Are you considering a part time degree to further your education or to upgrade your skills?
Thinking about furthering your studies, especially as working adults and working professionals is never an easy task. Who would jump back into studies for no reason anyway?
Despite that, it’s a fact that part time degree programmes exist to help us upgrade while we work.
It’s really not easy, is it?
This is where we come in. In this post, we’ll address most if not all questions that you might have about taking a part time degree.
Feel free to read on, or jump to the specific part that interests you the most.
Note: We’re mostly referring to Bachelor’s degree programmes in this article. If you’re looking for other courses, such as an MBA, we have a guide right here for you.
- Should you study for a part time degree?
- Source for courses that you can take
- Apply for the courses you selected
- Keep applying as you work
- Prepare yourself for university life
- Seek help when needed
- Final Thoughts
Should you study a part time degree?
That’s the question you should have a clear answer to. However, it’s also the question that’s the hardest to answer at this stage.
Here are some questions to fuel that thinking:
What industry are you in?
Depending on the industry and the work that you do, you might want to consider alternative courses. These courses can be short trainings, online seminars, or even full-time sponsored studies.
This is because a part time degree might not be best suited for your line of work. Sometimes, it might not even have a good Return on Investment (ROI). This is mostly because what is taught is inapplicable to your work.
In fact, some people are actually preferring shorter, online courses rather than degree programmes.
Whether you’re in business, education, marketing or accounting, it matters. Do some research about which types of courses give you the most ROI. For example, if you’re in marketing, short courses are actually more preferred as they don’t take too much time, yet still give you the skills you need.
So … what industry are you in, and do you need a degree to work in this industry?
Why do you want a part time degree?
The next obvious question is your motivation for studying part time – i.e. why do you want this degree?
This can be personal for many people. It could be that you need the qualifications to get a promotion in your job. Perhaps it’s to justify a switch to other job opportunities. Maybe that you want professional development and just want to upgrade your skills. Perhaps family pressure is present and you feel compelled to take on a degree for the same of doing it.
Here at Inkmypapers, we interviewed a couple of our clients who were currently taking on part time degree courses. The most common responses we get are:
Just get the degree lor. It’s not practical to survive in Singapore and get a better job otherwise. Without paper qualifications very hard.
Everyone around me, even the new intern, also got the credentials and I sort of feel threatened. If I don’t upgrade and get them, then by the time I want to pursue anything it’ll be too late.
I want to promote to a higher position, but I know they’ll never consider me if I don’t have qualifications. Work experience can really help you to some extent only, but studying is a must to go further.
What are your motivations for studying part-time? Make sure you’re clear on why you’re pursuing this path before you take any action. If not, this commitment will only wear you down when piled together with your career responsibilities.
Is it worth the money?
The tuition fees for part time degree courses can get really expensive.
It might be worth considering if you can get an equivalent qualification elsewhere. You can also check if other specialised training will fit your career needs.
After all, some degree programmes don’t provide better ROI than, say, a polytechnic diploma. Not all degree programmes are created equal, after all.
Plan out your finances based on your job stability, and decide if your finances allow you to take it on. We advise against taking the plunge if there’s a chance that you might not be able to afford it. Also, if there’re more courses out with higher ROI for the same cost, we’d recommend to look elsewhere.
Why not go for a full time study?
A common question people have is:
“what’s the difference between part time and full time degree programmes?”
Well, there are 2 main differences: the students admitted, and the time spent.
Students you’ll meet
Full time students study full time. What this means is you’re typically expected to not be working while you study. Just ask any university student after tertiary education or after National Service. Most of the time, school commitments will be so heavy all they can afford is a part time job.
This means that the students you’ll likely meet while studying full time are people who are driven by learning and schoolwork. They will also most likely put in more time and effort in meeting group projects.
If you’re studying part time, things change though.
Part time students are more often than not already working adults. This means that they’re likely to have equally heavy, or heavier, commitments outside of studies. Family and work often take precedence, and it means that the people you’re going to meet are more often than not going to pay less attention to school and work.
The next main difference is how long your degree programmes are going to take.
Full time degrees are often 2-3 years, or up to 4 if you’re taking an honours degree. Part time students take a lot less time though, since the courses are mostly for working adults. They usually can be finished in about 2 years, sometimes slightly longer depending on the school and course.
We’ve also seen part time degree programmes that run up to 5 or 10 years. Again, it’s really up to the school and course. The question to ask is how much time you realistically have to achieve what you want to achieve.
Again, these questions are really not here to pour cold water on your plans. They’re meant as real, grounded questions that will help you decide.
We’ve actually answered these questions (and a lot more) in our article about 10 frequently asked questions about part time degrees. You should check that out here!
However, assuming you’ve already looked at all the pros and cons, and you want to proceed …
Source for part time degree courses you can take
Now that you’ve set your mind on attaining a degree qualification, it’s time to decide where you’re going to study.
That alone opens a can of worms on how to decide. While your auntie Tan’s son might have some word-of-mouth reviews about a particular school, we’d recommend following this thought process instead.
Local universities or Private / Overseas university?
The first thing, really, is to decide if you’re limiting your search to a Singapore university or one that’s based locally but is from overseas.
While it WAS true that there seems to be an advantage in choosing local universities over overseas-based ones, that advantage has now largely been eroded by changing skills at work, and work attitude rather than paper qualifications. You might be misled if you base your choice of school solely on whether it’s local or overseas-based.
In fact, employers are really leaning towards there being no difference in this regard, and it’s a trend that isn’t stopping any time soon.
If you’re new to this scene, here’s a quick look at your available options:
Googling and listing by specialisation
Now that you know what schools exist, it’s time to search for specific degree programmes that fit your criteria. In that regard, google is your best friend.
To help you begin your search, we’ve provided a list of schools, the part time degrees they offer, and links to their websites. The list is not exhaustive, and will be updated as necessary.
- National University of Singapore (NUS) – SCALE Part Time Degree List
- Nanyang Technological University (NTU) – Engineering
- Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) – Part Time Degree List
Note that SUTD, SMU and SIT do not currently offer part time degrees at an undergraduate level. They do, however, have courses for adult learners, including Masters level degrees.
Overseas / Private University
- SIM Global Education – Course Comparison List
- Kaplan Higher Education Institute – Part Time Degree and Partner University List
- PSB Academy – Course List
- Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) – Course List
University and School Reviews
If you’re still trying to make up your mind, or if you just want a second opinion, we’ve got you.
Here are some reviews that we’ve done for different schools and institutions, so you’re not just relying on word of mouth.
- Aventis School of Management
- SUSS (Singapore University of Social Sciences)
- Parkway College
- PSB Academy
- MDIS (Management Development Institute of Singapore)
- East Asia Institute of Management (EAIM)
- Amity Global Institute
- Dimensions International College
- Lancaster University (Singapore)
- Murdoch University (Singapore)
Editor’s note: This section will be updated as required. Stay tuned for our reviews!
Checking requirements, tuition fees and course structure
Once you have your desired school and courses listed out, do a comparison to determine which one fits. Some school websites, such as that from SIM GE, already have a product comparison page for you to do so.
This is useful if you have many universities to compare. When you’re in SIM GE, you get to compare courses across schools. This includes schools like Birmingham City University, Edinburgh Napier University, and other reputable overseas schools.
If that’s too much of a hassle, we’ve actually compiled a list of the top 10 part time courses for you to look through. However, you should not be limited by the list – if your desired course doesn’t appear on this list, then it’s best to look at the school website for the latest rates. Psst, from what we’re seeing, business administration seems to be popular.
Do also note that tuition fees are often pegged to the demand for said courses. Courses in the Humanities and Social Science will most definitely cost less than a Science or Engineering degree, for example. Some courses, such as accreditation from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) also have top-up fees for provisional licenses and certificates.
Also, when checking up on courses and fees, do remember that some school and government subsidy is usually present to help you. Subsidies exists for some courses in local Universities, subject to different terms and conditions. In addition, external organisations such as SAFRA also provide sponsorships for part time students admitted to certain courses and schools.
It’s always good to check if any organisational, school or government subsidy exists before you take the plunge. You never know when you can save a bit of money!
When looking at the course structure, it’s also important to set expectations as a part time student.
For example, unlike full time students studying Computer Science for over 10 hours a day, you’re probably going to need to spend your weekday evenings working hard for your bachelor’s degree. If anything, you’re also going to spend a lot more time to complete assignments over the semester. This means you’re going to spend a lot less time resting after work, or even with family on weekends, to focus on writing and to submit papers on time.
Your classes are also most likely to be held in a different from than when you were studying – with COVID-19 restrictions, most classes now use online or blended teaching to aid learning. This means that students admitted now need to exercise more leadership over their own studies. Doing part time studies is no longer just … studying blindly.
If you don’t take our word for it, an article by SMU outlines the expectations that one should have with regards to studying part time. In short, know what you can and cannot do with your current job, and then work from there.
You should also look at the course-specific requirements – if you’re in an engineering course, then expect lots of software and mathematical calculations. If you’re studying social sciences, then expect a lot of essays. Expect a heavy final-year project or capstone modules if you’re doing an honours degree, and so on.
Apply for the part time courses
Now that you’ve done your research and you’re ready to jump into the world of a part time student, it’s time to apply for the course of your dreams (or career)!
Outlining admission requirements
It pretty much sounds like a broken record at this stage, but do make sure you go over the admissions requirements one more time and make sure you have everything you need. Most commonly, you’d need any existing certificates for any previous education.
For most Singaporeans, this includes a copy of your school transcripts or polytechnic diploma, and it usually also includes any other admissions tests like IELTS, TOEFL, IB and other internationally-recognised certificates. You normally can contact the school that issued it if you need a reprint.
For common institutions and certifications in Singapore, we have a list here:
- For MOE schools (Primary, Secondary and Junior College): SEAB Website
- Temasek Polytechnic: Student Services Portal
- Singapore Polytechnic: Replacement Diploma/Certificate Portal
- Republic Polytechnic: Alumni Services
- Ngee Ann Polytechnic: Alumni Services
If you need to take or find out more information about the common assessments universities require in lieu of academic qualifications you obtained donkey years ago, the ETS site is your guide. Just click on the qualification guide you need.
If you require work experience in lieu of academic qualifications, then it’ll be best to either update your resume, or curate a portfolio to showcase your skills and work experience. This option will be the best for working adults.
Here at Inkmypapers, we regularly receive requests to help update or write resumes. If you’re pursuing a course that needs that, we have an article right here that talks about tips to writing great resumes.
Writing admissions essays
There’s also a high chance that the courses offered require a resume for the university board to assess. An admissions essay is a common tool used to assess a candidate’s knowledge and communication skills, and is something a lot of people are super scared about.
Fret not – most admissions essays are short, 150-300 word essays that can be fairly easy to craft. You just need to be honest and sincere in completing the work needed. While we do provide admissions essay writing services here, we often find that it’s best that you write your own and incorporate your personality through your writing style.
We’ve also sourced out a couple of tips here, for writing admissions essays.
Preparing for interviews
Just like applying for a new job, you also will most probably need to attend an interview of sorts. This interview is meant for university management to see if you’re a good fit, and chances are you are!
For how to ace a interview, we’ve written a short blog article that goes through the basics of an online inteview, which is the norm in today’s COVID-19 environment. However, you should also dress appropriately, and rehearse the focus points of your pitch to reduce the chances of messing up. If you’re searching for specifically what university management is looking for in a student, this list of questions might help.
Even after you secure your first interview, or your first admissions essay, the work’s not done yet!
You’ll need to continue advertising your skills to other potential courses and universities. Just like a marketing career, the changes of a successful enrolment and eventual graduation will really depend on your ability in marketing yourself as a potential student thirsting for knowledge.
Just like job-hunting, you’ll have to keep adapting and sending your credentials out to different places as you juggle your responsibilities as all working adults do. Keep at it!
Prepare yourself for the part time degree life
Once you’ve secured a place at a university of your choice, then it’s time to get those engines roaring and prepare to start school life again!
… Sort of. You’re still working full time, and you’re not going to spend as much time on school as full time students. What skills do you need to know? Well, here at Inkmypapers, the one common problem we see among our clientele is an inability to write well academically, as well as bad time management.
Knowing how to write academically
Regardless of whether you’re in a business school studying business administration, or whether you’re in the social sciences, or whether you’re studying banking and finance, there’s one thread in common – the ability to do academic writing. That means, writing with proper citations, formatting and research.
While we do have an article about this to help those of us who are a little less academically inclined, here are some writing tips from other sources to help you learn a bit more:
- How to Write a Good Argumentative Essay, by Masterclass
- The Academic Writing section, by Purdue University
- Characteristics of Good Academic Writing, by Leeds University
Time management is another issue that lots of people face when juggling their careers and the school curriculum. While we can’t really help you with that, it always helps to ensure that your job does not entail any overtime (OT) work that can keep you from pursuing programmes you want to complete. It’s also good practice to allocate more than enough time to complete your work in the semester – don’t underestimate the university curriculum!
In short, if you want to keep the lead on your time management like a professional, you’ll need to plan and be disciplined. Otherwise, you’ll not only mess up university assignments, you might also not graduate on time. Be careful!
Seek help when needed
We all know that humans are not infallible – we’re oftentimes running into issues, and in university that’s more common than we’d like it to be.
Therefore, it’s an important skill to seek help when you need to. Here are the two tips that we at Inkmypapers have for you, our budding student:
Asking questions in class
It might seem like common sense, but you’ve really got to participate and ask questions in classes you attend. This includes clarifying instructions for assignments, definitions and explanations of key concepts, and basically anything you don’t have a full understanding of. Your lecturers are literally paid to help you – why not use them!
In fact, don’t be paiseh to ask as many questions as you want – rather than show your lack of understanding, your lecturer will likely see this as a mark of your enthusiasm and joy for learning. We’ve seen that professors in the social sciences particularly love student participation, too.
Just remember not to ask for the sake of asking!
Seeking model answers
When push comes to shove and you just have no idea what your lecturer wants, another practice we strongly encourage is to ask for model answers.
This can be from an external source like us, or more often than not, your school itself. Your lecturer should have some samples as to what they expect from their students, and for dissertations and theses the school library should also contain past samples that you can use as reference.
By using these samples correctly and not plagiarising them, you’re not only making efficient use of your time, but also writing it in a way that gives you the best grades possible.
Remember ah, refer only, don’t copy!
It is our firm belief that everyone has the ability to successfully graduate from a degree course, regardless of their background.
We hope that this guide has answered some of the major questions, and the resources we provided have given you a head start on how to get started on studying a degree part time. Part time degrees are designed for working professionals after all.
How do YOU cope with working and studying part time? Has this list helped you in some way? Are there other steps in preparation that we forgot to list? Comment below and let us know!