing something productive every hour of the day does not necessarily mean you should. When your mind is in a constant state of motion and activity, it can easily lead to burnout, which is counterproductive to school and work success. If you are going to nursing school and working full-time, enjoy some downtime whenever possible. I cannot express enough the emotional and physical benefits of doing absolutely nothing from time to time.

16. Ask for help when you need it.

Going to nursing school and working full-time is a significant responsibility. If you are used to being independent and handling things on your own, you may find it difficult to ask others to help. Don't sell yourself short by letting pride get in the way! Your family, friends, coworkers, and employers are probably all aware that you are trying to handle work and school simultaneously. Most people are willing to lend a hand when needed, so don't be afraid to ask. You may need something as simple as having someone pick your kids up from daycare or asking a coworker to swap shifts with you. Whatever you need to do to lighten your load and help you accomplish your goals and responsibilities, do it.

17. Keep open communication with your employer.

One of the keys to successfully working full-time and going to nursing school is communication. Take the time to discuss your academic goals with your employer. Discuss your school schedule as soon as possible and ask for flexibility with your work schedule. Many employers are supportive of employees who choose to pursue higher education. However, they do still have a business to run. Being upfront with your employer and discussing options to accommodate both school and work will make life easier for you both.

18. Be honest with yourself about what you can handle.

You have limitless opportunities to work, learn, and experiment in nursing school. If you also have a full-time job, though, your schedule will be less forgiving. Instead of overcompensating by being involved in every extracurricular activity or going to every outing with friends.

19. Consider taking online classes.

While online learning is not for everyone, if you need to work while going to nursing school, it is an option you want to consider. Taking online classes requires as much dedication as in-person classes, but it can give you more freedom regarding when and where you study.

20. Find a job with a flexible work schedule.

Working full-time while in nursing school is possible, but it is easier when you have a job that offers flexibility. It becomes especially helpful to have a flexible job when you begin clinical assignments or have lab simulations, as these may be scheduled in the early morning or late afternoons.

What are the Most Convenient Full-Time Jobs for Nursing Students?

Working full-time and going to nursing school is easier if you can find a job that is not too demanding or difficult. The following is a list of ten of the most convenient full-time jobs for nursing students.

1. Phlebotomist:

As a phlebotomist, you will use your expertise in drawing blood and collecting specimens for routine laboratory tests. Many hospitals hire phlebotomists to cover all shifts, which means it could be easy to find a job with a schedule that compliments your school schedule.

2. Ward Clerk:

Healthcare facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities employ ward clerks for every shift. Ward clerks perform clerical duties such as answering phones, relaying messages to nurses and other staff, and distributing mail to patients and staff.

3. Hospital Transport:

When patients in hospitals need to be moved from one area of care to another, a transport team member helps. Hospital transporters may transfer patients from their hospital rooms to another department in the hospital for testing or treatment. They also help patients get to their cars after being discharged from care.

4. Certified Nursing Assistant:

An excellent opportunity for nursing students to work and gain hands-on experience caring for patients is becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). CNAs assist nurses by providing care for patients related to activities of daily living (ADLs). They bathe, dress, and feed patients, help with toileting and other hygiene needs. After graduating from nursing school and passing the NCLEX, many Certified Nursing Assistants transition to nursing roles with the same employer.

5. Tutor:

Many colleges and universities offer undergraduate tutoring and employ students for these positions. If you have already taken and passed a subject of particular interest to you, you could consider applying for a tutoring job through your school.

6. Personal Care Attendant:

While some people may live independently or with family, they may require assistance with daily activities or chores. Personal Care Attendants offer support for clients who are incapable of performing everyday tasks without some form of aid. As a PCA, you may be asked to do laundry, light housekeeping or cooking, run errands, shop for or take your client shopping.

7. Call Center Representative:

Many students can succeed in nursing school and working full-time in remote positions, such as a Call Center Representative. Duties in this job include managing incoming and outgoing calls, researching customer issues, inputting customer data into a database, or making cold calls.

8. Virtual Assistant:

The job of a virtual assistant is a perfect fit for any college student who is organized, computer savvy, and enjoys helping others. A few great things about being a virtual assistant are your work can be performed remotely and, often, at any time of day or night.

9. Sales Associate:

One of the most popular jobs held by college students is the role of a sales associate. Sales associate jobs typically offer flexibility in scheduling, which is a plus for nursing students whose school schedules change from one semester to the next.

10. Social Media Manager:

College-aged people spend a lot of time on social media. Large companies/employers know this and love to hire social media-savvy people. As a social media manager, you may be asked to make daily posts on a company's website, upload images, schedule social media campaigns, answer messages on the company website, or perform research. This job is an excellent option for college students working full time and going to nursing school because it can often be worked around your school schedule and performed remotely.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like for a Student Attending Nursing School and Working Full Time?

A typical day for someone going to nursing school and working full-time can be hectic! Depending on where you are in your nursing program, you may be on campus for lectures or lab simulations or need to arrive at a clinical facility to provide patient care. Most school days last six to eight hours. Your day will be filled with lectures, patient care, flashcards, and study time. That is just the school side.

If you work on the same days that you have school, you may have to leave school and immediately go to your job. Don't forget, somewhere in the mix, you need to factor in meal and bathroom breaks! There are days when you may wonder if it is possible to keep up with a work and school schedule concurrently. It is understandable to have moments where you feel overwhelmed. This is when your support system comes in handy.

My Final Thoughts

Preparing to go to nursing school comes with lots of questions. If you rely on your job to maintain a home and family, you may have wondered how to conquer nursing school while working full-time? While everyone handles the task of juggling school and work differently, the 20 tips to help you successfully conquer nursing school while working full-time featured in this article are some excellent ways to help make things easier. Remember, even on the most challenging days, it is possible to work and pursue a nursing degree successfully. You have what it takes to make your dreams come true!

Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Our Expert

1. As A Nursing Student, Will My School Help Me Find a Full-Time Job?

Some nursing schools offer a variety of industry contacts and career resources. Also, your school
may offer work-study programs. When you apply to the college, you can ask to speak with an advisor who can go over options for finding work while in school.

2. What Is the Best Shift to Work While in Nursing School?

The best shift to work while in nursing school varies from one student and school to another. If you attend on-campus classes during the day, an evening shift may be the best option for you. If you attend evening or weekend classes, a day shift may work better.

3. Typically, How Many Hours Can I Work While in Nursing School?

It is up to you how many hours you work while in nursing school. The number of hours may vary depending on your personal needs and academic and professional goals. The important thing to remember is not to overextend yourself, which could lead to job and school performance difficulties.

4. Can I Work Full-Time While Attending a Fast-Track Nursing Program?

It is possible to work while attending a fast-track nursing program. However, as a nursing instructor, I would encourage you to consider the option carefully before committing to it. Nursing school is tough. A fast-track nursing program can feel grueling. Weigh the pros and cons of working while in nursing school and decide if it is feasible to pursue a fast-track option while working full-time.

5. Can I Work Full-Time in My First Semester of Nursing School?

The first semester of nursing school is a transition period and learning how to be a successful student. While it is possible to work full-time during your first semester, you should be prepared to change your daily routine until you find the best combination of work and school schedules and what works best for you.

6. Can I Work Full-Time in My Last Semester of Nursing School?

Many nursing students work full-time throughout their whole nursing program. The last semester of nursing school is busy as you continue clinicals, take final examinations, and prepare for the NCLEX. If you feel like working full-time during your last semester of nursing school, you may benefit by getting with your supervisor and discussing an alternative work schedule to accommodate the demands of finishing your nursing program.

7. As A Pregnant Nursing Student, Is It a Good Idea to Work Full-Time While in Nursing School?

Being pregnant and working full-time can be challenging, especially the closer you get to your due date. Going to nursing school full-time can be just as tough during pregnancy. When you combine pregnancy, nursing school, and a full-time job, you may discover it is more difficult than you imagine. Having said that, if you are determined, it may still be possible. If you must continue working while in nursing school and are pregnant, consider a remote job where you can work from home. This type of job will allow you to earn an income but is not as physically taxing as other jobs.

8. Being A Single Mother, Will I Be Able to Manage Working Full-Time While in Nursing School?

Some of the most resilient and hard-working nursing students I taught have been single mothers who pursued a nursing degree while holding down a full-time job and raising children. If you are a single mother working a full-time job who wants to become a nurse, you can accomplish your goals with proper planning and by implementing some of the tips mentioned in the above article!

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).