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Is Time On Your Side?
Working While Taking Online Classes Proves a Winning Combination

By Iowa State University


As an adult, making the decision to go back to school can be an incredibly difficult one. Any program, whether a certificate or a full degree, is bound to be time-consuming, and most of us can’t afford to stop working just to pursue higher education. Thankfully, the rise of online education programs has given many the opportunity to do both, but is that a practical combination?

We turned to graduates of the online programs at the Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with the question of how their program’s outcomes effected change in their careers, and how the online student experience worked with their lifestyle.

“I was promoted to a new role in the last month of my program and would not have received this promotion without the anticipated completion of the degree,” says Heather Mannion, graduate of the online Plant Breeding M.S. program. Mannion even earned further certification: “I [pursued] a Project Management certification and continue to develop my skills as a science project manager for Syngenta.” On the working while going to school, she says “…I think the program was very flexible for working professionals who want to earn a degree.”

While a successful graduate himself, Damon Bradley offers some cautious advice about his experience:


“Even though we have, usually, an online lecture component, it doesn’t cover everything,” he says, adding, “You’re expected to do the readings, use the online provided lecture notes, and interact with other students.” He also mentioned certain additional challenges unique to the online student experience: “It can be very flexible, but there’s also a lot more responsibility on the student to keep up with the work, and keep your own schedule.” Despite the cautionary tone, Bradley went on to reinforce the benefits of getting an online education while employed with his own positive experiences: “I think it’s definitely worth it. You do find value. If you look, you can definitely find sections of lesson material that you can apply pretty much straightaway. It broadens your horizons. You can gather experiences from other students and make connections.”

M.S. graduate Damon Bradley
Plant Breeding M.S. graduate Damon Bradley

Many more students echoed Bradley’s final comments and found immediate value in working while going to school online. Plant Breeding M.S. graduate Meg Ryan told us “After completing my masters, I received a promotion-in-place as I was already the North America MidMaize Trait Integration Lead at Pioneer. In April of this year, I accepted a new position as a discovery analyst within the newly-formed predictive agriculture group at my company.” Similarly, graduate Ashley Saunders said, “Since completing the program I took a new position in the company 2 promotion levels above my old position.” Adding more good news was graduate Jenna Ewert: “Towards the end of finishing my degree I was promoted to Jr. Plant Breeder at Sakata seed. I now am responsible for the baby leaf beet and chard program as well as continuing to assist with the pumpkin, beet and spinach breeding programs.”

The outcome for many students appears to be that not only is an online program beneficial to their employment, but that online programs provide those benefits on a flexible schedule while employed. For anyone asking themselves if the time is on their side for online education, it seems that that answer is yes!

For additional information on Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences online graduate programs and certificates, click here to learn about their AgOnline program.