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Support a family while getting a PhD

  1. Jan 9, 2014 #1
    I've heard of people getting PhDs while raising families and I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with this.

    I currently work as a software engineer and I have a wife and two kids. I don't want to throw my family into financial turmoil but I'd love to have a more intellectually stimulating career.

    Is this realistically possible?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 10, 2014 #2
    Yea, its possible. Most families in the world live off of less resources than a ~20k a year graduate stipend will supply. But if your family is used to first world luxury then it might be a hard sell on them. You know your financial situation and expectations better than we do.
  4. Jan 10, 2014 #3


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    Does your wife work?

    Also consider the impact on your retirement nest egg, of eliminating or at least severely reducing your savings rate for however many years it takes to fill in your (presumably) deficient undergraduate physics coursework, and then do the actual Ph.D. program.

    Finally, if you're aiming for an academic job after the Ph.D., consider that postdoc salaries are probably less than what you can make as a software engineer. Even a full-time academic position will probably pay a lot less than you would be making as a software engineer with those added years of experience.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  5. Jan 10, 2014 #4

    You don't necessarily need a PhD to have an intellectually stimulating career. My father is the CIO of a university and he has a bs in mechanical engineering, ms in engineering and a load of certifications in networking and other things along with project management. My point is he doesn't have a PhD but you cannot tell me that building the university network, implementing smart classroom technologies and pretty much any infrastructure to advance the school is not intellectually satisfying. You also didn't state what you plan to get a phd in, the lost of money those years in school may not even be worth it.
  6. Jan 10, 2014 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Also consider that postdocs end up going where the work is, so your family would have to be fairly mobile for the 3-6 years following the PhD.
  7. Jan 10, 2014 #6
    Oh sorry, I should have been more clear. I'm talking about a PhD in Computer Science. My goal in this would be to go into academia or work at a national lab.

    My wife is a stay-at-home mom and my family is used to a pretty comfortable lifestyle.

    People I know who have recently gotten PhDs in Computer Science had stipends more along the lines of 30 - 35,000 dollars per year plus full tuition. That is based on a small sample though.

    I'm sure we would be less comfortable but I guess what I was asking is this:
    Can a person in a PhD program scrape together 50-60,000 dollars per year (let's say between stipends and maybe doing paid internships etc.), work less than 70 hours per week (ideally closer to 55/60), and still complete their PhD in a timely manner.

    It might be a really stupid question. I'm pretty sure the answer is definitely no for Physics, but I've heard that it is not that uncommon for software engineers to go back for a PhD when they're a bit older.
  8. Jan 11, 2014 #7

    Yeah I've seen about $30-35,000 for stipends, but honestly I don't think your payout afterwards would be worth the effort. I know a couple people with PhDs in engineering and one with a PhD in computer science, granted they all work in industry but they don't make any more money than people with a bachelors/masters. Academia and research is different but you'll probably make less in academia anyway. Full time professors with phd and years of experience make around $60-75k at my university.
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