Studying While Working - it can be Done! Part 1
by Samantha Donnell
For the last year and a half I have been studying a university course part time while still working full time. This isn't the first time I've undertaken study while working full time however it is the first time I've been studying a course that requires me to attend campus. This, of course, raises some additional logistical issues.
With the benefit of hindsight I thought I'd share some points to consider should you want to study while working either to increase your knowledge in your current field or to learn about a completely new one.
- Work out a money budget – be realistic (it is always best to overestimate where costs are concerned) and remember to add the cost of stationary, textbooks, a laptop and other study costs as well as the course fee.
- Be aware of your options when it comes to HECS-HELP and tax -Those courses that are covered by HECS-HELP will let you know how to go about applying for HECS-HELP but this will usually only be the actual course fee, not everything else. If you can afford it (particularly if your income is at, or close to, the repayment threshold) it is worth considering paying for courses upfront even if they are covered by HECS-HELP as there are discounts offered for prepayment. Note: the government has recently changed some rules regarding HECS-HELP repayments that now requires people who are living overseas to repay their debt when their worldwide income goes above the repayment threshold - again if you need more information about this please talk to one of our accountants. If the course relates to your current employment you can claim study costs on your tax return. Though should you be able to claim the costs be aware that the actual resulting refund you will get on lodging your tax return is only a portion of what you will have paid. If you are unsure if you can claim your study or if your income will put you over the repayment threshold for HECS-HELP please talk to one of our accountants.
- Work out a time budget - again be realistic. Aside from courses that are designed to be completed within 2 days or a week study will usually require you spending time outside of actual lectures/tutorials on the course material. A good rule of thumb is 2 hours for every 1 contact hour. So if you have a 1-hour lecture each week you will need to spend another 2 hours each week reading the material provided. This doesn't take into account time spent doing assignments. Make sure you can set aside time specifically for this where you won't be interrupted and remember you do need to sleep.
- Could you work part-time instead of full-time? Are you able to live and study on a smaller income that you currently earn? If so it might be worth considering reducing your employment hours if your employer is open to this.