This topic came to me in the form of a question by my good friend who is also a JET. She asked me how I deal with studying and working at the same time, and there are so many people I know who either want to do grad school while working or who automatically assume that it will be too overwhelming. So here is my perspective.
I have written some on how I take grad school classes while working full-time as an ALT on the JET Program, but I would like to break it down a bit more.
First of all, I knew before coming to Japan that I wanted to work towards my Master’s while working. It made sense to me, but I needed to look for an affordable and flexible option.
After researching schools that not only had what I wanted to study (Adult Education, also known as Higher Education) but also offered flexible, online classes, I decided Troy University was my best option.
I graduated from the University of Alabama, so it kind of just worked out that Troy was in Alabama and it was a cost-effective option. However, it had exactly the type of program and the courses I was looking for, and got good reviews and rankings for their eTroy programs.
Since I had a few months until I shipped off to Japan, I decided to go ahead and take a graduate entrance exam. I decided to go with the GMAT because my friend who took both the GMAT and the GRE told me that it had less math than the GRE, and I was most worried about the math section.
I actually wanted to get into the International Relations program, thinking that it would give me more career options, but I was on the fence because I had basically majored in international relations in undergrad. However, I didn’t get a score high enough for the Troy International Relations program, and just around the time I started to panic, I found their Adult Education program.
My program allows me to have a concentration in Leadership Studies, which I find really interesting, so I jumped at it. I had my score ready and decided not to apply until I spent some time in Japan working and getting adjusted to a full-time job schedule.
After a few months, I decided that, as an English teacher, I have a lot of down time and not a lot of brain workouts, which left me feeling bored and underused. I figured that if I started taking grad classes, I would feel more like I was working toward my next job/career path, as well as keeping my brain nice and flexed.
It took a LONG time to get all the paperwork done and sent back to America. It took much longer because of the time zone difference, and I wasn’t able to call America, so it was a while before we finally sorted out my application. Eventually, my scores, transcripts, letter of recommendation and all that were received, and I was accepted as a Master’s student.
I decided to wait until May to start my first term. I am taking one 3hr/wk class per 6 week term, so I should finish in about two years. My program requires 11 classes and 33 credits, and I pay per credit. I had to set up a way to transfer money from Japan back to America through GoRemit, which took a good while, but now it should be a breeze to send money and pay.
Actually taking classes on a full-time teacher’s schedule is honestly not that hard. Every week, I have to read the text and post discussion questions, answer other student’s questions, etc. We have papers and sometimes proctored exams, just like school offline. I love my professors so far and I have only ever encountered courtesy and understanding by all the eTroy faculty and staff. I feel like they have to be more understanding because we don’t have schedule meeting times, but they are no less strict than professors I had in college.
The course load isn’t too demanding. There were times when I put off writing my paper and a lot of things came up on my social calendar, but I was able to get everything done and I didn’t lose too much sleep. More than anything, I was reminded of my undergrad days, but instead of having tons of different work, I just had my normal school hours plus a few papers and some intense reading to do.
Grad school may seem crazy in the moment, and it is definitely frustrating living abroad and being required to turn in tons of paperwork and assignments, not to mention making sure you have the means to pay. However, I am really happy I am doing my grad school online while working. I feel like I can manage my time all right, and the short 6 week classes mean I get to focus on what I am studying but quickly move on to my next class.
If you are coming to Japan and are thinking about doing grad school, go ahead and get as much done before you get here. Take your entrance exams, ask professors for letters of rec., and know what program you want to do. But don’t immediately start your program, because you never know what hobbies or other commitments might come up.
If you are already a JET, I know you can travel to Tokyo and take the GRE. The GRE is no joke, so be well prepared and take time to study. Don’t get frustrated if it takes a little while to get accepted/get started because it will all work out, and online educators are very understanding of your situation.
The work load is up to you. I could have taken two classes per term, but I like to socialize, travel, and study Japanese and Korean with my free time, so I didn’t want to be overwhelmed.
Grad school is going to propel me forward and it is definitely going to be nice to tell future employers that I managed class with full-time work.
Good luck! Feel free to ask me any questions and leave comments!