Pursuing a master’s degree is a huge investment—it's like another job altogether, except you’re paying to do it! But while it’s hard, it can pay off big time for your career. Coming out with the MA can not only get you that promotion or dream job, but it can teach you important lessons and skills from what you did outside of the classroom to get it.

Here are some real life outtakes from grad students and graduates to help you get through it. And to know if it's really for you.

1. It can take a while.

“Master’s programs are more flexible,” says Patty, 23, a student at the UP College of Education. “There are more weekends or late afternoon and evening classes available, usually because the professors themselves have day jobs just as you may have.”

“If you’re not working, you can finish the program in three years,” says Cristina, 29, from the UP College of Arts and Letters. “I scheduled all my classes on one day,” she says, and she continued to work as an editor of a magazine.

Dowee, 25, completed her coursework over a span of three years, part of that time being spent as a teacher and, during her thesis, full-time as a writer. She now has a Master’s Degree for Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Major in Poetry) from DLSU.

2. You have more freedom, but you need to learn to set your own deadlines.

For the most part, at least. “It’s not easy, especially when you’re at the thesis stage,” says Tanya, 32, who is pursuing an MA in Communication from AdMU. Deadlines, she says, are “more or less self-imposed, [since] there’s no one to nag you to submit requirements.” This is why she works backwards from a deadline, keeping a journal to stay on top of her tasks, and gives herself a regular schedule for thesis – all while maintaining a part-time job and freelance work, too!

Making time for other pursuits outside of this is just as important. “I noticed that I was living from deadline to deadline,” Tanya shares after recounting a burnout episode, “I realized that no matter how busy you are, you have to make time for the occasional breather.”

3. Sacrifices will have to be made.

Not always literally, but this can be in the form of savings, time, and passions. Annie, 25, who is completing her MA in Cultural Heritage at UST says, “[Sometimes,] my class schedule interfered with my work [such as] when I had fieldwork within office hours. That meant sacrificing vacation leaves for school requirements. It also pays to know how much additional work you can handle on a daily basis because grad school doesn’t stop the moment you get out of class. You’ll have papers and assignments.”

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Patty has taken a break from her master’s program because her work has proven to be time-consuming. “Requirements and readings are given in bulk since the physical meetings are less,” she adds, “so I accomplish these in the evenings after work. However, sometimes it’s not a matter of whether or not you have the time, but the energy.”

“I had to dedicate my weekend nights to reading and writing,” shares Dowee, “[Then,] I had to preserve my lunch hour for writing and editing my research, [and] meals had to be quick. Completing the degree took a lot of discipline and sacrificing the occasional night out.”

“I learned for sure that grad school isn’t cheap,” adds Annie, “It’s enjoyable if you really like the field you’re specializing in, but costly in terms of time and money.”

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