Degree Programs: Full vs. Part Time | 04.15.10

Posted in Graduate Loans By Student Loan Network Staff

Although applicable to undergraduates, this timeless debate of part-time education versus full-time education seems to ring particularly strongly for graduate students. In many cases for those pursuing advanced degrees, they may be working at the same time or considering the impact an investment of a year’s time in a degree program might make in their career. Let’s go through some of the arguments for each side and figure out what the best course of action for you is:

Full-time programs

  • Accelerated, heavy class load
  • Typically finish within 1 to 2 years
  • More financial aid available

Full-time degree programs can be nerve-wracking if you already have bills to pay. For instance, if you have a mortgage or credit card debt that you are gradually paying down, adding more debt to your credit history might be the last thing you want. In addition, taking a year or two off from working to complete a degree may not fit in well with your career plans, despite the benefits you can reap from earning a professional degree.

However, there are a lot of situations when a full-time program can make sense. For one, if you are looking to go right back to school after finishing an undergraduate degree, what’s another few years for a Masters? Another excellent time to complete a full-time degree is if you work on a contract basis and your assignment is ending; you would need to either renew or look for a new job anyway, so getting a degree might fit in well with your schedule and plans.

Part-time programs

  • Flexible schedules
  • Lighter debt burdens, potential to pay as you go
  • Much longer completion times (sometimes up to 4 years)

Part-time degree programs are definitely the most popular option for working adults. If you intend on keeping your job to retain stable income (and potentially take advantage of some tuition reimbursement benefits), night school or part-time graduate school tends to be the preferred choice.

The one caveat of a part-time degree that can be the kiss of death in many cases is the completion length. Although much more affordable in the long run (since you can likely pay it down as you go with minimum loans or debt), taking three or four years to finish a degree program might sound unappealing. This is especially true for recently graduates holding bachelors degrees… who would want to go right back into a four-year program after just finishing one?

What it comes down to:

The reality of the situation boils down to two questions: “What can you afford?” and “Does the school you want have your degree in both full and part-time?”. If you are like most Americans, somewhat battered from the recession and on unstable financial footing, a part-time degree might be the better option at least in the beginning. You can always switch to full-time status if you find that you would rather speed up your program and vice versa if you need to work to support yourself while pursuing a graduate degree.

ScholarshipPoints Code: FULLORPART

What’s your opinion? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think about the different types of degree program.

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46 Responses to “Degree Programs: Full vs. Part Time”

  1. sheril says on May 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm:

    ya i agree full time is better and faster. either way you have to pay the same amount of money whether you are doing part time or full time.

    Reply To This Comment
  2. Kristin says on May 13, 2010 at 9:30 pm:

    Full time, just because you're already in the zone and could stay more focused.

    Reply To This Comment
  3. sandy says on May 13, 2010 at 8:23 am:

    i would say full time will finish faster and defitnitly scholarships!

    Reply To This Comment
  4. Krystal says on May 12, 2010 at 3:01 am:

    I prefer full-time, even though I am a mommy of a baby and a preschooler and part-time would be the best choice…I still prefer full-time

    Reply To This Comment
  5. Stacy says on May 12, 2010 at 1:12 am:

    If you work hard, and spend conservatively, most people can go full time. A part-time (or even full time) job can go a long way toward keeping the cost in check (less debt!). plus, it looks great on a new-grad resume, versus a student who did not or could not juggle both work and school.

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  6. Heidi says on May 11, 2010 at 1:59 pm:

    I prefer full time due to the available scholarship money.

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  7. Tammy says on May 11, 2010 at 4:34 am:

    this is very useful. I've had many questions of full or part time degree programs. Finally, the answers.

    Reply To This Comment
  8. Ashleigh says on May 10, 2010 at 5:22 pm:

    i prefer full time but i would like to work to afford school

    Reply To This Comment
  9. Angelina says on May 9, 2010 at 6:54 pm:

    I would have loved to go to school full time for my undergraduate work but it just wasnt reasonable. I worked the entire time and still ended up with some debt once I was finished but not nearly as much as it would have been if I went to school full time.

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  10. Kasey Gathings says on May 8, 2010 at 1:18 pm:

    I would rather be a full time student and get my degree faster.

    Reply To This Comment
  11. Rebecca says on May 8, 2010 at 4:09 pm:

    I'm doing full time when I start college in August.

    Reply To This Comment
  12. Rachel says on May 5, 2010 at 8:42 pm:

    I like full-time better, I just wish I had the money for it.

    Reply To This Comment
  13. jenna says on May 3, 2010 at 2:52 pm:

    i would prefer going to school full time so that i can complete my schooling sooner… i have to get my degree as soon as possible and that mean working extra hard while working

    Reply To This Comment
  14. Shafina says on May 3, 2010 at 3:29 pm:

    I would do full time in college, to finish up faster.

    Reply To This Comment
  15. Cahit says on May 3, 2010 at 1:56 am:

    full time for sure. The time that we live in asks for nothing less than full time atm.

    Reply To This Comment
  16. Brittany says on May 2, 2010 at 2:01 pm:

    i definitely prefer full time unless you need to work while attending college to pay for it. but i'd rather finish faster with full time

    Reply To This Comment
  17. Danielle says on April 30, 2010 at 7:41 pm:

    definitely full time

    Reply To This Comment
  18. MARI says on April 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm:


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  19. Nina says on April 28, 2010 at 10:26 am:

    I prefer full time

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  20. Jacob says on April 28, 2010 at 2:02 am:

    I agree, I prefer full time as well, that way I can finish faster and start what I have been working at.

    Reply To This Comment

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