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Job and Obtaining a PhD

  1. Feb 10, 2010 #1
    So I need to make a decision on this asap as I am already part way through a semester and need to choose a physics program at my university depending on the outcome of my question here and talking to an advisor. :confused:

    I want to pursue a PhD in physics. My university has a program that is geared toward this and shaves almost a year off of graduate school by doing so. Being 30 and having bills and a wife makes my decision not 100% mine as it will affect someone else.

    How often do people get jobs that help pay for school and/or pay decent wage (35-40k/yr) while you work on a PhD? I've heard of some doing something like this with a bachelors and you sign a contract to say you will work them for x years. My wife doesn't mind if I am in school for the next 6-7 years, but doesn't want to live on Top Ramen and a small apartment for that long. As long as I meet the requirements in the first sentence, or even close, then I am good. If this is something that never happens, then I'll just do the applied physics program (which is easier :rofl:) and be done at a bachelors.

    If not a PhD, perhaps this could apply better to a masters?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 10, 2010 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Essentially never.

    Graduate school is a full-time job. It takes of order 7 years if you devote your entire attention to it. Devote less, and it takes longer (if you finish at all).
  4. Feb 10, 2010 #3
    I'd be a little more optimistic than "essentially never", but not much. In my life, I've known a grand total of two people who have been funded for their Ph.D. by an employer. However in both cases, they were already long-term employees when they began their studies.

    On second thought, maybe this is "essentially never"...
  5. Feb 10, 2010 #4


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    Personally I would be wary of an undergraduate program that promises to shave a year off of graduate school. I would assume that this means the undergraduate program finishes with some graduate level courses in the senior year. If this is the case, questions to consider are:
    (1) Would credit for such courses transfer to your grad school of choice?
    (2) There's a reason why graduate courses are usually reserved for graduate students. Are you biting off more than you can chew by diving into them as an undergrad.

    I had a part-time job through my PhD studies that required on average about 12 hours per week and it added approximately 6 months to a year to my completion time.
  6. Feb 10, 2010 #5

    I figured it'd be too much to ask. Plus there would probably be a lot mroe PhD's walking around if it was paid for, like in my dream world.

    Oh well, maybe next time around. :tongue:
  7. Feb 10, 2010 #6
    This is true. I am sitting in on one of the classes which is supposed to be similar to my actual undergrad class and it is much harder than what I am doing in the undergrad class.

    Plus it seems like I miss out on some of fun classes if I do the one geared towards the PhD.

    So it looks like a bachelors is the way to go...in my case at least.
  8. Feb 10, 2010 #7
    Things really depend on the type of Ph.D. In some fields (educational administration and petroleum geology to name two), it's very common for Ph.D.'s to be working professionals, and the typical profile for someone working on an educational administration Ph.D. is a teacher or principal that wants to be a superintendent or educational policy maker.

    However those Ph.D.'s typically take about 8 to 10 years to complete.

    It's very rare in physics to do this. Physics/math Ph.D.'s typically are funded by being cheap labor working for about $20K. The funding mechanisms really aren't set up to work like educational administration.

    It might be a good idea to step back, figure out what you want to do, and see what the alternatives are to getting the Ph.D.
  9. Feb 10, 2010 #8
    For math/physics it is paid for. Most math/physics Ph.D.'s are funded by graduate school stipends. It's not a huge amount ($20K/year), but you don't go into debt. Also things change a bit if you have a double income household. It's pretty common for graduate students to marry each other, and I've seen situations where you have people that take turns getting degrees.

    One other thing to ask is why you are getting the Ph.D. There are far, far more Ph.D.'s than there are academic jobs.
  10. Feb 10, 2010 #9
    I might have misunderstood the original question... how often does an employer pay an employee to get a Ph.D.? Essentially never. How often is financial support available for Ph.D. students? In sciences and technology fields, I'd go as far as "usually". But as twofish-quant says, the stipend amount is minimal ($20K or so), but it is usually sufficient to live on.

    (I should be clear... Ph.D. students usually receive free tuition *and* the stipend...)
  11. Feb 10, 2010 #10
    Depends on the field. It's very common in educational administration and petroleum geology, and I know at least one person in petroleum geology that got his tuition paid for by this employer. Basically his employer had a policy of paying for any work related continuing education expenses, and this included the Ph.D.

    One thing that I've learned is that things are *very* *very* different between fields. When I talk about the lack of faculty positions, people I know in finance and business administrations look at me funny, since people with finance/business Ph.D.'s are pretty much guaranteed some faculty position somewhere once they graduate.

    But Ph.D. support is pretty much non-existent in others. One thing that I found in education was saying that you had gotten a research assistantship was a really big deal since most people didn't get it. This is one reason that there is a shortage of finance and business Ph.D.'s. Basically, with those fields you have pay your own way.

    One thing that you might consider seriously doing is getting a job as a high school teacher and then getting a Ph.D. in physics or math education. One thing that is both funny and sad is that math education is one area where there *really* is a shortage of people.
  12. Feb 11, 2010 #11
    As far as I know, little to no assistance is pretty standard for the liberal arts/humanities/social sciences/etc. Most of those courses are taught by graduate students precisely 'cause that's the only real way to pay them.

    I have a friend who wants to work while getting a comp sci phd, but he's either gonna pay for it himself or get funded through a professor and he's gotta figure out if he can take long lunch breaks to go to class.

    Depends on the school, but masters degrees are usually a lot more employee friendly, as in lots of night courses and the like. They're generally unfunded unless a professor shows lots of interest in you, and they're expensive.
  13. Feb 11, 2010 #12

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    Yes, but the OP specifically mentioned physics.
  14. Feb 11, 2010 #13
    You might want to look into this program, http://smart.asee.org/. I know a few people in this program and the pay is good. Plus guaranteed employment after you graduate.
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