Forum: Adults / College

Working during PhD?
By punkgirl59
On Sat Feb 16, 2013 06:32 AM

I recently accepted an offer to attend a PhD program starting this Fall. It's supposed to be a fairly intensive program, and I'm trying to decide whether to quit my job completely or just cut back. I'll be living in a new city, but our company is national and transferring wouldn't be a problem.

*Right now I'm working 40 hour weeks, sometimes more. I also go to school full-time, am a single mom, and volunteer about 10 hours a week with a program for foster kids. I'm pro at organizing my time and balancing a lot of different things.

*If I cut back, it would be to 1-2 shifts a week, and would only be weekends (probably every other weekend, even, so only 4ish shifts a month, which is practically nothing)

*My job is very, very low stress, and I'd have oodles of time to work on homework, study, type manuscripts, etc.

*Financially, I could do without work. My program is fully funded, so tuition will be covered plus I'll receive a stipend for living expenses. It's not a huge income, but I could get by. Obviously, working 4-5 days a month would bring in very little money.

*I kind of lucked into the job I have now, and it pays extremely well and is very flexible. I'm afraid if I quit, and then for some reason need to find a job in the next 5 years, I won't be able to find something that pays as well. I'd really like to keep my foot in the door.

So, knowing this, what would you do? I know there are members who are working on or have their graduate degree, so what did you do? Most people in my program do not work on the side (outside of externships), but there is no rule that we can't. My boss thinks I'm crazy, and says that weekends were her only refuge during her Master's program. But like I said, it's not exactly a strenuous job, a lot sitting and time to do homework.


7 Replies to Working during PhD?

re: Working during PhD?
By Tishwah
On Sat Feb 16, 2013 10:24 AM
I worked fulltime while doing my Masters and almost killed myself through stress in the process. But it was totally worth it :D

Why not start the PhD program with your job and see how you go? You do so much now that to go cold turkey you may start to feel you are going stircrazy. You can always quit your job later down the line if it does get too much?
re: Working during PhD?
By Theresamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sat Feb 16, 2013 05:45 PM
But, there is "What to do with the kid" to consider too. You'll be in a new city, so your current child care system won't be available to you, and she'll likely have to go in to some day care type situation. By the time you pay for daycare, won't you be paying out all the money you'd be making by keeping the job?
re: Working during PhD?
By rowingj
On Sun Feb 17, 2013 02:41 AM
Some will depend on what field your PhD is going to be in, and you advisor.

I did my Phd in Biomedical Engineering. My "job" was work (including classwork), minimum 9-5 M-F, plus loads of weekends and evenings.

You can try the cut back hours instead of outright quitting - but you need to be sure that you understand what your advisor expects you to be putting in for research each week - for my advisor it was 20 + the number of thesis credits x 2, so if I registered for 4 thesis credits, it was 28 hrs per week. It'd fluctuate with classes and TA responsibilities, too.
re: Working during PhD?
By SarahdncrPremium member
On Sun Feb 17, 2013 04:41 AM
I worked part time during getting my first graduate degree. I hald 3 part time jobs. For my second grad degree my work gave it to me, so I was paid full time from my job to go to school fo them. It sounds like, as you said, you have a wonderful job --- I am in fact very envious of you with it. Do you have good healthcare benefits, and would you loose them if you left this job?? I highly doubt you would get healthcare in any part-time job, and you need to think about your children's needs for that one. You did not say, but are you married? If you are then I am assumong you and your kids could go on/or already on his work healthcare insurance if his employer offer's it.

In general, as you have at least explained it here, it sounds like you could quit the full time job and go to school having just a part time one. I know quite a few people who have PhD's, and all have gotten them as full time students whith out working outside the school. Though, a lot of folks in education get them going to school at night/weekends and continue to teach full time. So it can be done with full-time employment.
re: Working during PhD?
By punkgirl59
On Sun Feb 17, 2013 06:30 AM
Thanks for the replies, good food for thought.

I have definitely thought about trying it out for the first term, and if it doesn't work, quitting. The only reason I'm hesitant is because it takes a long time to train for this job, at least a month, and at least two months for graveyard. Even though I've been with the company for a long time, each office has different contracts and protocol, so it would be much like starting from scratch. I would hate for them to put all that time into training me if I was just going to quit after a few months, then they'd have to train someone new.

As far as daycare goes, I'm still going to be within a reasonable driving distance of my daughter's dad, so I'm hopeful that he'll want to drive down every other weekend to spend time with her. If I could work solely on the weekends she was with her dad, it obviously would be ideal. That's a pretty big "if" though, cause it's a pretty lengthy drive and he's not the most reliable guy. So that's definitely something to consider. If he is unwilling or unable to come down, then hands down, I'd rather be spending time with my kid than at work. So a lot of it depends on what he can do.

I haven't spoken with my advisor yet about how often he expects me to be in the lab, etc. From what I understand, they try to lump all our coursework into Monday and Wednesday mornings, which leaves afternoons and all day Tuesday/Thursday/Friday for research and assistantships. I'm in a Clinical program so much of my time will be spent in the clinic in my assistantship, and in the lab for my actual research. So while I'm not totally ruling out weekend work, I think I'd have enough free time every other weekend to spend a few hours at work.

Sarahdncr, I'm not married, but my daughter and I have health insurance through a private company, not through my work (my company's insurance blows and is double the monthly premium I'm paying privately, go figure). So if I quit, that wouldn't be affected.

Honestly, the only reason I'm considering keeping it is because I really do love the job, and I'm afraid that somewhere down the line I'll need a job again and I'm 100% certain I won't find something that pays as well or is as flexible.

All that being said, I think I'm leaning toward quitting completely.
re: Working during PhD?
By teenydanseur
On Mon Feb 18, 2013 03:18 PM
I would consider quitting, and maybe just have n open dialogue with your current job about how much you enjoyed being there.

Aside from that can I just say that you are awesome??! You are working full time, in school and volunteering as a single mom?? I've been putting off doing something today and realized how lazy I was being after reading this post. :D
re: Working during PhD?
By punkgirl59
On Tue Feb 19, 2013 05:56 AM
^Haha, thank you! Believe me, it's definitely not easy. Most nights I get home and just want to cry because I'm so exhausted and have so much to do, but I usually pass out before I even have the chance, ha. But thanks for the sweet words!

I think your suggestion is exactly what I'll do, actually. The turnover at my job is fairy high since a lot of us are pursing higher degrees or working toward a career. I think I'll just plan on quitting and float the idea of coming back in the future if needed. I think they'd be cool with that. Hopefully my externships will keep me covered and I won't have to work anymore.

Thanks again for the replies, you've all been very helpful.


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