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Finding the Right Work-Life Balance as an Online Computer Science Master’s Student

December 19, 2023

Is a master’s the new bachelor’s—the minimum higher education required for a successful career? Perhaps this overstates the case. Still, there is no question that the number of professionals holding master’s degrees has grown over time. American academic institutions conferred just under 75,000 master’s degrees in 1960. That figure rose to more than 330,000 in 1990. Over 30 years later, almost 1 million master’s degrees are awarded annually.

The reasons for this growth are evident: Today’s information economy demands the better-trained and more highly specialized professionals that master’s programs produce. That is especially true in the computer and information sciences, where over 54,000 students earned master’s degrees in 2021. When you apply for a management or leadership position in computer science (CS), odds are that many of your competitors will hold a master’s degree.

Employers value candidates with computer science master’s degrees because  computer science master’s programs provide high-level instruction in software development, web programming, mobile systems and applications, cloud computing, human-computer interaction, and enterprise software design. Students graduate from CS master’s programs with broad-based knowledge as well as the learning skills required to keep pace with rapidly changing technology. They also gain valuable hands-on experience and benefit from networking opportunities with peers, faculty and guest lecturers. 

CS master’s program students typically enjoy a favorable return on investment starting soon after graduation. A 2023 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey shows a 55% difference between mean computer science starting salaries for bachelor’s and master’s degrees holders: $69,128 versus $107,025. In addition to good pay, there are likely to be numerous job opportunities across all sectors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts employment in this field to increase 23% by 2032, almost eight times faster than all occupations.

Even so, earning a computer science master’s degree is challenging. The curriculum is demanding—and many students work full time while completing the degree, testing their work capacities and time-management skills. That is why so many students choose to pursue their degree through online programs, such as the online Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) offered by Case School of Engineering at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). Online study offers convenience and flexibility that can make earning a master’s degree a more manageable experience. This article provides several strategies for finding the right work-life balance while pursuing your computer science graduate degree.   

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Finding the right work-life balance as an online student

As a part-time computer science graduate student and full-time employee, your schedule will be busy but feasible. Just remember: Lots of people earn their master’s degrees while working. You can, too. Online study helps you save time by eliminating time-consuming commutes to and from campus so you can continue to be productive right up to the moment a class or study group starts. And asynchronous online course content makes it easy to study anytime, anywhere you have online access.

The 11 strategies discussed below can help make the experience of earning your online MS in Computer Science while maintaining a full-time job easier.

Set goals

Defining your objectives will help keep you focused and on track. Create a list of up to five goals, keeping them clear and straightforward. Post them where they will be visible while you are studying. Keeping the big picture in sight will help motivate you as you work through your assignments. 

Manage your time

Assess your workload at the beginning of each semester and create a tentative schedule. Start by plotting assignment submission dates on your calendar. Then add in study time, meetings with faculty and fellow students, and all your other obligations. Make sure to schedule some downtime. Permit yourself to change your schedule when life commitments demand it. A plan will alleviate stress levels, enabling you to focus on your studies. 

Develop routines

Create a personalized routine that works for you. Some students accomplish more in the early morning, while others do better after hours. Whatever works best for you, commit to it. Establish a calm study space with proper lighting, low noise levels, and comfortable furnishings.

Prioritize tasks

Be realistic as you set your priorities. There will be times when you simply cannot get it all done. When you prioritize, you will know which tasks to tackle first and won’t get bogged down by the details of less critical tasks. Adhere to your list of priorities as best you can.


Keep faculty and fellow students updated on your progress. Open communication can eliminate confusion and reduce stress. Likewise, let your employer and family know when your workload is piling up so you can manage expectations and solicit the support you need to succeed.

Take breaks

Take occasional breaks. Schedule them if that is the only way you can make yourself take them. Burnout is real, but you can avoid it by recognizing your limitations and taking short breaks to re-energize and refocus. 

Accept help

Your family, friends, colleagues, faculty and fellow students all want to see you succeed and reach your goals. Do not hesitate to ask for help and be generous in offering it in return. 

Celebrate wins

Earning a computer science master’s requires hard work, and you will accomplish much in the process. Allow yourself to take pride in achieving tasks and reaching your objectives, no matter how big or small. A moment of acknowledged triumph can recharge the battery and remind you that you are capable of great things.

Practice self-care

Exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep are essential to staying mentally fit. Over the long haul, self-care saves time by promoting mental sharpness, greater energy, and overall efficiency. 

Join study groups

As a student in the online MSCS at Case Western Reserve University, you will collaborate with peers and faculty in live classes and receive guidance and support throughout the course. Your fellow students are only a Zoom call away. Scheduling regular study groups will provide essential support where you can assist each other and discuss challenges.  

Seek support from your employer

Your employer may offer financial support through tuition reimbursement benefits. Even if they do not, they may offer flexible time options or extended remote work opportunities to accommodate your coursework. If you are working in computing, your studies already benefit your employer and will continue to do so as long as you work there. It is in their interest to support you however they can.

Earn your MSCS online at Case Western Reserve

The flexible, online format of the Case School of Engineering online Master of Science in Computer Science offers two curriculum tracks to match your skill level. Both develop your abilities and expertise in key computer science fields: artificial intelligence, databases and data mining, security and privacy, and software engineering. Graduates exit the program with a range of in-demand skills to position them for career growth in any industry. 

Student success coaches monitor your progress throughout the Case Western Reserve online MSCS program and provide individualized help. You will also receive support from your classmates and CWRU’s expert faculty as you attend live online classes and participate in discussion boards and study groups.

Want to find out more? Connect with an enrollment advisor today.

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