Recruiting in the p/q accounting space, I come across a lot of candidates who are debating going back to do their accounting qualification, mainly ACCA or CIMA, while working. Continuous learning is now the norm, which means learning how to balance studying and working is becoming a vital workplace skill.

There are a variety of reasons why people make the decision to study at night or part-time. A lot of the time, people fall into a career, realise it is where their passion lies and decide to upskill and pursue qualifications in that area. Working and studying can also make sense financially.

As someone who has been working full time and attending college at night for the past 4 years, here are my top 5 tips for balancing work and study.

1. Have an end goal & know why you are doing it

Studying while working is hard, there are no two ways about it. It’s a massive commitment which will take up huge chunks of your time.

If studying part-time is something you are considering, it must be something you really want. I know from personal experience and from observing former classmates, that if you aren’t 100% committed to the course and know why you are doing it (i.e. your end goal), it’s very difficult to stay motivated.

2. Assign enough time

Mapping out your week and assigning time is crucial to completing your work both professionally and in education. Assigning times to tasks and then moving on was a skill I found difficult to learn at first.

However, having a game plan and allocating your time so you don’t miss anything is important. It will prevent late nights clutching a coffee and then showing up for work in the morning tired.

3. Know your priorities

I love a good night out, I love going on holidays and I love watching terrible movies. Staying disciplined is tough and it’s a constant chore. At the end of the day though, you need to prioritise your long term goal over short term indulgences.

When I started out studying at night I tried to have it all. Nights out, events and not letting it affect my social life. It didn’t work and I burned out quickly.

Accepting that your social life is going to take a hit and that you will miss interesting and fun events to complete an assignment on Corporate Finance is an inevitability. You must be willing to compromise to succeed.

4. Have a good support network

I was in the fortunate position that Cpl and my manager were extremely supportive of me completing my degree, offering me flexibility and understanding as I completed my final year.

In my personal life, I think everyone and their mother knew I was doing my degree by night. The benefits are twofold – you have less explaining to do when you cancel or miss an event and the support and words of encouragement can keep you going when motivation dwindles.

5. Don’t forget your downtime

I found this the easiest part. Setting time aside to do something you enjoy or promising yourself a beer, new clothes or a holiday when you reach certain milestones is important. Life goes on while you study and you need to make sure you motivate and reward yourself throughout.

Ultimately studying at night isn’t for everyone and I have the utmost of respect for anyone who does it. I met lots of amazing people while studying who were juggling jobs, kids and their education which quietened down all my whinging.

If you’re preparing for exams at the moment and curious about what your career options are after, get in touch, one of our recruiters would be delighted to advise.

This article was originally written in 2017 by one of our specialist accounting recruiters who has since left the Cpl team to pursue his career post-college.