Now more than ever, you can get a high-quality education online. This is true of virtually any field of study, but it’s especially the case with psychology. Since psychology is a highly popular major, schools large and small offer online psychology degrees at all levels, from associate to doctorate.

In recent years, graduate programs in psychology have become particularly popular. Some are non-licensure degrees, while others incorporate the necessary field experiences to qualify you for licensure, certification, or both.

In either case, graduate school for online psychology students necessitates creating a good work life balance. Doing so enables you to spend time doing the necessary work for your degree without coming at the expense of your work and home life. Not sure how to strike a balance between them all? Read on for some actionable online psychology degree tips!

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Understanding the Challenges of Graduate School

Understanding the Challenges of Graduate School

A graduate program in psychology involves rigorous coursework over several years. This requires a significant investment of time and money and can weigh on you if you don’t have the appropriate approach for studying online.

However, the challenges of graduate school aren’t limited to the difficulty of the coursework. You’ll also find that balancing school and other obligations can be difficult. Finding the right program for your needs can be troublesome as well.

The Demands of an Online Program: How Online Classes Differ From Traditional Settings

From a content perspective, online psychology classes are usually identical to those taught on campus. In fact, the assignments, expectations, and professors tend to be the same, too.

The obvious difference between online and on-campus courses is that you have to hone your time management skills. For example, some online psychology classes are asynchronous, meaning there are no set meeting times. Instead, you spend your time working independently to finish course requirements. This is where your ability to manage time comes into play.

While some classes offer independent learning, you still have to hand in assignments on time, take exams when they’re assigned, and so forth. Keeping up with coursework in this format isn’t an issue for some people. But, if you sometimes struggle to keep up with class assignments, you’ll need to do some work to improve your ability to plan, keep on task, and use your time appropriately. We’ll dive into some tips on those fronts a little later.

Graduate Students and the Busy Schedule: Juggling Coursework, Work, and Personal Life

Graduate Students and the Busy Schedule: Juggling Coursework, Work, and Personal Life

Another difficult component of the online experience of graduate students is finding time for everything that needs to be done. You’ll have classwork to attend to, work responsibilities, and personal obligations as well.

Balancing work and school online while maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family necessitates hard work. Getting plenty of sleep, eating well, understanding when you feel overwhelmed, and knowing where to get help are all aspects of finding the right school, work, and life balance. Again, we’ll go over some helpful tips a little later.

The Importance of School Rankings: How to Use School Search Effectively

Before you begin completing an online psychology degree, you must first find an appropriate program for your needs. Many people start by simply Googling “online psychology program.” And while this generates plenty of choices, only some of the choices presented to you are good.

Here are a few tips for online psychology students to think about as the search for a quality program gets underway:

  • Search for accredited programs. Psychology graduate programs might be accredited by any number of organizations depending on the area of study and level of study. For example, if you want to become a school psychologist, look for a program accredited by the National Association of School Psychologists. Likewise, if you wish to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology, a program accredited by the American Psychological Association is the gold standard.
  • Search for programs at accredited institutions. The school you ultimately choose should be nationally or regionally accredited. Accreditation is critical as it holds the school to a certain standard of educational excellence that ensures a quality education.
  • Consider the cost. The cost of attendance from one school to the other varies widely. Compare tuition, fees, other expenses, and financial aid opportunities to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.
  • Consult program rankings. Lists like our ranking of the top 30 online psychology programs will help you narrow your focus to the most highly regarded options and speed up your school search.
  • Explore the online learning environment. Some colleges and universities have much more robust online learning environments than others. Fortunately, most schools allow you to preview an online class or take a tour of their online campus to see if it offers the support network you need to be most successful.

See also: 25 Online Master’s in Behavioral Psychology

Physical and Mental Health: The Foundation of Balance

work life and student balance with an online degree

Your ability to balance work, life, family, friends, and other aspects of your life starts with having good physical and mental health. If you don’t feel well or you’re struggling with stressors from one week to the next, you can’t devote the energy needed to manage your time. That being the case, there are a few areas you can focus on that will help you achieve a greater level of physical health and mental health:

  • The Role of Sleep and Exercise: Why They Matter for Academic Performance and Mental Health
    • Staying motivated in online programs requires that you get enough sleep and exercise. After all, studies have shown that physical exercise helps improve sleep among college students, while exercise and quality sleep improve academic performance.
  • Maintaining a Healthy Diet: Fueling Your Body and Mind for a Better Finished Product
    • When you’re in college, it’s easy to cut corners and eat a lot of pre-packaged meals because they’re faster and cheaper than preparing a healthier, balanced meal. However, your body and mind need the fuel provided by vitamins and nutrients in quality foods to power through the rigors of college studies. This notion is backed up by studies that suggest students who eat a healthier diet have better academic performance than their peers.
  • Feeling Overwhelmed: Recognizing Signs and Seeking Support
    • Stress can easily creep up and begin to overwhelm you, especially if you don’t recognize the signs that it’s becoming a problem. If you’re experiencing headaches, forgetfulness, or stomach problems, stress might be getting the better of you. Other signs of stress include irritability, restlessness, and sleep problems. If you’re feeling stressed, seek help from friends, family, or a professional source, like a psychologist or counselor, to help you reduce stress.

Strategies for Effective Time Management

As noted earlier, time management is a crucial component of being successful in college. Maintaining a schedule that works well for you and allows for an effective work-life balance is even more critical for online students. The steps outlined below will help you plan your week, address the needs for your school life, and allow for time to be with loved ones, attend to your career, and find time to exercise, too.

Planning Ahead: Avoiding the Last-Minute Deadline Rush

Avoidingthe last-minute rush begins with planning ahead and learning strategies for managing time with online classes. Each of your classes will have a syllabus that outlines how the course will unfold, including assignment due dates, exam dates, and so forth. Add these important dates to a physical or digital calendar, being sure to set reminders ahead of time so you’re sure to finish your coursework in due time.

Note that planning ahead requires you to juggle all aspects of your life. For example, if you have an exam in two weeks, but work twelve of the next fourteen days, you’ll need to ensure that the two days you have free are set aside for studying for the exam.

Creating a Dedicated Study Space: Setting Boundaries Between School, Work, and Personal Time

Having a dedicated study area will go a long way in boosting time management and staying on top of your coursework. Ensure your study space is as quiet as possible, has good lighting, and a comfortable place to sit. This might be a home office, bedroom, school library, or a public library.

Ideally, you won’t have to use your school space for job-related or personal matters. But for many of us, these things happen in the same area. You can still set boundaries, though. For example, if you have work from your job that needs to be done, set it aside and out of sight until your schoolwork is complete. Then, put your schoolwork aside and out of sight so you have a distraction-free space to attend to your job duties.

Of course, the most important component of this is adhering to your boundaries to maintain a healthy balance between school, work, and “me time.” If you’ve set aside three hours to study for school, put in your three hours, then call it good. Pushing and pushing past your boundaries will only cause you greater stress and fatigue. The same goes for trying to do too much for your job!

Keeping Track of Responsibilities: Tools and Tips for Managing a Tight Schedule

Keeping Track of Responsibilities: Tools and Tips for Managing a Tight Schedule

Online class schedule management is of the utmost importance to help you plan ahead and manage your time. But doing so typically requires using tools like the calendar on your phone to keep track of everything you need to accomplish. Other tools you might consider include the following:

  • Focus Booster relies on the Pomodoro technique to keep you focused on one task at a time to maximize your productivity.
  • uses behavioral design to master the process of goal setting and forming new habits that enhance your ability to manage your time.
  • Evernote is an all-in-one note-taking, to-do list making, and scheduling app. It syncs across all your devices and allows you to add due dates and reminders, as well as delegate tasks to others if you’re working on a group project.

Building a Supportive Network for Work Life Balance

Your ability to maintain equilibrium between your work, school, and social lives isn’t just up to you. Having a strong support network will prove invaluable as you navigate the process of getting your online degree. Most people benefit from a support network that includes three components:

  • Family and Friends: The Role of Close Relationships in Reducing Stress
    • Stress relief for online students like you can be something as simple as taking a few minutes to enjoy the company of family or friends. If you’re stressed out, call a friend and talk about what’s going on in your life. If you’re frustrated with a school assignment, seek help from a classmate. Handling work and online studies will be much easier if you reach out to people you trust for help when you need it!
  • Professional Development and Networking: Leveraging Trusted Partner Programs and Other Resources
    • Your work obligations can easily get the best of you, even when you aren’t trying to split your time between school and work. Thankfully, many jobs come with the opportunity to network and forge working relationships with other professionals – professionals who can lend a hand when your work-life balance is out of whack.
    • Professional development programs are an excellent way to learn enhanced skills that will help you finish your work duties more efficiently and with greater competency. From hands-on skills to resource guides to stress management, these programs address many common work-related problems that can contribute to an ineffective work-life balance.
  • Seeking External Support: When to Turn to Counseling or Other Editorially Independent Information
    • In many cases, you might not realize you need help until you’re already overwhelmed. Juggling family, work, and online school can be a delicate dance, and external support can help you keep your head above water. As mentioned earlier, professional help from a counselor, psychologist, or other mental health professional can go a long way in helping you identify your stressors and learn how to cope effectively.
    • Likewise, you can seek some more tips for managing your work, school, and personal lives from editorially independent information published online. This might include peer-reviewed psychology journals or content published by organizations like the American Medical Association.

See also: 16 Best Online Colleges in Forensic Psychology

Balancing Life Outside of School and Work

Your work-life balance is only part of the equation. Achieving an online degree work-life balance allows you to dedicate time to your studies, job, and personal obligations. The question is, how do you do that?

Personal Time and Social Lives: The Importance of Taking Breaks and Spending Time With Loved Ones

For some college students, the demands of work and school mean taking less time to be social with their loved ones. A due date tomorrow here and an exam study session there can easily eat into your “me time.”

But diminishing the time you take for yourself and your loved ones won’t do you any favors. At the time, you might feel more productive, but in the long run, you will wear yourself out faster and be more likely to experience symptoms of stress than if you take a more balanced and measured approach.

So, if you’re stressed out from school or work, resist the temptation to power through. Instead, try recharging with frequent breaks and spending time with people who support you and give you the energy you need to forge ahead. Mental Health America offers additional tips for managing your time as well.

Managing Family Responsibilities: Strategies for Part-Time Students With Family Obligations

Managing Family Responsibilities: Strategies for Part-Time Students With Family Obligations

Being a college student is hard enough, but having family obligations on top of that can exacerbate feelings of being overwhelmed. As noted earlier, planning ahead and maintaining consistent boundaries between school, work, and life are among the best strategies to juggle all your responsibilities. Likewise, you can use the following strategies:

  • Ask your partner, parents, or other family members to make meals, tend to the kids, do the grocery shopping, and so forth.
  • Trade time with family and friends – you babysit their kids one night, and they babysit your kids another night to give you a full evening of time to study.
  • Work ahead when you can. If you have a light week of family responsibilities, use that extra time to complete assignments while maintaining a good work-school-life balance.

Self-Care and Reducing Stress: Tips for Feeling Less Overwhelmed and More Focused

Use the following tips to alleviate stressors from work, school, and life and achieve better focus:

  • Use time management and task management tools like those listed earlier to help you remember what you need to do and when.
  • Be communicative with the people in your life about what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. Your friends and family can’t help you if they don’t know what you need help with!
  • Keep your study area dedicated to studying with minimal distractions. Put your phone on do not disturb, close the window blinds, and shut the door while you work.
  • Deal with stressors by taking frequent breaks, stretching, and getting your body moving for a few minutes every hour. Take a short walk, play with the dog, grab a snack, and then return to your work.
  • Try journaling. Spending a few minutes each day with your thoughts and feelings can help you take better care of yourself.

Achieving a Healthier Work Life Balance in Graduate School

Achieving a Healthier Work Life Balance in Graduate School

As a graduate student, you have an even greater level of school-related stress. Add in your career and family life, and you have a recipe for a pretty stressful existence. However, you can find an improved balance between all these endeavors by adhering to a few quick tips:

  • Setting Top Priorities: Determining What Truly Matters in School, Work, and Life
    • One of the top online psychology program challenges is dividing your time between your studies, your career, and your family. There is always something to demand your attention in these areas; it’s a matter of determining what’s important at that moment. So, get in the habit of making a daily to-do list of the most crucial tasks that need to be completed. Don’t worry about tomorrow or next week as much as focusing on what needs to happen right now.
    • Make one large to-do list for all tasks, but segregate those tasks into work, school, and life categories. Having one list makes tracking everything you are doing easier while having three separate categories helps you understand the most important tasks in each area.
    • Understand that you might not get everything done on your list every day, and be okay with it. 
    • Be willing to adjust your list of priorities as needs change. It’s helpful to plan but also helpful to be flexible to meet challenges as they arise.
  • Balancing Work and Online School: Tips for Managing Job Demands With Academic Commitments
    • By parceling out your day into “school,” “work,” and “personal” segments, you can achieve a good balance between the three. Likewise, the following tips will help you meet the demands of your work and school life:
      • Schedule your courses around your work schedule or vice versa. Ensure there is no overlap between the two to the degree possible.
      • Rely on technology to help you complete your work and school duties. For example, use AI programs like Grammarly to edit work emails and school assignments much more quickly.
    • Be communicative with your boss about the demands of your online program. You might be able to arrive at a flexible work schedule that helps you focus more on school (e.g., leaving work an hour early a couple of times a week to attend online meetings for class).
      • Likewise, communicate with your professors when work obligations are piling up. In many cases, they will be more than willing to work with you on due dates to accommodate your career.
  • Staying on Track: How to Maintain Balance and Reduce Feelings of Stress
    • Finding balance in online education is all about your ability to focus on one thing at a time. Complete this assignment. Attend to that work duty. Take a break to be with your family. Rinse and repeat! Some easy ways to minimize stress and help maintain an appropriate work-school-life were mentioned earlier – eat right, get plenty of rest, and seek help when needed. Listening to relaxing music as you work, avoiding consuming caffeine, and getting fresh air now and again are some more tips for helping manage your stress.

See also: How to Choose an Affordable Online Master’s Program