Stay-at-home moms are now beginning to add another job title to their already full resumes: online degree students. More and more mothers across the country are realizing that going back to school and either completing their first degree, or earning one of a higher level or in a different field is not only a great opportunity for workplace advancement or changing careers, but is also easy and can be done in only a few nights a week through online degree programs.
"I have two school-aged daughters and a husband who works long hours. I am already a RN, but wanted to further my education and pursue my Bachelor's of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN) so that I can work in pediatric oncology, and taking online classes a few nights a week allows me to do everything I want to do while still being a mom," said Sadie Herman.
Working mother puts online degrees to work
Betty Blankenship Mills is a former nurse who earned her Master of Science in Education and a master's certificate in Instructional Design through online courses at Capella University while caring for her 8-year-old daughter. "I wasn't willing to give up my life and time with her," said Mills, of Lynchburg, Va. She also decided to enroll in an online degree program to help ensure job security and solidify the promotion she received while working in the educational/health training fields.
"In order to keep a good job that I loved and worked hard for, I felt that I was going to have to go back to school sooner rather than later; and my experience and education, being so specific to what I do, gave me better security and made me more marketable and more valuable to my company," Mills said.
With the flexibility of an online degree program, Mills was able to stay focused on her family life while also advancing her education. Mills says that on average she spent about two to five hours per night online attending classes or participating in class discussions and would complete the majority of her homework, projects and research over the weekends.
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Because her daughter was involved in competitive sports, Mills made herself a mini office in her car and would take notebooks and reading materials with her to her daughter's sporting events. "Organization and planning are key," Mills noted. "Waiting until the last minute is not good. When you plan your time and schedule your school projects, it seems to be easier to find more available time. I didn't want my little girl to see me stressed out; I wanted her to view going to school as a great thing to do. I think overall I succeeded," she said.
Where she is now
Mills is the LMS administrator for a health care organization that has grown from 3,000 to over 6,000 employees in the last few years. Before receiving her online degrees, she was an educator in the Department of Education, teaching mostly RN-related classes, such as safety and CPR; but her real love was always computers. Her organization's director purchased an antiquated online system so that some of the staff-education classes could be put online. Mills eventually took over the management of the entire computer system for the organization. "I fell in love, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I love the discovery, the constant learning and the challenges of something new every day."
The company eventually needed a larger, more dynamic computer system, and Mills' bosses were requesting that she obtain a master's degree. Mills knew the time was right in all areas to advance her education and her career -- and she did.
"I just don't think I would have done it if the option for online had not been available," Mills said. "I just could not take that valuable time away from my daughter. Now I manage a successful LMS. I am a valued consultant in my field. I am constantly creating creative new ways to use the system to meet the needs of our organization... I absolutely love what I do. Thanks to my online degrees I not only have the credentials to do what I love, I have the skills!"
Single mother gets her degree online
Tracey R. Cobb, an Atlanta resident and owner of a coaching and media company called Living Authentically You!, completed her bachelor's in Science/Management through online education in 2009. Initially believing that online education was a scam or too good to be true, Cobb calls it a "godsend."
As a 40-plus single mother of two, Cobb had tried for more than 20 years to complete her degree, but something always seemed to be in the way -- life, kids, work etc.
Problems with classroom education
In 2006 Cobb enrolled at a local university in Georgia, but ran into two problems. First, Cobb struggled to log enough classroom time to string together the amount of credits she needed to feel like she was making any progress from one semester to the next. It was just too hard with her already packed schedule that included work, kids, and family life. Second, Cobb felt guilty leaving her kids alone at night to attend classes when she was a single parent already struggling to provide support and stability at home for her two kids.
With these two stressors making Cobb fear she might not be able to complete her degree for yet another year or two, she decided to look into online classes -- and she is so happy that she did. "It allowed me to be home with my children, to actually accumulate credits quickly (in one year I had 27 credits). In a regular system it would have taken me three or more years to complete the credits I had, even though when I started I had an associate's degree! Taking only one or two classes a semester felt like torture," Cobb said.
Where she is now
While Cobb admits that online classes were more rigorous than she initially anticipated, she is thankful for the "godsend," that came her way in the form of online education: "It helped me to think outside the box! It helped me to use live business examples to learn with and I began to see that I got out exactly what I put into it."
Cobb's first experience with online education was so effective and positive that she graduated with a GPA of 3.90 and enrolled in a community-counseling program in another alternative program for her master's degree.
"My family was able to still have me present physically and I was able to incorporate them into my school experience., Cobb said, adding that studying online "was difficult and I had many late nights, but based on my circumstances it worked for my family and my life."
Cobb also cautioned that this route to education is challenging, but that the rewards are worth it: "One must be self-motivated or you will not succeed. Many times I had to work when I didn't want to after attending work or kids' activities. Dinnertime was very hard, and plenty of times I wanted to give up -- but I didn't because I am not a quitter and because my kids were watching me and I would have lost all credibility with them; what they think matters to me immensely."
Notions about education are changing
Old notions about education have gone out the window. Thanks to the Internet and the access and exposure that it provides, students everywhere have more educational opportunities than they did just a few years ago, with more being added every day. By working around your schedules and life, online degree programs are opening doors across America for people from all walks of life, especially stay-at-home moms.
For those thinking about going back to school, grant funding may be available; and with the convenience and affordability of online degree programs, it is a great idea to explore online options.