I was once a college student. I went to college full time and I worked part time. That's the way it is supposed to be. Right? When I did my graduate work, I was working full time and going part time to classes. That is fairly typical these days. In my case, I was teaching in a public school while I went to grad school.
A post by Joshua Kim got my attention because he put a label on the kind of student who is working full-time and pursuing a graduate degree. In his post, he was really considering "colleague students" who work in higher ed while pursuing degrees in higher ed. But it is true of almost anyone working in a field while working towards an advanced degree in that field.
Are colleague students (the term is still open for suggestions - another suggestion is matriculated colleagues) a special class of student? I know that when I teach my graduate classes, they are comprised primarily of people already working in a related field. That means that they might bring more work experience to some topics than I have. That can be threatening to a teacher. I like it and try to use those students as experts or teachers when possible.
I think these students are better about delayed gratification. Joshua Kim calls them "Long-Term Career Thinkers" because they are committing to the years that it takes to get an advanced degree while working full-time. That perseverance and time management is needed to make work, school and personal relationships and family work and are traits that are valued in professional settings.
Many undergraduates, even after choosing a major, are not sure about their career path. That is part of what the college experience is meant to do.
Working towards that advanced degree while working full-time indicates commitment to a field and a career. Of course, this is not all graduate students. I have students who are pursuing a degree (or the popular graduate certificates) because they want to move from the profession they are in currently. Those students are sometimes at a disadvantage in comparison with colleague students. They don't have any real world working knowledge of the field, and oftentimes they don't even have an undergraduate degree related to the field. The biology student who decides to go into computer science may bring an interesting perspective to the course, but not the foundation courses.
I'll close with two questions that Kim asked in his post: Do you think that the value of colleague-students is recognized on your campus and in higher ed in general? Do we do enough to support and encourage our colleagues who are in the midst of pursuing graduate work?