Phd and work?

(83 Posts)
Yes2014 Mon 06-Jan-14 20:44:54

Hi I think I know the answer to this! Am full time at work, single mum and no savings. Did an am and got a distinction, and am being encouraged to continue the research into a phd BUT the funding, if I got it, would be too little to live on- don't think I could get any extra money. Also, am old.
Am really excited about the possible research, would LOVE to do it- but 3 years on nothing and no career afterwards makes it just a pipe dream. It's impossible isn't it.. Couldn't do it and work f/t.
Has anyone done it?
Or are there ways of making more money?
Would be throwing away a solid career for what?

FantasticDay Mon 06-Jan-14 20:49:10

How old are you? What's your current job?

I think most people work part time during a PhD - would that be possible?

Are you sure you couldn't live on it? I thought the minimum funding was minimum wage equivalent, and some sciency types get more. It might be there are local bursaries too?

Btw you might be able to get a careers loan from the bank, too.

Yes2014 Mon 06-Jan-14 21:02:40

I'm 39 and a teacher- hod. I can just about manage on less but not on a lot less. It's the thought of researching something I really am fascinated by.. And I've found that I can write academically-ish. Also I could pedal up to uni and drop the kids to school and back- all things I desperately miss, esp since being separated. But it just seems a mid life crisis thing. I guess I could get a teaching job again afterwards but that would be starting at the start all over- unless the phd led to more, but the way academia is going...

Yes2014 Mon 06-Jan-14 21:03:51

If I was awarded a studentship ( competitive!) it would cover mortgage and bills.

Yes2014 Mon 06-Jan-14 21:04:51

I suppose, do you follow a dream and pray for the best or have the sense to be more sensible and practical

The people I know who've done PhDs with children have done it without coming out of a career, so it's probably not the same.

But if you had the studentship, and then got a loan from the bank/bursary, might it work?

I'm trying to look on the positive side.

Do you know if a PhD would help you get a more highly paid teaching job?

Yes2014 Mon 06-Jan-14 21:12:33

No, def not - wouldn't lead to better work in a school, was wondering if it might lead to academia- but I highly doubt!

Yes2014 Mon 06-Jan-14 21:13:31

If I had a studentship and did supply or pt it would work. But yes, what after?!

It might lead to academia. If you want the depressing bit (which is not me saying don't do it): a postdoc (2/3 year position) might be paid no more than 20k, might be up to 30 if you're more lucky. You might end up doing 2 or 3 of those before (hopefully) getting a permanent lectureship. I can't remember how many PhD students drop out, but I think it's 1/3.

I've just finished mine (and it took 4 years but I'm dozy/average), and I loved it, but you're right it's not very fun looking at jobs afterwards. But then, obviously for some people it does work out.

My mate finished a couple of years ago. She was in her early 40s (42 IIRC?) by the end and now has a job at Oxford University, which she loves.

Yes2014 Mon 06-Jan-14 21:31:17

My heart says do it and trust, my head says no way! If only I was rich!!! The thought of really being there for the dcs for three years is a big consideration- but if I was stressed about money etc that would be no good.

FantasticDay Mon 06-Jan-14 21:37:27

Lots of jobs outside academia where a PhD is valued - government (UK and overseas), research consultancy, research for charities, trade unions. I finished mine in my mid 30s and got a very interesting job with a competitive salary in the civil service. I'd say go for it. Could it a helpful in getting a headship?

hairtwiddler Mon 06-Jan-14 21:37:54

I'm doing a PhD but am in the lucky position of having funding that is fairly decent (although considerably less than I used to earn in the nhs).
Have you asked the department you would be studying in whether they could throw any work your way? I get extra money from doing teaching and I know lots of students do invigilation, marking etc.

The best thing about doing it has been the flexibility it offers me. Today I realised DS doesn't go back to school until tomorrow. Not a problem...I'm working tonight though.

Yes2014 Mon 06-Jan-14 21:41:54

Those are positive stories and ideas! Thanks! I think what I'll do is apply anyway, apply for the studentship, then take it from there? Now to write a research proposal.....

MrsBright Mon 06-Jan-14 21:43:50

Stuff afterwards. Just do it.

I'm 53 and I'm just about to finish a PhD. It's been fab and I've loved all the challenges of it. Its like a mountain - I just wanted to see what the view was like from the top, to see if I could do it. No great career reason, just because I love the topic.

We (DH & 13 year old) have no money. He works in a Library for bog-all, and I just get a piddly studentship. I earn some extras at Uni for marking, exam invigilation, bits of clerical work for academics etc. We get by. And its all more fun than working. Daughter thinks its hilarious when I claim my student discount in New Look.

There's no point in getting to your death bed and saying 'I wish I'd done that PhD'. Sometimes you have to take risks in life. Go for it.

NK5BM3 Mon 06-Jan-14 21:46:35

Is the phd in a niche area? Will you be able to get jobs with that qualification in the area you live in now? Or nearby?

Good luck!

Btw, re. what NK says - if you are set on academia (and no reason you should be, just you mentioned it), it wouldn't be very relevant whether it was a 'niche' area or not - you'd likely have to move or to hold out for a long time for a job in your area, I think. Just because academic jobs don't come up that often in one place.

NK5BM3 Mon 06-Jan-14 22:08:48

Yes LRD. Hence why I asked. So she needs to think about whether she is mobile or able to be mobile, willing to change.. In some jobs there are 100s applicants for one lectureship. Others there are 20. So... It does depend.

Ah, ok, I think we're speaking cross-purposes. My understanding was that, no matter how niche your PhD topic or how popular, you'd still be unlikely to be able to count on getting a job in academic nearby. Because while there may only be 20 applicants for some posts, that doesn't really help if those posts are very rare and you know perfectly well you're up against all the people in the country.

But perhaps there are subjects where you can reasonably expect not to have to move if you're doing a certain subject, and if so, I'm sorry if my post confused things. I'd never heard of that before.

UptheChimney Mon 06-Jan-14 22:49:09

Government funding via the OST & research councils is generally based on a student set of commitments -- not a mortgage! It is enough to live on -- plenty do it, but they've probably adjusted their lifestyles. You could enquire about whether there are allowances for childcare etc in a studentship.

There's sometimes some teaching which gives you extra income, and is essential to have on your CV to be at all competitive in the academic job market, but it's also time-consuming. You do it as part of your professional training & development, not for the money usually.

You could look at part-time PhD enrolment and part-time work. Of course, you won't receive research council funding for p-time study. But it could be a way to pursue a PhD.

But a PhD is qualitatively and quantitatively different even from a Masters. It needs to be the thing you most want to do in te world. Otherwise it's too much lie hard work. It IS hard work -- mentally, physically & emotionally. But if you're fired up about your research you can deal with the 50-60 hour weeks (gets you used to being an academic!). Have a look at some of the PhD threads in here to get a sense of the range of advice.

UptheChimney Mon 06-Jan-14 22:54:22

Meant to say, do you have a Doctoral Training Partnership consortium in your view? Deadlines are very soon, and you really need to be in contact with the Director of Postgrad Studies in the Department where you want to study.

Also LRD's points about mobility for an academic job afterwards. Generally, you can't pick & choose a job or a location. The only way I "pick" where I want to live is by the jobs I don't apply for, when I'm looking to move.

MagratGarlik Mon 13-Jan-14 00:04:04

I'd agree with everything LRD and UptheChimney have said.

Only things I would add is that you have said it would be nice to be there for your children. Whilst the popular misconception is that academia involves lots of sitting around thinking of clever ideas and not much actual work. However, a PhD is probably the most mentally and emotionally exhausting thing you will do, especially whilst writing up which may take 9 months full time working 6 days per week, 7am-early hours (gone midnight). It really is all-consuming.

A science PhD should preferably be funded, a self-funded project will look worse on your CV than a funded one. Also bare in mind your supervisor may be younger than you. For some people that is not a problem, for others, especially those who have previously been in positions of responsibility, are you prepared to be told what to do by someone younger (and possibly less experienced) than you? In science, projects are very much considered to be a group effort. You will not be an autonomous researcher until you are at least Senior Lecturer level. This will take at least 10 years post PhD to reach (if you are lucky).

I don't want to sound negative, I just want to paint a realistic picture. A PhD will not lead to a lectureship, you will need at least 2 postdocs before a lectureship, many people do more. Teaching ability is very undervalued in HE and therefore your previous experience may be limited in terms of helping you to get ahead. Further, having done both a PGCHE and a PGCE you may find that what is considered "good practice" will be different to the point of opposing on both (this was my experience). Don't think that just because you can teach teenagers that you will be considered qualified to teach adults....

Sorry, all sounds very negative. Just trying to give a realistic picture.

anothernumberone Mon 13-Jan-14 00:13:04

I am watching with interest. I am finishing up an MA which has an opportunity to continue to Phd. The thing is I work fulltime so it is a pretty scary thought. There would be another 3.5 year commitment (5.5 in total including MA). I already have a lecturing job in a completely different area, in a teaching not research based role, but this would allow me to take a new direction and would give a bit more of a challenge. It is a pretty big commitment though.

MagratGarlik Wed 15-Jan-14 14:48:39

I should also add, most PhD supervisors would be none too happy with a postgrad who came in at give 9am and left at 3pm to pick up the kids. In most departments, PhD students (and staff) will be in by 8.30am at the latest - at my old department, meetings often started at 8am. People will usually leave around 6 or 6.30pm. Coming in at weekends is quite normal too. This is especially true of science PhDs where you are expected to in the lab the majority of The time. Your working days are also not term-time only, so you would need to factor in childcare for school holidays.

I do therefore think you need to really look at the reality of life as a PhD student and decide from a work-life balance perspective as well as a financial perspective, if you think it is workable. There is no way I could have done my PhD when I had children, though obviously some people do manage, clearly. In reality you will be unlikely to spend leisurely mornings cycling them to school before popping into university for a couple of hours in the library and then collecting them at 3pm.

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