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Age and PhD

(31 Posts)
FreeNiki Sat 18-Mar-17 22:33:53

At what point does it become pointless to do a PhD?

Assuming you wanted to do something with it and use it towards a career is there a point on age at which it is literally pointless?

DrippyWet Sun 19-Mar-17 10:20:38

Depends...... what type of subject, what you want to do with it, where you study, what it will cost you financially, what it will cost you career wise.....your age???

Sorry that's not too helpful 😊

Punksparkle Sun 19-Mar-17 10:22:30

I'm just finishing my PhD and I am 50 this week. I am already employed as a senior lecturer. But many universities will not employ lecturers without a PhD

FreeNiki Sun 19-Mar-17 12:11:29

It isnt me. My friend is toying with the idea and isnt an MN member but I thought someone on here is bound to have done it.

Management / business for subject type. Some work in this field but the majority not. Some lecturing on the masters but just a small amount.

Punksparkle I note you're already a lecturer which my friend isnt.

Stipend not great, about 15k.

She is older than me, would be starting at 40 and is planning a baby so end date would be 44+ taking mat leave into account.

She was wondering at over 40 and no lecturing or a huge amount of work experience in the area would she get anywhere.

DrippyWet Sun 19-Mar-17 12:16:05

So she could have, say, another 30 years of work after completing her phd? That's a long time. I don't think it's necessarily easy to get decent jobs in academia though.
Has she actuallygot this sorted or is it something she is thinking about? She might find it hard to get funding?

Kintan Sun 19-Mar-17 12:19:49

She would always be wondering 'what if' if she doesn't do it! When I was doing mine there were plenty of people 40+ (a humanities subject) some of whom have gone on to academic careers, some who haven't! I would advise her that it's an opportunity not to miss if she can afford it.

user7214743615 Sun 19-Mar-17 13:01:33

The vast majority of PhD graduates won't get academic jobs, however old they are when they graduate. You should only do a PhD if you are prepared to look for jobs outside academia once you finish. It's also very hard to get an academic job in most fields unless you are willing to take a series of short-terms contracts and move around (either nationally or internationally). The chances of getting a long-term job at your PhD institution is extremely tiny in most fields.

FreeNiki Sun 19-Mar-17 13:08:38

She does have an offer of funding but as said it's not huge. Works out about £1100 a month.

She did an MA in the subject with the intention of getting a job in the field she was moving too. She had already done bits and pieces in the field but not a huge amount.

After the MA she hasnt got anywhere with employment which is why is she thinking of taking the PhD.....

I'll show her the thread, she knew I was posting it and was happy for me too.

Any other advice?

user7214743615 Sun 19-Mar-17 13:31:08

After the MA she hasnt got anywhere with employment which is why is she thinking of taking the PhD.....

That rings alarm bells. Where does she see herself going with a PhD if she can't get a job after the MA?

lljkk Sun 19-Mar-17 13:35:16

My grandmother's sister finished her PhD at age 69. In education. She stopped work (lecturing) age 81. I guess it depends what you want to do with rest of your life.

Blossomdeary Sun 19-Mar-17 13:36:26

Education is for life.

Allthebestnamesareused Sun 19-Mar-17 13:39:32

Friend has just done PhD at 50 and has got a related job (non-academic role) - first time in that field.

However if MA hasn't helped not sure PhD will

FreeNiki Sun 19-Mar-17 14:08:31

That's what she is worried about
The MA was actually an MBA and she couldn't get a management job no matter what field.

SocksRock Sun 19-Mar-17 14:13:34

My Mum is 66 and in her first year of a PhD

FreeNiki Sun 19-Mar-17 14:23:09

Socks presumably your mum isnt planning a career change and earning money?

catslife Sun 19-Mar-17 15:15:34

She is older than me, would be starting at 40 and is planning a baby so end date would be 44+ taking mat leave into account.
I think she should check whether PhD funding does mean that she would qualify for paid mat leave. Friends who became pregnant while finishing off PhDs found this wasn't the case.
I am wondering actually if it's the fact that she's planning to start a family in the next few years that's affecting her employment prospects rather than that further qualifications are needed. I wonder if your friend has considered this possibility.
One of my ex school friends is contemplating starting a PhD in her early 50s, but her children are grown up and I'm not sure if careers are an issue or not.

SocksRock Sun 19-Mar-17 15:29:19

She is planning to use it. It's relevant to her 40 year career and she wants to do consulting in that field when she's finished. Each to their own...

FreeNiki Sun 19-Mar-17 16:11:36

I hadnt thought about mat leave on a phd.

FreeNiki Sun 19-Mar-17 16:12:54

Socks your mums is relevant to her 40 year career so she has considerable experience.

my friend is more of a career change and starting a family at the same time.

catslife Mon 20-Mar-17 08:57:37

OP it looks as if there may be some discretion about maternity leave at specific universities or departments, but it looks as if my friends experience (I did my PhD 20+ years ago) is still valid.
See the Guardian link below www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/jul/16/should-phd-students-be-classed-as-employees.
The trouble is that PhD stipends do not count as a salary so you aren't paying NI and therefore don't qualify for maternity allowance and don't count as employment so there is no guarantee that there will be payment from the uni (or sponsor) either.
Obviously your friend needs to check this before she starts her course.

Gannet123 Mon 20-Mar-17 12:34:37

Couple of thoughts.
In terms of careers, I think it's important to be clear and realistic about the direction a PhD will take her in. As others have said, jobs in academia are tough to get, although some disciplines are easier than others, and if she is tied to one location due to family that will make it harder. So if the intention is to go into academia, that needs to be borne in mind, and if not I would want to think carefully, and take advice, on what 'value added' the PhD would give in a particular sector and whether it would be extra.
Secondly, quite apart from the maternity leave issue, combining a PhD with a young family is at least as hard as combining it with a full-time job - I'd be concerned if there were any perception that this would be an easier route. A PhD is a long and rather lonely process, particularly if child care means you are not around the department a lot and not connected to other students or staff - friends and family who don't know the process often find it difficult to understand, so a support network of fellow students is really important. If she's aiming for an academic career, more teaching experience will also help, as will networking and attending conferences (involving overnight stays) and writing over and above the writing of your PhD, which means most PhD students with that aspiration work well over a 40 hour week. It's not impossible - I've known several people who've done it well - but it's a difficult road and I think that's another reason why the end-game needs to be really clear and thought through.

TinselTwins Mon 20-Mar-17 12:47:09

The MA was actually an MBA and she couldn't get a management job no matter what field Maybe its her patchy work history and not her qualifications

Academia can be very sexist, and as a phd student rather than employee you don't have the same laws to fall back on if you aren't kept on after mat leave (which isn't always paid! depends on how important your project is to your sponsors, and if she isn't already working and her phd is an extention of that, chances are, her project won't be one of those..)

FreeNiki Mon 20-Mar-17 15:33:41

So you might not have your space kept after mat leave?

neither of us have done anything other than taught courses. how different is a phd?

she did bounce around jobs an awful lot. that might be it. I'll send her the link to the thread. see what she thinks.

TinselTwins Mon 20-Mar-17 16:52:46

Its not like a normal degree where so long as you pass a min standard you can progress.

Depending on the type of phd there's vivas and transfer thesis's etc where you have to prove your worth.

If you've been off on mat leave it's easier for them to let you go at transfer by saying your project has lost it's relevance while you've been gone, at which point they can either totally get rid of you with nothing to show, or send you back to the drawing board to start an updated project from scratch, or pass you at masters level but not keep you on to finish at phd level, or give you an extra year of work to make changes.

How is her pension situation?

Gannet123 Mon 20-Mar-17 16:54:28

From a legal perspective, students do have rights under the Equality Act so accommodation ought to be made for PhD students who are pregnant - i.e there are laws to fall back on, but the legal framework is more flexible. My institution has a clear policy on this and students certainly shouldn't be thrown off the PhD for being pregnant (that would be blatant discrimination and clearly unlawful) but funding bodies will vary so you need to check the terms of the funding award. Also there is unlikely to be maternity pay, even when maternity leave is sorted (which is essentially just a period of temporary leave which extends the various deadlines).

Most PhDs are totally different to taught courses. With a few exceptions, you spend your time wholly focusing on your thesis project or project group. It differs enormously between sciences and elsewhere - for business and management I would expect a standard social science model with monthly supervision meetings with 1 or 2 supervisors but no other formal teaching. This involves independent work on the thesis with monthly deadlines to submit work prior to meetings. Would be very important to have a supervisor who is sympathetic to the needs of pregnant women and parents, I think - but even then there are strict limits imposed by universities and funding bodies as to how long you can get to finish the work, and hitting various deadlines along the way.

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