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Full-time vs part-time postgraduate degree: breaking down the pros and cons

Picture of Lauren at the New York Times Climate Hub, holding a microphone
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By Lauren, MSc Energy, Society and Sustainability (Part-Time)

If you’re here on my post, you most likely are considering between full- or part-time studentry (that is a made-up word). I’ll start this off by saying: there is no wrong answer! Both have their unique benefits and drawbacks.

Female speaker at the New York Times Climate Hub, holding a microphone

Me speaking at the NYT Climate Hub during COP26 in Glasgow! Photo by Kirsty Anderson for The New York Times

As a quick introduction to myself and my studentry experience: I initially enrolled as a full-time student in the MSc for Energy, Society, and Sustainability in the Fall of 2019 after working for a few years as a consultant after completing my undergraduate studies. Although I expected to complete my studies by the Fall of 2020 as is typical, I, unfortunately, faced several health emergencies and decided to move my studies to part-time studentry for the Spring semester in 2020. This also allowed me to find a part-time job as a researcher and Impact Coordinator at the UoE Centre for Business, Climate Change, and Sustainability.

Having completed the first semester in full-time studentry, I did not have any classes in the Fall of 2020 and was able to focus almost entirely on my job, which ramped up in intensity during COP26. This was a fantastic opportunity and a unique experience as both a student/employee at UoE. Now that I’m truly splitting my time working and studying, I’m here to give you the rundown on the differences between the two:

Full-Time Student

Female student with papers on face in front of a brick wall

As a full-time student, you might be tempted to try ‘learning by osmosis’. Unfortunately, that method has yet to be perfected. Photo by siora18 on Unsplash


  • You will have more time, energy, and mental focus to focus exclusively on your academic work
  • You will have more time to bond with your MSc cohort and make some incredible friends
  • If you are taking a break from your career, you will get to enjoy the feeling of going back to school
    • Going to an art exhibit on a Tuesday morning? Done. Picnic in the meadows whenever there’s sun? Easy.


  • If you have saved up or have alternative income, this is less of an issue, but you will inevitably have less disposable income
    • It’s great to have free time but sometimes you can only do free things in that time

Part-Time Student

Female with red laptop case

Sometimes you’ll feel glued to your laptop when juggling work and school, make sure to take some breaks now and then.


  • You will have more time to focus on academic work, as you will spread your course load out over a longer period
  • You will have better time management skills after learning how to juggle two different parts of your life
  • You will find double the opportunities to get involved in your field through both your work and your studying
  • HUGE pro if you are working and studying is that you will be making money, which means you can then do activities you might not be able to do otherwise
    • You can afford trips exploring the UK or even beyond to different parts of Europe with fairly affordable transportation!


  • You will have less time to enjoy being a student – which inevitably means less face-to-face time with fellow students and less free time

At the end of the day…

No matter which route you choose – you get what you put into it, and you’ll have a wonderful time here at the University of Edinburgh!


For more information on choosing a postgraduate degree, check out this resource from the University. Follow us on Instagram or Twitter for more updates from our Geosciences students!



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