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Programs Parents don't want me to do a PhD

  1. Feb 1, 2013 #1
    Ok so I have been thinking about doing a PhD in possibly condensed matter physics for a while now (my masters is soon going to be finished), but my parents, who also happen to be my primary benefactors, are adamantly opposed to that idea as they want me to get a "real job" in the corporate world rather than be a researcher.

    I have weighed the options and its not that my parents are completely wrong to advise me to go into industry first and get that steady pay check coming, but the thing is:

    1) The job market is really bad as it is
    2) I really don't want to work in the standard 9-5 office environment..

    Can you guys please give me some advice here on what to do? I feel like I will lose touch with physics if I start a "normal job" rather than go into a PhD straight after my masters.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2013 #2


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    That depends on the job.

    At least here in Europe, a PhD position can give enough money to be independent of external support.
  4. Feb 1, 2013 #3
    I would amend that to continental Europe. Funding in the UK is pretty **** right now.
  5. Feb 1, 2013 #4


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    Well, the UK... they want to be special anyway :p. I doubt that insufficient funding for PhD positions helps, however.
    For Germany, wages are fixed, you can find them on the internet. Something like ~1200€ per month after taxes (more if you are lucky), it depends a bit on the location.
  6. Feb 1, 2013 #5
    And once you do that it is very unlikely you will sacrifice those steady paychecks to go back to school and complete a doctoral degree. Not that people don't sometimes do it, but it is very hard to transition back into a graduate school mentality once you've begun your professional career and started earning a regular income and using it to start your "post-education" life.

    I am going through the same thing. I completed my masters degree with the intention of going into a Ph.D. program the following year, but before that happened I was offered a good paying job. I convinced myself that I should take the job and save some money and then go back to school a few years later to finish up.

    Now I feel like that is unlikely to happen simply because my priorities have shifted away from finishing my education and toward buying a home, spending money on vacations and traveling, buying all the neat gadgets I couldn't afford on a graduate student's stipend, etc.
  7. Feb 1, 2013 #6


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    I'd give up high paying industry job to go back and get my PhD in physics. In fact, I plan on it.
  8. Feb 1, 2013 #7
    1) doing a PhD because you are afraid you are unable to get a 'regular' job isn't exactly the most motivating answer I've heard to the question "why do a PhD?
    2) Where I come from, a PhD is considered a normal job. You are supposed to work on it from 9-5, just like any other regular job. You could also do night shifts as a security guy, no 9-5 work either.

    Please talk to some PhD students about their jobs, what their real daily tasks are, and then ask yourself: is this the kind of work that I want to do?
  9. Feb 3, 2013 #8
    Can't say I see much difference. German PhDs pay about the same or less than ESPRC stipends. France and Italy pay less. Switzerland pays more but they are strange.

    The important factor isn't how much you get paid - it's about the same everywhere - it's where you have to live. In the UK a lot of the best universities are in expensive areas.
  10. Feb 3, 2013 #9
    I was going on the assumption that the OP is not himself from the UK and thus not eligible for EPSRC (which, in any case, is extremely competitive to begin with). Some countries, like Germany, have very low tuition costs for international students doing graduate programs and also have a lot of funding available for scholarships to pay student stipends. The UK is, unfortunately, not such a country.
  11. Feb 3, 2013 #10
    I agree - my PhD was one of my more 9-5y jobs I had and I was expected to contribute to administration, project management and the like - very much like a "corporate job" (this aspect BTW was not that bad in a sense as I was able to sell my PhD as a real job afterwards).

    In addition there are non-academic jobs that are very different from 9-5 / office jobs. E.g. there are many jobs that require you to work with different customers of your employer onsite - no office routine, but much travelling instead.
  12. Feb 3, 2013 #11
    Well yes it is true that UK PhDs are basically only for citizens and permanent residents. However the funding itself is easily competitive with the rest of Europe. I don't know where the OP is from. You also said "right now", but this residency requirement is very old. Any recent cuts in PhD numbers for residents are irrelevant to the status of non-residents.


    Since I notice I didn't actually reply to the OP -

    Many PhDs are 9-5 jobs in offices. The worse ones are 7-10 jobs in labs.

    As far as your parents are concerned, why can't you just ignore them? You say they are your "benefactors" but in science you should be getting funding if you are doing a PhD. It should not be necessary for you to be financially dependent on your parents. If you are worried they will disown you or that it will poison your relationship with them for a long time, there's nothing anyone here can really advise you about that.
  13. Feb 3, 2013 #12
    A number of government funded scholarships for non-residents have been axed in the past few years. Thus the right now. Trust me, I'm very well acquainted with the funding system for foreigners here.
  14. Feb 3, 2013 #13
    There has never been widespread funding for foreigners the way there is in Germany and the US. 1 year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago the vast majority of funding was via the research councils with a residency requirement.
  15. Feb 3, 2013 #14


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    Some points:

    1. This is your life and not your parents. You will have to work the job you choose for the next 30 years. They will not. Whatever decision you make, make sure it is your own. If your parents support is contingent on you letting them make all your important life decisions, it is not worth it.

    2. On a similar note, don't go into a PhD if you don't want to be a researcher. Going to grad school to avoid a real job is a bad idea, regardless of how many people jokingly affirm that that is why they are in grad school. Make sure that you really want to be a researcher with all that entails.

    3. PhD's are definitely not 9-5 jobs, but in the US especially they are 60-80hr a week jobs where you are effectively paid for about 20-30 of those hours. This is fine if you really can't imagine yourself being happy without doing this work. However, it will really suck if your reason for being there is avoiding real world jobs.

    4. I know several grad students who have come back to grad school after several years of industry jobs. They are doing just fine in their PhD programs.
  16. Feb 4, 2013 #15


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    I can personally testify to this part. I really enjoy my work as a grad student, but I work nearly double the hours of my industry friends for less than half or a third of their pay. If i didnt enjoy physics so much, id probably find the situation bonecrushing.
  17. Feb 4, 2013 #16

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    You haven't been back to this thread to clarify whether you are pursing a program where you will be paid some minimal stipend to go to school or if you are planning on pursuing a program where the financial burdens of going to school and living are entirely your responsibility. Are you expecting your parents to continue to be your primary benefactors whilst in grad school? If so, they definitely have a say. On the other hand, their input doesn't count for much if you're looking at a program that pays you (minimally) to go to school. You're an adult now. It's time to start acting like one.

    Why? 9-5 is too easy? You can always find a more demanding job that expects you to work 80 or even more hours per week. Keep in mind that that is what you're looking at doing for the next several years as a grad student and then as a post doc. Going to grad school to avoid work doesn't make sense. You go to grad school because you are doing something you love / can't live without. You need to be able to put up with working for ridiculously long hours with a ridiculously low compensation while doing that something you love.
  18. Feb 4, 2013 #17


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    I do enjoy physics and grad school, but it definitely feels both bone and soul-crushing at times, even for the best of us. PhDs are very often odious experiences, but at the same time, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. It's weird.
  19. Feb 4, 2013 #18
    Einstein said science offered an escape from the drudgery of daily work.

    I think what he means by 'standard' 9-5 being unattractive is that it's dull or boring, which it can be depending on the industry. I work a 9-5 now though and it's not as bad as I thought (I'm doing engineering though). It's not that he's doing the phd to avoid work he's doing the phd to avoid dull work that will be a dead end, or something along those lines.
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