There are many different kinds of leadership degrees out there. The most infamous of them all is an MBA, and business leaders have been learning and using their education to lead their companies and their own personal projects into success for years. That being said, it isn’t actually always necessary in the business world to go further and strive higher.
However, in places like healthcare, furthering your education isn’t just the recommended route to help you further your career; it is the prerequisite. Nursing is one of the most accessible career choices out there, but it is only a great choice if you put your time and energy into continuing your education.
Working your way up
This applies even when you want to go above and beyond. In nursing, this is done through a DNP degree. A Doctor of Nursing Practice is a leadership degree with healthcare at its core, and it is ideal for those who want to take their expertise and experience and start to put that to work on the administrative side.
You can work your way up to become the Director of Nursing at your hospital or otherwise work in roles that allow you to help improve the quality of care patients receive and the quality of life nurses can enjoy.
Though it is possible to become a leader in nursing with only your MSN, the fact is the higher up you go; the fewer positions are available. Not only that but having a DNP makes a significant impact on your overall salary. The median wage for a health administrator, for example, is 21% higher when that administrator has a doctoral degree.
And that is for a health administrative position. If your goal is to become the head of nursing at a large hospital, then the competition will be fierce, and having a DNP degree can put you above the rest.
This, of course, is just one example. The fact is there are many instances where working to earn that additional masters or doctoral degree in leadership can really help you stand above the rest, earn higher wages, and overall is a great move for your career.
If it has been a while, or you found yourself struggling in your previous attempts to work while studying, use this guide to find the sweet spot:
Find the Right Degree for the Job
Online education has come a very long way since its early conception, which means that you can today get a high-quality education without having to find a night school option or, worse, taking time off from your job. As anyone at the height of their career can attest, leaving your job to go complete a DNP or an MBA is not an option.
Thankfully online education is here to save the day. All you need to do is make sure that the degree you are looking at offers you these support features:
Designed for Online
First things first, you want the degree to be online. If there are no additional requirements, this should be a 100% online course, but that isn’t always an option. Nursing degrees, for example, always have clinical hours that need to be completed. You should be able to complete these clinical hours near you, however, or even at your current place of employment.
No Mandatory Log-In Times
If there are mandatory log-in times, then the degree was not designed for the working professional. Therefore, it is not the right choice for you. Continuing to work while you learn is an essential requirement for many, especially for those who want to progress their career and move into leadership roles.
With no mandatory log-in times, you can make your education work around you, not the other way around. You will need to commit to a certain number of hours a week, but if you work in shifts or have otherwise a flexible schedule, you can make your degree work for you without stress.
A one-on-one coach or advisor is a must. Students need someone there to help them through their education. They may need additional support or advice on how to proceed. Whatever you need, whether it academic or professional support, you should know who to go to and have someone dedicated to helping you when you enroll.
Small Class Sizes
You will either be watching lecture videos offline or participating in a zoom meeting. Regardless of how your education is structured, it is important that you feel that you can be heard and that you matter. Small class sizes are an essential part of this, especially in an online setting where your education, no matter how innovative, will primarily be on a 2D platform.
Preparing Your Routines
If you struggled in the past to juggle work and your education, it’s time to take a different approach. Before you apply and start your degree, you are going to want to be very, very strict with your health.
Though you absolutely have the freedom to tweak these suggestions or even downright discard them if you find that they don’t work for you, use these tips to help get you started in the right direction. Adjust, try new things, but know you need to improve your quality of sleep, your diet, and your exercise habits.
It can be very hard to get a good night’s rest. Not getting one can completely ruin a day, and no amount of coffee will ever make up for what you have lost.
It can seem like a random toss of the dice on how well or how long you will sleep sometimes, but thankfully there are many ways that you can work to use your own body’s natural cycles and internal clock to your advantage.
To start, keep your bedtimes and mornings consistent as much as possible. If you don’t have shift work, this should be your go-to option. Sleep at the same time, and wake up eight or nine hours later. This will help your body adjust to these times, and soon you’ll find yourself naturally tired around your bedtime and waking up at the right time, even without an alarm.
Other tips to help include improving your bedsheets and, most importantly, your pillow. Your pillow needs to properly support your neck and head so that your spine doesn’t bend in an uncomfortable position that will, inevitably, mean you toss and turn in the night. You may also benefit from a weighted blanket or a different TOG.
The light you expose yourself to also matters. Try to stay away from white light for a few hours before you prepare to go to bed, and use that white light in the mornings when you wake up (a good trick if you wake up before the sun).
The food you eat also plays a crucial component in how well you can juggle the energy you’ll need to complete your DNP or another leadership degree while still succeeding and doing well at your job.
If you have trouble with temptation, a good way to do this is to remove unhealthy foods from your home and to order your groceries online after you have eaten. You can be very creative and eat healthy foods when those are your only options. Just remember to never shop for food or snacks when you are hungry.
Another way to eat healthier on such a busy schedule is to then take those healthy foods and prepare meals for lunch or dinner at the start of the week. You don’t need to diet or lose weight; however, you need to increase the number of nutrients and vitamins you ingest.
Drink More Water
Water is imperative, and yet an average of 3 in 4 American adults today have a net fluid loss, meaning that they are chronically dehydrated. This dehydration makes it harder to focus, harder to sleep well, and harder to learn. There are many ways that you can encourage yourself to drink more water. From water bottles with timely reminders to apps, to simply having water or juice or tea near to you so that you can sip more regularly throughout the day.
Exercise can help you with your energy levels in two ways. One, it physically strengthens your body. As a nurse, this can really help by making your everyday tasks less strenuous, and therefore less physically exhausting. The other way that exercise can help is by encouraging blood and oxygen flow to and through the brain. Oxygen is what makes us feel alert and awake, so by feeding your brain more of it; you can be focussed more throughout the day.
In fact, you can use the benefits for targeted results as well. Try doing a short warm-up exercise before you start studying, or at least stretch, so that you can feel and be more naturally alert and ready to start.
Set Up a Study Routine
There are many great ways to make it easier and more natural to add in your study and education hours. By starting early, you can get used to doing something and putting your mind to work during these extra hours. You can work through the pushback and create healthy routines long before you have to.
This way, you can easily start your degree without it feeling like an extra effort because you will have just been switching one learning period out for another.
You will also want to use your dead time. Deadtime is different than free time because you are doing something, but your mind is idle. One of the examples that most of us experience is our commute. We are on our way to work, but even if we are driving, we are still doing something rather tedious or menial.
You can listen to podcasts or other audiobooks that will help you with your career, or you can transcribe your notes. This can easily be done with just a few clicks thanks to text-to-speech features, or you can create your own audio notes to go through on your way to your place of work.
Using What You Learn at Work
Being physically prepared and ready to take on that leadership degree while continuing your career is a great place to start, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot start thinking about the results now. Leadership degrees are excellent because they teach you concepts and skills that can be applied at any point in your career.
Though you won’t be able to do certain things, for example, do anything that the state has not licensed you for, if you are a nurse, you can use soft skills. Show your leadership capabilities first-hand and make it known to your employer and higher-ups that your education and your dedication is essential for their success.
Done right, you should be a prime contender for a new leadership role in your own company by the time you graduate. If you are passed over or feel that you are not being appreciated for all your hard work, then putting what you learn to use beforehand can work as the necessary work experience you’ll need to find your dream job elsewhere.
Managing Expectation and Taking Care of Your Mental Health
can be sped right through. Many Master’s or Doctoral programs can be finished in just a year, but the fact is if you are having a hard time handling everything, you need to take a step back. Going slowly is not a problem. There are flexible payment plans as well, so you don’t even end up paying more; you just spread out the cost.
The point is there is no need to rush unless you find that you can more than handle the extra workload. If you feel too tired to enjoy meeting up with friends or finding that your personal life or career are falling apart, you need to slow down.
Life is just one big marathon, so enjoy the sights and take things slowly so you can reach your dreams.