Grow your career on

Advanced Search

Balancing family, work and earning a master’s degree

By Mary Bowen, Kansas State University


You’re already juggling work and a family. Is it possible to add one more thing such as pursuing a master’s degree to the mix? Continuing your education will help advance your career, but the thought of adding one more thing to your busy life is daunting. With the advances in online learning, it is possible to earn a master’s degree without giving up your family or career.

Programs like Kansas State University’s Master of Agribusiness (MAB) distance degree are designed for working professionals. These programs allow students flexibility to fit learning around their schedules, but are structured enough to keep students on pace.

“The MAB program’s flexibility met my professional and personal life; I wasn’t tied to a class schedule at nights and weekends, and I could work on my course assignments at home, on a plane or in a hotel room. Most importantly, the instruction is extremely high quality and the professors focus on exactly what students need on a practical level to help them excel in their businesses,” said Steve Brody, Master of Agribusiness Industry Advisory Board member and Global Director, Business and Biotech Affairs with DuPont Pioneer Ag and Nutrition Biotechnology Affairs, Johnston, Iowa. “It was exactly the type of program I was looking for.”

Many employers see the value in continuing education for their employees, especially if the program does not take employees away from the job.

“Continuing education for employees is key in developing talented leaders for our company. Flexible online programs like K-State’s Master of Agribusiness make it possible for employees to learn needed business, economic and management skills while continuing to fulfill work responsibilities,” Brody said. “Since they can work on homework in the evenings and on weekends, the MAB program does not interfere with the work day. The fact that many of the homework assignments directly apply to work situations is an added benefit.”

Dave Rock, Master of Agribusiness Industry Advisory Board member and Manager, Channel Development for John Deere Company in Olathe, Kans., agrees that allowing time for employees to continue learning is also good for the company.

“As expectations from customers and threats from the competition are increasing, advancements in analytical tools and processes, new approaches to business such as strategy development and implementation continue to emerge. Employees can extend and expand their skills by investing in education. Not only can this lead to increased effectiveness on the job, but also may provide increased satisfaction that extends to home life as well,” Rock said.

Students may spend on average seven to 10 hours per week working on a course. Getting homework turned in by the due date does take planning, but is achievable with a little organization.

“The time requirement does vary depending on the class you’re taking, but it is definitely manageable with a full-time job,” Kyle Patten, Product Support Representative for John Deere Company in Ankeny, Iowa, said. “The way our program is designed, it is really nice because the schedule is laid out for you with due dates and deadlines, so it is easy to stay on track.”

Scheduling time with classmates to review homework and course materials is another method to make sure time is set aside for coursework.

“For students coming into the program, I recommend you finding someone you can work with to be an accountability buddy. It makes it easier to get up for a Saturday morning online class session or to work through homework problems,” said Jacob Bailey, Grain Merchandiser for CHS Inc. in Pekin, Ill.

Not all online programs are the same in terms of structure, organization and time requirements. So before you apply to a program, it is important to find out all the details.

“Education and training are an investment in your future and prospective students should carefully review the programs they consider. Pick up the phone and reach out to the university, or send off an email request for information about program specifics. We encourage students to ask about the availability of course materials—especially when a student is travelling. Accessibility of faculty and strategies to help students succeed are also important to gauge. The best source of information about a program may be students who are currently in progress, or those who have finished the degree,” Deborah Kohl, Master of Agribusiness Program Coordinator said.

MAB students earn a fully accredited master’s degree through distance education. The conveniences of distance education make going back to school without career interruption possible, even for those in jobs requiring travel. Course work is done through the Internet, DVDs, podcasts and interactive online recitation sessions.Students also visit the K-State campus, K-State Olathe campus or Southeast Asia two weeks a year to meet classmates and faculty, receive training on the technology, interact with industry leaders, and give project presentations.Students in the program are located in more than 40 states within the United States and more than 30 countries abroad. They range in age from 25 to 55 and work in every sector of the food, agribusiness and animal health industries.

The MAB program is currently taking applications for the January and August 2015 cohorts. To find out how you can be a part of the K-State Master of Agribusiness program or for more information on how the MAB can help your career, please go to, call 785-532-4495 or e-mail