Is there any point in doing a phd at 38?

(10 Posts)
Givemestrengthorgin Mon 29-Oct-18 14:49:56

I'm in a decent paid job but bored to tears. I've always wanted to do a phd but got sidetracked having babies. I'm desperate for a change and tempted to go for it. I have a topic in mind (social sciences), and an excellent uni nearby. My income would change from £21k a yr for 3 days a week to 15K a year. I might be able to supplement that with some research assistant or lecturing work. It wouldn't necessarily lead to a job at the end of it. My current job is a job for life, public sector, good pension etc but so so boring. I'm nearly 38 and worried I'll be past it and so out of touch with loads of young energetic recent graduates doing their PhDs. Has anyone else moved for a long term job to a phd ? Any advice?!

OP’s posts: |
LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 29-Oct-18 15:07:29

I did my PhD alongside someone who turned 40 in the middle of it, and I know a few others who were not traditional age.

I think what I'd want to know is: how secure are you that you could supplement your income with RA/lecturing? In my field, these are postdoctoral. You might teach as a second or third-year PhD. And: when you say it wouldn't 'necessarily' lead to a job, what do you mean? Do you mean you're doing it with the aim of going into academia, or do you mean there are various jobs in your field where a PhD is an advantage, and you're looking more broadly?

I'd be really cautious if you want a job in academia. It's horribly competitive at the moment, and sadly it looks as if Brexit may make things worse. A tiny proportion of PhDs are 'successful' in getting jobs, and many of those jobs are temporary or low paid. In my field, a typical success story would probably mean a year or two 'in the wilderness' with no full-time job at all (temp teaching etc.), then two or three postdoc jobs (say 9 months-2 years of being full time but temporary; these might pay between 15 or so k and 30k). Then, if you're super-super successful, you might land a permanent job, earning perhaps around 35k. So, it's worth factoring in how you'd deal with that. The sticky time, income-wise, probably won't be during the PhD but rather in the year or so after when you don't have a stipend but also don't have a permanent or full-time job.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 29-Oct-18 15:08:35

(Oh, and if you were looking for a job in academia, you'd be wise to factor in moving, probably several times, or commuting several hours, in the postdoc phase.)

ree348 Mon 29-Oct-18 15:31:19

No direct experience of this however you're never too old to learn and if it's something you want to do you should really pursue it. The only regret you will have is not pursuing your dream!

TonTonMacoute Mon 29-Oct-18 18:03:41

Heard this on the radio this morning. Although it was amusing I think you would find it interesting. It is only half an hour. One lady was in her nineties!


RednotWhite Mon 05-Nov-18 12:41:09

DH is currently doing his doctorate, he's 47yrs old. A man in our church last year just completed his Phd aged 70yrs. At 38 you're a spring chicken. I finally did my Masters a few yrs ago at 46 after procrastinating about it for donkey years. What finally got me going was someone i spoke to about my age, i'm old etc looked me in the eye and said, "Well, you could do your Masters now, and have your certificate at 46yrs old (was 44 at the time) or, not do the Masters and in 2yrs time you'll just be 46yrs with no Masters, you choose!

SeaGlassHunter Wed 07-Nov-18 19:31:57

I'm currently studying an MSc part time whilst working. I'm 40. I absolutely love it and would say go for it. I'm not ruling out a PhD in the future...


Givemestrengthorgin Thu 08-Nov-18 18:39:58

Thanks everyone for your comments. I'm going to go and speak to someone in the dept at my local uni where i would study to get a realistic idea of what the expectations and opportunities are. I just seems so frivolous to give up a good job, good pension etc to go back to study with no guarantee of decent work at the end of it. I'm not ambitious enough to move for a job but I do live a commutable distance to 3 cities with 6 unis between them.

OP’s posts: |
impostersyndrome Sat 10-Nov-18 08:16:01

OP I would advise to word your enquiry carefully. They may very well say you’re up to it, but if you’re hoping for assurance about a job at the end of it, they simply cannot promise you anything. I supervise PhD students at a research intensive university. Some of these are on dedicated training schemes with industry links. Even they aren’t guaranteed a job at the end. I would think very carefully about giving up a good job with pension rights. The likelihood of any PhD graduate, even from a so-called top university getting a permanent well paid job at the end is vanishingly small. By all means do it part time in parallel to your job, (can you work compressed hours to have a day free for study?) but please don’t give up the day job, however unrewarding.

EurekaStreet Sat 10-Nov-18 08:28:03

Pretty much exactly what LRD said. I’m also an academic who supervises PhD students. If you can do it alongside your current job, and can afford to, why not? But think very carefully about what LRD sketches as a ‘successful’ scenario — if you are not prepared to move repeatedly for postdocs and maternity covers and short contracts which may or may not lead eventually to a permanent contract, then ask yourself whether you really want to put yourself through a PhD.

And writing to the university where you want to study can’t offer you any guarantees about PT tutoring or advice about the post-PhD stage. If a prospective doctoral student writes to me, I’m happy to discuss their project and funding, but career advice is way outside my remit.

Good luck, but don’t give up your job.

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