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Job in university vs. company

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  1. Jun 30, 2015 #1
    Now I'm in the middle phase of finishing my master degree in physics with focus on photonics. The next step I would like to pursue is actually a PhD position, but there is something that I also need to consider regarding the choice of field I am going to choose for my PhD research. The thing is I personally prefer research-based carrier, either in university or some research institutes over an employee in a company. I know that people working in a company are generally paid better than they are in universities. On the other hand, I want to earn a lot of money such that I will also be able to fund my parents and younger brother in my homecountry, in addition to living my own prosperous life. So my question is, how well are profs, lecturers, or research scientists paid in universities or laboratories? Will their salary suffice to fund their own families and parents? I would appreciate if someone can mention the typical nominal.
    If that's not possible, is it possible for a scientist to have a side job as another source of income, do you know someone doing that?

    Thanks in advance for your time.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2015 #2

    mfb

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    Salaries depend on the country, the amount of money a family needs depends on it as well. This is impossible to tell in general.
    Salaries for PhD students and Postdocs can be found in job advertisements.
    That is problematic. If you found your own company, maybe, but that's not the university career any more then.
     
  4. Jun 30, 2015 #3
    Ok sorry I forgot to tell that, let's say in Germany since I will be doing my PhD there. But I will also accept input from US or other countries with pleasure.
     
  5. Jun 30, 2015 #4

    mfb

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    Most (not all) PhD positions there are officially half-time jobs (in reality, expect 50+ hours/week but that is the same everywhere), after tax that gives something like 1200-1300 Euros/month. Enough to live, enough to save a bit if necessary, but feeding a family in Germany with that is challenging. Depending on the home country, exchange rates might be very favorable (or very bad for Switzerland for example).
    Postdocs get full-time jobs, twice the amount before tax but with a higher tax rate, not sure what the result is as number. Still not much compared to industry jobs, but significantly more than PhD students get.

    Some countries have significantly different models for PhD/Postdoc positions.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
  6. Jun 30, 2015 #5
    Thanks mfb that's very informative, but actually my question is more about the life after graduating from PhD. I'm now facing two choices of PhD research area: more toward applicative technology (geared toward industry) or more toward fundamental physics research. I'm aware that PhD salary should only be used for the student him/herself, not for families. I'm imagining after PhD I will teach in a university there, so probably another question is, how long does it usually take after PhD/postdoc to being allowed to officially teach students in Germany? And again do you know how profs or lecturers are paid there?
     
  7. Jun 30, 2015 #6

    mfb

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    You can look up university salaries in Germany online, they all follow the same steps (often W[some digit] or C[some digit] for professors, for example).
    Be aware that many are interested in that, but only a small fraction gets a job there. It is an interesting option, but keep some backup plan (a PhD in physics is a backup plan on its own if you don't insist on doing exactly what you did during your PhD).
    As prof? PhD + some years of Postdoc + some more years in research ("Nachwuchsgruppenleiter", "Juniorprofessor", ...). As [some position where you have to do with students]? That is possible even without a master degree. Actually, that is a job you can do together with research, but usually you don't get much money (in some universities you have to do it as PhD student without getting money at all).


    By the way, regarding this question: I would do it in steps. First ask for open positions, then send a CV if you get a positive reply. That makes the first reply easier (-> faster) for the person you send the mail to, and it allows you to adjust the CV to the position.
    If they invite you to come to the institute (most likely result if they like your CV, maybe after an additional phone call/skype discussion), they will probably find some way to finance your trip if you don't live too far away.
     
  8. Jul 1, 2015 #7
    Then where do the most PhD holders go, industry? By the way I apologize. it may be a bit sensitive. I hear that it's not so easy for a foreigner to become professor in Germany, is this indeed the case? This pertains my back up plan, if things don't go as planned I will probably go back to my country or move to some other country.
     
  9. Jul 1, 2015 #8

    mfb

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    Industry, other research things, other business things. There are hundreds of threads discussing those options in this forum.
    It is not easy for anyone. Simple estimate: an average professor has (probably) something like one successful PhD student per year, or ~20 in his career. But he just opens one position when he retires.
     
  10. Jul 1, 2015 #9
    You mean something like Fraunhofer institut, Max Planck institut, and the likes? Such research institutes are actually among my destinations, because as far as I know their position is kind of a mixture between an academic institute and a for-profit company, therefore I think that people having the same degree (let's say doctor title) will be paid somewhat higher there than they are in a university which is purely academic. I'm inspired by some guys in Garching, Muenchen, which seem to have position both in universities there (e.g. LMU or TU Munich) and in Max Planck institute. So probably they are paid somewhat double, but please if you know about this don't hesitate to correct me.

    NOTE: Up to now, this discussion seems to have been Germany-centered, I'm afraid due to this the other member who have the related experience have refrained from leaving comment. Please don't do so, I will gladly receive any input no matter in which country your experience concerns.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2015
  11. Jul 1, 2015 #10

    mfb

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    I'm quite sure they are not. Funding in general can be complicated but usually salary comes from one source only. And you certainly don't get two full-time jobs at the same time.
     
  12. Jul 1, 2015 #11
    Thanks for clarifying this, so that is actually funding. But what would you suggest between research institutes (like Fraunhofer and MP institutes) and universities which suit my desire, namely keep doing fundamental researches and also paid reasonably good?
    By the way, I'm sorry if I asked too many questions, I just try to inform myself as much as possible from the forum aside from self-search.
     
  13. Jul 1, 2015 #12

    Andy Resnick

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    I'm in the US, worked a couple of semi-corporate jobs ('contractors', to be specific) prior to getting back to academia. In a nutshell:

    Corporate job: good pay, reasonable stability, you do what you are told.
    (Tenure-track) Academic job: reasonable pay, good stability, you get to do what you want.

    There are always exceptions. In my case, I enjoyed to corporate salary and the work was generally fun... until it wasn't. Projects get terminated and staff get moved around fairly regularly. In academia, the trade-off is that I have my own lab but I am responsible for maintaining the funding stream- no external funding, no lab. In the corporate world, when the money was flowing, I couldn't spend it fast enough. In academia, I also have some freedom to pursue external consulting jobs that I simply couldn't do when I worked for a corporation. In either case, there are intense pressures to produce results and demanding administrators to appease.

    For me, the basic trade-off is intellectual freedom vs. financial freedom. There's no right answer.
     
  14. Jul 1, 2015 #13
    This is what I don't like about a corporate, in addition to all the deadlines. As for the trad-off between research freedom and financial, I'm aware of that already which is why I am in a doubt now. On one side I want to be scientifically productive, on the other hand I want to be able to make money such that I can also fund my family in my homeland.
     
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